Despite all the website reviews we’ve read trying to find the best fit, we often forget about the big gun: Google. As one of the largest tech companies globally, Google makes everything. Included with that “everything” is Google Sites, a webpage-building tool created by Google.
This site builder is unappealing for most because you can’t monetize it. After all, the website builder is free, so you won’t see a pricing section in this article.
Free is good, but you often pay on other fronts when it comes to free. So, what’s the actual cost of Google Sites? Let’s find out together in this review.
What is Google Sites?
Google Sites is a part of a collection of free Google Docs editors (like Google Drive or Sheets). It is a site builder only available as a web application, which allows collaboration, much like other Google programs.
Google Sites used to be known as JotSpot and was founded by Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer. After being given a series of rewards, Google acquired the company in 2006. Over the next two years, it went through a transition where it was briefly known as Google Pages.
During this transition, the site-building tool became utterly free. In 2008, you didn’t even need a domain and instead could get a google sites subdomain. This is still a thing today.
In 2016, the builder went through a total redesign, being called “New Google Sites.” This editor became the default in 2020, with classic sites archived in 2021.
While JotSpot and its builder are a distant memory, it provides some context to this tool’s long history. But despite a long history, these builder tools aren’t entirely free from critique.
Who is Google Sites best for?
Google Sites is best for individuals who want to build a site for their portfolio or small organization websites. Because of the limited features, you can’t do a lot with it. This has few business applications unless you are a tiny business owner who doesn’t plan to grow outside your hometown.
It is one of the most uncomplicated builders you can get your hands on. So you require no technical knowledge to know how to use it. This means sacrificing some handy features in exchange for ease of use.
Google Sites can also be great if you want to share something with a local workgroup. For example, you could regularly update the website like a newsletter.
It is an incredible free resource for those needing a simple website. And given that it integrates well with Google tools, you can find a good amount of use through it.
But if you want something with marketing tools, a CRM, or any growth potential, you’ll want to look at other page builders. For more details, check out our review.
Google Sites Pros & Cons
|100% Free Forever||Bandwidth Shared with Google Drive Limit|
|User Friendly||Few Website Templates|
|Works with Google Workspace||Customization Very Limited|
|Supports Custom Code||No Third-Party Integrations|
|Supports Alert Banners (Pop-Up)||No Blogging & Ecom Tools|
|Knowledge Base||No SEO Features|
|Forums Are Only Support Option|
|No Mobile Editing View|
Getting started with Google Sites
To get started with Google Sites, you need a Google Account. Because most people have this, we won’t go through the steps.
Once you get through the initial account creation, you can visit the official webpage. Those familiar with Google Docs will find familiar ground here.
This brings us to an immediate weakness of the tool. If you use Google Drive, your website will take up some of that storage. So, if you are already on the edge of storage space, you’ll need to pick something to remove or pay for more space. Your drive space dictates the size of your website.
After overcoming this hurdle, you start much like any page builder software.
Selecting your page template
Your first step is no different from any other builder in question: picking a template. When writing this, I found less than 15 templates through the builder.
While you can’t complain about free, other free builders have more available. So, if you choose this tool and don’t plan to change the website, builders will likely recognize your site as made by Google.
In picking a template, you’ll be brought through the tutorial.
Navigating the Google page builder
You get started with a short guided tutorial over the toolset. Those familiar with more traditional website builder tools will find some similarities.
The top of the tool has your general undo/redo buttons, a site preview button, a way to share the page, settings, and some more valuable items (under the three-dot menu).
The right side of your screen lets you insert page elements, switch to different pages, and change your website theme. Simplicity is central when it comes to your design options.
Adding and editing page elements
The other design choices users have can be found by hovering a mouse over the page. Editing text elements can be done by clicking on those elements, which will make all of your standard text editing tools appear.
Image editing is relatively similar, making it all a straightforward process.
You can link those buttons to a URL when you edit buttons on the page. Buttons don’t have any other features, creating some weaknesses in the system.
To add new items to your page, you don’t drag them onto the page. Instead, you click the page element you want, and it gets added below the other page layers.
You can also add different content blocks, which are limited to a combination of images and text. There are no buttons found in these content elements.
Adding new items to the page comes with some strict limitations. Your buttons and your social links cover the entire width. So, you have relatively weak customization compared to other tools.
Thankfully, there is a drag-and-drop editor. You’ll find it when your mouse hovers to the left side of any page element. When you are in the right spot, your mouse will switch to a four-pronged mover.
