Israel’s Government Just Gave Me This Free Website

Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Employment today announced that it will be giving small businesses in Israel free websites, including domain name, use of an easy website builder tool, and free web hosting for a year.

The initiative, entitled “Asakim Online” (Businesses Online), has the mission “to grant 20,000 small businesses like yours the necessary tools to create a web presence, for free.” It also promises to teach them to market their new websites and attract traffic and new customers.

This is the site that I just built for myself using the system:

free website israel

The project sounds very exciting and I took a quick look around. At a very first glance, here are the pros and cons of the program:

Pros

  • The system is very easy to use. Pretty much anyone will be able to create and update their own website
  • The website designs look great and colors, logo, images, text, are very easy to customize
  • Basic search engine optimization is offered and encouraged on every page
  • You can get a nice looking, totally function website in a few hours (most of that time will be spent writing the content for the pages)
  • Social media buttons, contact form, etc. are built-in
  • It’s FREE!

Here’s the website I just created using the system. It wanted to me to choose my custom domain but I opted to use this temporary sub-domain. I have a bit of a hard time taking a $10 domain from the government when I really don’t need any more domains (but thanks for offering). Check out my website!

Cons

  • The interface is entirely in Hebrew and all the templates are Right-to-Left, though it’s possible to enter content in English. This is only good if your primary target market are Hebrew speakers
  • The SEO is basic
  • The templates all scream “I am a cookie-cutter template that was used by someone to create a website themselves because they didn’t want to hire a pro!” They have that look. But maybe I’m too sensitive.
  • The system is free but your template-based website is created using the Webydo platform. That means that when your one year of free hosting ends, you will presumably be offered a monthly hosting plan by Webydo. Unless you accept it, it’s not clear that your website can continue to exist

It’s interesting that the program promises to help you with your web marketing because the way I first heard about it was through an email I received today from Google Engage. (Google Engage is a program for professional web developers and marketers that encourages them to use Google products in their work with clients.) The email proudly announced the program, noting that Google is a major partner in it, and assured us Google Engagers that it was going to be of great benefit to us. It did not provide any further details on exactly how a program to give free websites and marketing to small businesses was going to excite web professionals who like to charge money for these services!

If you read the fine print of the terms of service, it implies that program participants will be offered Google Adwords vouchers and assistance.

Naomi’s Cynical Analysis of the Program

Let’s start with a story…

Way back when I was still a translator and entirely clueless about web marketing (which was actually not that long ago), I went for a business consultation with a large non-profit business development organization. This organization offered me a limited-time deal to have my website built for a low price by a well-known web development company. If it wasn’t for the truly awful customer service of that company, there is a good chance that I would have accepted.

Thank God, I didn’t.

As I became more savvy about the web I learned what a bad deal they were offering me. Their website designs were cookie-cutter and dated, they had terrible SEO, they wanted to lock me into an overpriced hosting plan, and, worst of all, the supposedly discount price was no great deal for what they were offering.

Ever since then, I’ve been very wary of these kinds of offers. Every web marketer knows that the best product to sell as an affiliate is web hosting. For example, if you buy a web hosting account from my recommended host, Hostgator, using my link, then I will earn a $100 commission. Because they are paying me so much, Hostgator will not be making any money off of you for up to eight months. If you cancel after four months, they will lose money on the deal. So why are web hosts willing to take this risk and pay their affiliates so much?

Because once a host has you, it is most likely that you will stay with them for years. And since it costs them almost nothing to host your sites, they will basically be earning free money for years and years. Therefore, hosting companies take a gamble to get as many new customers as possible.

It can’t be forgotten that Webydo is basically a hosting company that is taking a gamble here, and for some reason the government has agreed to give them an insane amount of free advertising for their campaign.

But enough cynical analysis!

Let’s cleanse our minds momentarily from all that cynicism by looking at this picture of a wildflower. I took it near my house last week. Israel is so amazingly beautiful in springtime!

 

And now that we are refreshed… back to the subject at hand.

Conclusion

I actually think this program is quite good for any existing small business that primarily targets Hebrew speakers, which wants to get a website up fast and free, but plans to explore and expand their web strategy over the next year. In such a case, when your free year is up, you will either be happy with Webya or be ready to move on to a professional site hosted elsewhere.

Either way, do your homework!

In my opinion, the best thing about this program is that is will protect clueless small businesses from paying big bucks to web development companies for mediocre websites (like the one I was offered). Instead they can get a mediocre website for free, and get their feet wet in the world of web marketing without taking any financial risks.

What do you think of the Asakim Online program?
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Comments

  1. Naomi,
    Thanks for getting your analysis out there so fast.
    I looks interesting particularly for those business owners who dont yet have a web site.

    What happens in a year if someone wants to keep their site but with a different hosting company, is that possible, for non-techies?

    Thanks,
    Rifka Lebowitz

    Live Financially Smarter

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    The terms of the agreement just say that after 12 months Webydo will make you an offer. It doesn’t say what will happen if you don’t accept the offer. But usually with this kind of DIY website from a web host, you can’t transfer it to another host. But you can probably keep you domain name and your content and start all over.

