One man startups and bootstrapping entrepreneurs often ask us, ‘Can you use Google Sites for a small business’? We understand the appeal behind a one-click site builder like Google Sites. It dramatically cuts short the effort and time it takes to design a website.
There are different pre-made templates that you can select and tweak. You don’t need to deal with code or a designer. Oh, and it’s free to use, which isn’t too bad either. The question is, can you use it for a business website?
It depends. There are people who have started off with Google Sites. They ran a successful business website on Google Sites until they could scale. So, you definitely can do it. The more important question is, should you? Let’s try and take an objective look at the pros and cons of using Google Sites for a small business.
What is Google Sites?
Google Sites is a free website builder from Google. Well, some people tend to think that it’s not really a website builder. It’s just a bunch of Google tools with seamless collaboration enabled. But you can definitely design a website on it. The fact that it comes bundled with Google Sheets, Docs, Drawings and the rest of the tools is just an added perk.
Google Sites has undergone numerous iterations over the years. Part of this was out of desperation. The competition just sprung up around it. Brands like Wix, WordPress, Weebly & Squarespace upped the game by making available professional website templates. Google cannot afford to look outdated. So they revamped Google Sites and threw in a bunch of fancy features.
Let’s take a look at some of the best ones.
Can you use Google Sites for a small business – Yes, if you want to start a website for free
The big draw of Google Sites is that it’s free. It will remain free and you will never get a sales pitch or upsell. You can create unlimited Google Sites and send unlimited traffic to them. That alone can cut down your startup budget by a fair bit.
The average cost for a business website in the UK ranges from £1,000 and £5,000. Add to that about £240 a year for shared hosting. More, if you are looking at dedicated hosting. Added features will up that cost even further. Now you know why Google Sites sounds like a great idea to a one-man start up, don’t you?
To get started, all you need is a Google account. You can log on right now to sites.google.com and get started with a business website in seconds. If you have a Gsuite subscription, you get even more features. There’s free backups, role-based administrative controls and more.
Any professional hosting service would charge a premium for these add-on services alone.
Google Sites lives on Google Drive
Since Google Sites is hosted on Google Drive, it makes it easier to access from any part of the world. This is compared to third-party hosted websites. Besides, there’s seamless integration with the whole Google bundle of tools. So you can run analytics, share docs and collaborate with your team and so on without any special coding skills.
Reasonably good templates
Google Sites offers five premade templates as well as a blank one. Adding or editing widgets to the blank one is reasonably straightforward. As far as the templates go, here’s what you get.
- Portfolio – Good option for professionals’ websites. There’s an option to display your own image, your work portfolio as well as add a contact form. You can add pictures, videos, client testimonials to name a few.
- Event – The event template is primarily for event registrations. But you can also use it for new product launch announcements and so on. You have options to provide detailed information about the event, the number of days, the itinerary for each day, the speakers and an RSVP button.
- Help Centre – If you run a service or sell a product online and would like to create a knowledge base, then this is the template for it. It’s essentially a collection of questions and answers that are searchable.
- Project – This is a simple template for students as well as a team of freelancers who are looking to pitch or present a project.
- Team – If you’re a small team of professionals, then you can use this template to showcase your relevant expertise, credentials and so on. It’s a great template for ‘why someone should hire you’.
Google Sites are easy to customise. That’s even if you are a rank newcomer to design. Every element can be dragged around the page. Clicking on it opens up the customisation options. There are some pre-made layouts as well that you can choose. Sort of like a no-brainer choice.
To add new widgets, all you need to do is click somewhere on the page. Then you just select a widget from the available ones and add. It cannot get easier than this. To be fair, we have tried designing sites on Wix too. Wix, as much as it portrays itself as ‘effortless’ is more difficult than Google Sites.
Mobile Friendly websites with fluid designs
54.8 % of website traffic originated from mobile devices. Did you know that Google Sites are mobile friendly and fluid? Regardless of whether you access the site on a mobile phone or a tablet, the site adapts to the screen size. The elements readjust the sizing.
No mobile-specific coding is required. If you were wondering, ‘Can you use Google Sites for a small business’, this is another reason to.
Can you use Google Sites for a small business – There are some caveats
All things said and done, there are limitations to Google Sites. Some of these are deal-breakers for us. As a website design team, there are certain minimum requirements that we, at Rockstar Marketing recommend for business sites.
Google Sites does not offer some of these. But, as we said, it’s not always binary. There are small businesses and freelance entrepreneurs who can live with some of these limitations. So the eventual choice is yours. Here’s a look at some of these cons.
The templates on offer work well for certain businesses. But they’re barely enough for most modern businesses. Let’s assume that you want to sell a product online. You’re not expecting a swanky e-commerce website. But you’d at least expect some basic e-commerce templates. At least a one-product template.
There are none in Google Sites. The existing templates can be tweaked, mind you. But if you’re looking for templates that make your site look unique, you will be disappointed with the options.
You cannot add or edit CSS. This for any designer is a deal-breaker. There’s no scope for interactivity. Even the Text Box, one of the most basic widgets, is limited in features.
Google Sites offers only two navigation options. There’s the top navigation menu and one on the sidebar. But that’s it. You cannot even rearrange these two to better suit a layout.
Can you use Google Sites for a small business – Marketing features are limited
Nowadays, most businesses want to get started with digital marketing from the get-go. The days when a business would consider marketing as an afterthought are long done. This is another limitation that makes us iffy about Google Sites.
The only marketing tool you can use is Google Analytics. Analytics is amazing and you get tons of actionable data. But what about other core SEO features such as meta title & description? There’s no way to edit it. It’s quite ironic that a website builder by Google lacks this feature.
What if you want to integrate an email marketing tool like Mailchimp? Or use ‘Schema Generator’ or XML Sitemaps?
That’s not all. There is no option to add social media share buttons. You cannot redirect pages. You cannot even use Facebook Pixels. Unless you have tons of traffic from word of mouth, you will soon start to crave more features.
No option to add a domain name
There’s no option to add a custom domain name to Google Sites. The site you create will be at ‘sites.google.com/sitename.’ If you have a custom domain, it will be at ‘sites.google.com/domain/sitename.’.
If you’re looking at branding your business website, sorry to disappoint. You cannot at this point in time.
Can you use Google Sites for a small business – Final thoughts
All things said and done, can you use Google Sites if you are a small business? Well, probably for a very short time span. If you’re looking to set up a project-based site for a short period, or a placeholder website, sure. Go ahead and use Google Sites.
But if you’re looking to set up a legitimate business website, you need a professional website designer and marketing team. Did you know what website design is not as expensive as it is often termed to be? At Rockstar Marketing, our Birmingham web designers work with businesses of different sizes, with limited budgets too.
Reach out to us. Let’s talk. Maybe we can offer you a better solution than Google Sites at prices that don’t break the bank.