Alternative editing features include deletion, which you can find with a trash can icon on the left side of the screen. Simply clicking on it will remove whatever page element is to the right. You can undo it if you make a mistake.
You can also resize images using Google, but only to the maximum limit of what that content piece allows. So, if you expect large background images, you won’t find a lot of customization here.
When looking at advanced elements, you have a few additional options you won’t find on other site-building tools.
Managing advanced page elements
The insert tab contains everything you need to add new items to your page. You’ll find a healthy amount of options for a free builder, creating decent customization options.
Below are some of the more basic advanced tools:
- Table of contents
- Image carousels
- Social links
- YouTube links
- Placeholders (to fill in other content types)
- Dividers and spacers
- Collapsable groups (which contain other content)
The remaining tools you can add are unique because they are heavily integrated with Google Workspace. Here are a few examples:
- Google Calendars – It lets you share your agenda with website visitors. This can be useful to let people know of your current schedule, but you can’t use it to schedule appointments.
- Google Maps – The Maps app lets you share a location on your Google Site. The location can be your physical business location or a random location worldwide.
- Google Docs – This element lets you share writing from a Google Doc. It’s contained in a box and has its own scrollbar, which can be great if sharing a portfolio.
- Google Slides – This lets you share a copy of your slides, which site visitors can scroll through. You can use this for sharing online presentations.
- Google Sheets – The “sheets” section lets you paste your spreadsheets (similar to how you would do your docs). The “Charts” tab will create a chart out of your spreadsheets.
- Google Forms – This tool Lets you create forms for data gathering to be stored on your Google Drive. This is your form builder.
This is one of the few building platforms that integrate so closely with Google’s products. When it comes to data sharing and storage, this integration can be pretty handy.
The problem is that you’ll need to take extra steps to move it elsewhere. Google feels no need for any well-known marketing tools. It would be best if you moved this over manually.
So, if you hope to use this for lead generation, you’ll hit some walls. It’s possible, but you’ll have to hold your website’s hand to make it work.
The second tab on the right-hand sidebar lets you switch between pages. Clicking on those pages will summon those pages, requiring almost no loading time as you change.
When you change this bar, those changes will reflect on the navigational menu. You can drag and drop these items between each other, letting you quickly change the page order.
You’ll want to hover over the plus icon at the bottom to add new pages. This lets you add four different options:
- Menu sections – This lets you divide your pages into multiple sections. You’ll find this tool helpful if you have a larger webpage.
- Full-page embeds – This lets you embed a video from YouTube, a file from your Drive, and a Google Maps point on a whole page. You can also write custom code to insert into this page.
- New links – This lets you add an external link to your menu.
- New page – This lets you add a new page that you can either edit from a blank slate or the template.
You can filter those pages through the search bar at the top if you have a high number of pages.
With everything being on one page, making a complete webpage is easy without leaving the builder. This section is no different from any other legitimate website builder, giving Google some potential in this tool.
Google does a great job with navigation. Let’s see if the design and themes hold up.
Design features using Google Sites
The third tab found in the right-hand sidebar is “themes.” There are a handful of default design themes you can choose from.
There are about six themes to choose from as I’m writing this. Those themes have different emotional feelings and impacts depending on what you prioritize.
These themes change your font and site colors. If you still have the default options, you’ll also see a change in the background image of your header.
Additionally, you can see a series of colors to choose from. The paint can icon lets you select a custom color, which is how you make the theme your own.
Below is your choice of font style, which switches between modern, classic, or bold. You’ll need to edit your page elsewhere to choose more specific font families.
An actual website builder (non-Google) often provides more design options. But then again, you usually have to pay for those other builders, so there’s a tradeoff.
Can you create a Blog on Google Sites?
Google doesn’t have a built-in blog tool. Instead, they used to rely on a third-party integration with Blogger. However, that integration no longer exists.
The former version of Google Sites used to have this connection. But it seems like the new version doesn’t have this connection.
You can overcome some of this by adding an external link to your navigation bar. However, this is a bit of a headache and does nothing to build up content on your website.
So, this is an ineffective blogging platform. You’d do better to look elsewhere for this form of content creation.
Can you start an eCommerce store on Google Sites?
Knowing that you can’t make a blog, it should be no surprise that Google sites are not an eCommerce platform. Despite having a Google Stores system, there’s no way to integrate that with your site.
Like blogging, you can get around this issue with an external link to your store. But if you want an eCommerce website, you won’t find those tools here.