    [Reply]

  2. Well you were quick to the draw! I’m very impressed you got your review out there so fast – just when everyone who might be interested in the program will be needing it.

    I think if I were considering the program, I’d definitely insist on knowing what happens when the 12 months are up.

    I got a good chuckle from the switch to the beautiful flower, btw, and feel quite refreshed now!

    [Reply]

  3. I think this is an injustice !!!
    Me and LOTS of other small business in Israel would GLADLY give one year free website WITH full content management (I do it all the time) at present I give FREE landing pages without limiting to a year… But the government is not giving me or any other business FREE advertising
    but GOOGLE who has millions and millions already gets FREE advertising…
    why not step on the small business….
    BUT as we know it is better to be big strong and rich than small weak and poor….
    I think the governmet should give small companies like mine (and lots more) the money and we would also Gladly give you one year FREE hosting….

    Dina

    [Reply]

    dina Reply:

    one more small thing….
    I am not angry at GOOGLE they are great…I use their products all the time…
    It is the government that is the problem….
    Why give free advertisement to those who already have everything…. they have money to invest…I do not…Why do my tax shekels go to to the big companies who can advertise with their money!!!
    If this is to help small businesses it can be done by HELPING small businesses…..

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    That’s an interesting point Dina. Despite being designed to help small businesses, this particular government initiative is a serious blow to small web companies.

    [Reply]

    Rivka Strauss Reply:

    Hi Dina
    I’d gladly take you up on your implied offer if you feel you can compete with the gov’t offer
    I’m much happier supporting another small business than the gov’t anyway!
    Can you contact me offline strauss@neto.net.il
    tnx
    RS

    [Reply]

  4. Hello Naomi
    Nice thought and I think you are right, asakimonline is a mousetrap for a long run business, though, for beginners and for new entrepreneurs that would like to build their dream company and now need to deal with all of those annoying questions – Site? where? host? advertising… – it sounds like the perfect starting deal.
    I do recommend for beginners. use it, jump into the venture who knows – it may lead you to freedom. you always can stop it after one year.
    By the way, the quote that inspired you – there is not public victory without private victory – could be summarized as today’s phrase – WIN WIN (-:

    NICE Site you have.
    Carmi

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    Thanks for dropping by Carmi!

    [Reply]

  5. Great post, Naomi. I agree with the others that it would be better help to small web development businesses to give them the business! I shared it on my new kosherworkaholic facebook page for my fans to learn from.

    [Reply]

  6. Naomi,
    You’ve done a great service here. Tizki l’mitzvot.

    DINA,
    Maybe –thanks to Naomi– something WILL come of all this for you small business people. Contact me at jobfinder_yadezra.net or call 073-217-9249. I run a unique employment service at a Jerusalem NFP, Yad Ezra v’Shulamit. Anyone able to help me build more of an online presence at no cost is welcome to contact my office.
    Zara

    [Reply]

  7. Re: Hostgator – I don’t think that you get $100 upfront for a monthly plan. I’m a Dreamhost affiliate and they pay a percentage of monthly sale if it’s monthly, or else $97 for an annual pre-paid plan. They want to avoid fraud…

    Webydo must be licking their fingers at the prospect of 20,000 new hosting accounts at ~$18/mo

    * לאחר שנה עלות האחסון והאתר היא 65 ש”ח לחודש ועלות הדומיין 80 ש”ח לשנה. ללא התחייבות

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    Woah… $18 a month for shared hosting for a single domain is insanely expensive! How does it benefit small business to promote overpriced hosting plans? Maybe you want to write an investigative journalism piece on this program? If you do, please reference this blog post! :)
    Hostgator does indeed pay an affiliate commission of $100 flat fee for all new accounts, through Commission Junction. They are very serious about fraud prevention. I have referred a few people to them and they always get a phone call from Hostgator asking if they are a real human who intended to buy a hosting account. Then I get my nice commission!
    Thanks for dropping by Gab!

    [Reply]

  8. Oh, and gorgeous wildflower pic :D!

    [Reply]

    Gab Goldenberg Reply:

    Also, I’m impressed at your turning down the free domain – my reaction was “free domain”? where? sweeeeeet. lol *embarassed-smiley-goes-here*

    [Reply]

    Gab Goldenberg Reply:

    And on that note, if you get the domain, in theory you should be able to point the nameservers elsewhere after the year and host somewhere else, and you can just download the html files and reupload them.

    [Reply]

  9. Hi

    Do they have limits on number or pages or bandwidth? Is it possible there to set up a product gallery or catalog? I don’t need people to buy online, I want them to call me to order a property for rent (it will be a holiday apartment website). If there is a limit on how many galleries or catalog pages? I will have 4 sections, each with a list of properties, and a photo gallery for each one. Total 100 properties divided into the four sections.

    It’s too bad they don’t have an English site.

    Thank you

    [Reply]

    Naomi Reply:

    This system is not suitable for an all-English site and is limited in many ways.

    [Reply]

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