Google wants to mobilize your Web site – for free

Google(s goog) wants to bring more small websites to mobile phones, and to help nudge those sites along it’s willing to foot the bill for a year. Google, with the help of mobile Web optimization startup Duda Mobile, is offering for 12 months free hosting and customization of Web sites for mobile browsers in an effort to make more Internet content mobile-friendly.

Fortune first broke the story Thursday morning, reporting that the initiative as a new service, but according to The Next Web, the offer is really an extension of the Go Mo program Google launched in November. TNW cited a post on Duda Mobile’s blog that has since been removed from its Website:

“Our hope is that by offering both the education AND the service at no cost for one year, we can help businesses make the shift to mobile more quickly, benefiting both their business as well as us consumers who no longer want to pinch and zoom our way through their regular websites on our phones.”

The service wasn’t exactly expensive beforehand, costing $9 a month, but even a $108 annual fee can be a barrier for entry for a mom-and-pop site with good content but no online revenue stream. Duda keeps its costs low by using templates that automatically plugs content optimized for PC browsers into fields designed to fit into the much smaller footprint of the mobile browser. Duda offers free customization tools as well as gratis support via e-mail and phone.
Google has a significant motivation to bring more Websites mobile. The more phone-friendly content available on the Internet, the more mobile searches Google can generate and the more mobile ad revenues it brings in. From the Fortune story:

Even with the advent of fully capable browsers on current smartphones, many companies are still failing to take even the first step into the mobile space, says Jason Spero, head of mobile sales and strategy at Google. According to Spero, 62% of Google’s top advertisers don’t have a mobile site. “Businesses are kind of late to arrive to this consumer trend, and a large part of that is because they don’t know exactly what to do,” Spero says.

Still this particular promotion isn’t targeting those big advertisers or businesses. Duda’s tools are geared at getting small companies a basic mobile Web presence, not building sophisticated mobile interfaces or m-commerce sites. Duda’s templates don’t yet support Flash(s adbe), framesets or e-commerce.
Companies that depend on the Internet to generate their revenues have already seen the mobile light. As my colleague Ryan Kim wrote in January, companies ranging from Twitter and Pandora to the newest startups are taking a “mobile first” approach to their services, realizing that the phone and the tablet will ultimately be the primary source of their traffic and profits. Those companies don’t need Google and Duda’s help. It’s the legions of sites out there still unfamiliar with the mobile Web that Google is trying to nudge along.