Google recently released a website builder product for local businesses. Columnist Tony Edward dives in to see how it works and whether it’s worth your time.
Google officially launched its Website Builder within Google My Business in an effort to help small businesses easily and affordably create websites. This is a great initiative, as there are many small businesses that do not have a website.
Google’s Marissa Nordahl made the announcement it in a Google My Business Help thread on Tuesday, June 13. Here is what she wrote:
One of the most common actions people take when exploring a Google listing is to go to the website, but we know that getting a website can still be a challenge for a lot of small business owners around the world: too complex, too expensive, too time consuming. Millions of small businesses (60% of small businesses globally) don’t yet have a website.
Website is a free tool that allows small business owners to create a simple, striking website in just a few minutes. It’s easy, and you can create and edit your new website from your computer or your phone!
The tool is free to use, but to get a custom domain (such as a .com, .biz or .net), you will have to purchase a domain through Google domains, or else you will be stuck with an ugly URL such as yourbusinessname.business.site — which, presumably, would be less memorable to users and lack the ranking potential of a .com site.
Some notable features of the Website Builder include the following:
- It’s free to use.
- You get a custom domain name (at an additional cost).
- It’s mobile-friendly.
- It automatically updates.
- You can manage it on your mobile phone.
- You can easily place ads on the site.
Note that you need to have a verified listing on Google My Business to use the website builder. A quick site:business.site check within Google shows about 113,000 results, which consist of both US and international small business owners. Business types include real estate, travel & tourism, computer training and software, summer camps, pest control and many others.
I decided to take a stab at creating my own site for a mock local business profile I created and verified. The process took me just over five minutes to get up and running. Here is what the site looks like: http://tony-seo-shop.business.site/
Here are some screen shots of the process for creating and editing the site.
First, I added my business profile and verified it.
Once I finished creating my business profile, I was prompted to create a free website.
Once I selected a URL for my site, I was given the option to buy a custom domain.
Within the website builder, you have multiple theme options. You can select the color scheme and font that best fits your business branding.
You have the option to edit site elements such as Headline, Description and Body content.
You have the ability to change your site address, buy a custom domain or unpublish your website.
My initial impressions
So, how does the Website Builder hold up, particularly with regard to SEO best practices? Here are my thoughts.
- Easy to create a website.
- Can be highlighted as your website on your Google My Business Profile.
- Easy to add custom cover photo, images, etc.
- Includes Google Map embed and highlights contact and business hours info.
- Can easily be managed in your Google My Business Profile.
- One-page site, no option to create additional pages.
- No ability to add custom page titles and meta descriptions (or any type of meta, for that matter).
- No Analytics integration.
- Lacks social sharing buttons.
- Lacks the ability to add structured data markup. Local Business Schema being the most relevant for small businesses.
- Cannot add alt text to images.
- Cannot add additional call-to-action buttons.
As you can see, there are quite a few negatives from an SEO perspective. Hopefully, Google will continue to update and expand this tool to provide businesses with more robust functionality.
Should small business owners use the Google My Business website builder?
As usual, the answer is, “It depends.” If you absolutely don’t have the time to build a small, four- to five-page website on a more robust platform such as a Squarespace or Yola, then you should leverage this tool. At a bare minimum, I would recommend purchasing a custom domain rather than using the default URL.
In my opinion, there are many free alternatives which offer more customization and are more SEO-friendly — even Google’s free blogging platform, Blogger.com, is more SEO-friendly. However, if you’re not in a competitive local market, and you want a one-page website that you can manage from within your Google My Business dashboard, this simple website builder may be for you.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.