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RealTime IT News

Web Hosts Cater to SMBs

Just in time for National Small Business Week, Yahoo and Register.com launched no-fuss Web site services for harried SMB owners.

On Monday, Yahoo announced it would offer any U.S. small business a free business Web site through Yahoo Local. Businesses can register online and use a wizard to create a free five-page site.

Yahoo said the beta service would help businesses find new customers. Bulking up its local listings would also be good for Yahoo. If business owners take the time to provide richer content about their companies, it could make Yahoo Local more compelling and useful than those of rivals, including Google Local, MSN City Guides, AOL Local Search, Ask Jeeves Local and Verizon SuperPages.

Yahoo also hopes to upsell businesses to its $9.95 a month Enhanced Listings, and, eventually, to full-blown e-commerce offerings.

Domain name registrar Register.com announced upgrades to its budget business Web site package on Wednesday. WebSiteNOW lets businesses use templates to quickly get a site up and running.

The company added 40 new design templates, as well as the ability to add animated graphics in Macromedia's Flash format. While tools don't include true e-commerce functions, Register.com added the ability to incorporate forms into the surveys to enable businesses to interact with customers online.

The time may be ripe for such offerings.

According to The Kelsey Group, over 50 percent of the more than 20 million small businesses in the U.S. do not yet have a Web site. A survey of 50,000 small business owners conducted by SBTV found that fewer than 37 percent of small businesses had a full-time technology specialist on staff. But SBTV also found that 7.23 percent planned to invest in new technology in 2005, up from 22.77 percent last year. SBTV is a Web-based television station focused on the needs of small businesses.

The majority of SMBs in the survey plan to sink more of their ad dollars into Internet advertising, as well.