Generally, Google isn’t a solution if you want to build any business website. Instead, if you’re going to make money and save your budget, you might consider Carrd, which costs as low as $50 per year for solid eCommerce and blogging features.
Site settings of your Google site
The site setting section lets you address a handful of remaining features for this building tool. Below is a breakdown of the tools:
- Navigation – This lets you change the navigation mode (whether it appears on the top or the side) and the color of the navigation (white, black, or transparent).
- Brand images – This lets you upload a brand image and add alt text to that brand image. You can also add a favicon, which is the small icon next to your site address.
- Viewer tools – This lets you create an info icon that shows when the page was last updated and a contact form for you. t also enables you to change whether anchor links display or not.
- Google Analytics – This lets you add a tracking code you can find on your Google Analytics account.
- Announcement Banner – This lets you create an alert banner on top of the page. You can also add a button to insert a link that leads visitors elsewhere.
The announcement banner is the most helpful feature of this section. But it’s just a creative way to insert a pop-up that you can use for anything.
Does Google Sites offer SEO settings?
As the (somewhat) birthplace of SEO, you imagine Google would have SEO settings. But instead, Google has opted not to include any of these settings, severely limiting your ability to rank on the platform.
There are no meta description or title editing features. It would make sense to include these under “properties,” but they aren’t there.
You can include an alt description for your images and add text to your website. So you can put content people might search for. It’s just that there’s no way to change your SEO settings otherwise.
This severely limits your ability to use this site-building tool. So, prepare for disappointment if you expect to rank on Google using Google.
Does Google offer customer service for its tool?
Google has a phone number, but that phone number is not for Sites. Instead, it’s for inquiries to Google HQ (generally for other issues). Google Sites is not a high priority.
Instead, for customer support, Google offers you two solutions:
First, Google Support lets you search for your solution using their knowledge base. This contains information about all products, so you might get lost in digging through other content.
Second, you can use the community forum to ask for help. This community help forum is full of Google experts that might’ve already answered your question. You can also ask the question yourself by creating a new thread.
Because this isn’t Google’s primary offering, you won’t find a dedicated customer service base. Instead, you’ll have to hope someone has the knowledge to help you on the forums.
Publishing your Google site
If you want to publish your complete site clicking the publish button in the upper-right corner will start the process. You’ll be given a custom URL based on your Google username.
From there, you can share the URL directly with some of your friends, fans, or co-workers.
Google handles the hosting for you, so you’ll not need a third-party hosting provider. The company runs under the assumption that you won’t get a lot of traffic. Google can probably handle it even if you did, so don’t worry too much about bandwidth limitations.
To increase your odds of traffic, you can get a custom domain. If you want to keep things internally, you can use Google Domains.
You can also use third-party services like Namecheap.
You can also take this time to put your site on the no-indexing list, meaning search engines won’t find it.
What do users say about Google sites?
What users say is similar to what I’ve been saying throughout the article. Google sites is not a true website builder for blogs or eCommerce pursuits. But you won’t find many reviews on them, so we will take to Reddit for some thoughts.
Any blog or site that requires a lot of customization is a no-go for Google Sites. Reddit users agree across the board on this.
That being said, there are some exceptions to the rule. With enough work, you can make a website that doesn’t look like it came from Google Sites.
However, if you want your site to do something data related or with automation, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
You can access Google Sites by signing in to your Google account and navigating to the Sites page. You can also search for “Google Sites” in your browser.
Yes, Google Sites allows you to invite others to collaborate on your website. You can assign different roles to each collaborator, such as editor or viewer, and they can work on the site simultaneously.
Yes, you can customize the design of your Google Site by choosing from a variety of themes and templates or by using your own CSS code.
Yes, you can add third-party applications to your Google Site by using Google Sites embed feature. This allows you to add videos, calendars, social media feeds, and other types of content to your website.
Is Google Sites worth it?
Is Google Sites worth free? Yes. But whether it’s worth your time depends on your priorities.
Google offers one of the most uncomplicated site builders on the market. They have more site elements than you might think. So if you want to make a unique and exciting site, you can work to get it done.
Most of these tools integrate directly with Google Workspace. So, adding your docs and forms can be great for gathering simple information.
But if you want to use it for anything advanced or business-related, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Creating a blog, drawing traffic, or hosting an eCommerce store are all impossible feats here.
There are no SEO features and limited design features. It takes work to make this site builder work.
So, look elsewhere if you have any long-term plans to grow your website and turn it into a profit. But if you need a portfolio or a small website for a local organization, you can use this.