· Create yours
· Pick a Theme
· Page Headline
· Brief Description
· Summary Header
· Your Full Message
· Google Goodies
Mid-June 2017, Google released a new feature into the Google My Business suite, a Website Builder. it’s been in test mode since January and is finally avilable publicly! This is Google’s second attempt at making it dead-easy small business owners to get onto the web. Hopefully this one will stick. 😉 As the name implies, it is only for businesses that have a Google My Business listing.
Note: This feature is not available for Accommodation & related category businesses.
A few countries may not be live at time of publishing – mainly those countries whose writing goes right to left.
The website builder is dead easy to use. It’s designed for people with no technical knowledge and no website. This can be frustrating if you want to do something creative or out-of-the-box.
That said, this post is for people of all abilities.
Even if much of this is geek to you, follow the steps and tips that do make sense. You will still build a better site than people who haven’t read anything and simply “wing it.” I’ve seen some dreadful ones that would make anyone think twice about becoming a customer of those businesses!
Update: Mid January 2018, websites now automatically include Posts as part of the page. Posts show as a section above the “about us” section of the site. The display can be 1-3 posts, with a “more” option to see the complete history.
So why would you want a Google website?
It’s an alternative choice to the second most common “website” used by small business – a Facebook page. Fb is limited in how it displays info about your business, and people have to go looking for it. Most people won’t. So while you may have a great following, how many of your peeps know everything you do?
It’s simpler than the free site on sites on other platforms such as Houzz. And Houzz doesn’t suit every business type; this simple website can serve just about any.
For businesses who already have websites, this is yet another online asset to expose people to your business. Yet another platform to get your branding and messaging consistent. And done well, it can rank surprisingly high for brand searches. It can also be re-purposed for things like landing pages.
How does the Google Website Builder work?
To be clear, this is a simple one-page website.
It’s designed to be fast, lightweight, and responsive. It’s designed for mobile, end to end. The vast majority of mobile users look at one page only on a site. The main actions are all right there so people don’t have to scroll.
Pulls data from Google My Business
It pulls information from what Google already knows about your business, including your Google My Business (GMB) listing. What does it include?
- business name
- business address
- phone numbers (automatically made as “click to call”)
- operating hours
- Google Posts
- while the category isn’t displayed, it does appear to influence the extra styling image Google sometimes adds to websites
The site can be live even before your listing is verified. However, if your listing gets suspended, the site may be taken down as well.
Create your website
First, go to your Google My Business dashboard and login with the same email as the one that owns the business listing. If you have more than one business listing on your dashboard, Select Manage Location. If you don’t see that option for a location, switch from list view to card view.
Click the hamburger menu at the upper left to show a menu. You should see a new option Website, just below Photos.
Google My Business User at the level of owner or manager (but not communication manager) have the ability to access and edit the website builder from within the GMB dashboard.
The first step is to pick the overall look of the site – a theme.
Pick a theme
The “button” you see in the theme thumbnail is the colour of the button you’ll see over the main cover banner.
Very important: To Save what you do in each section, click on the little tick at the top next to the section name. The cross of course, is to cancel any changes just made that haven’t already been saved.
Tell Your Story
- Maximum Length: 80 characters
- Shows in: Banner
The website builder defaults this to the business name on your GMB listing business name. You can change this to an attention grabbing headline. And I recommend you do, as Google also automatically put your business name (from your GMB info) in the upper left hand corner of the published page.
From a technical perspective, this is a “H1” – making it the most important text on the page. Don’t stuff this full of keywords, but do work to include some words or phrases that say what your business is about.
The website builder defaults this to your business category (from your GMB info) and is standard text formatting.
This displays below the banner image on the page, and is an intro to your full description.
From a technical perspective, this is a “H2” – making it the second most important text on the page. Again, don’t stuff this full of keywords, but do work to include some words or phrases that say what your business is about.
- Maximum Length: unknown
- Shows in: main content
This is where you have the most freedom. You can do basic rich text and add links. I highly recommend you do! Ideas for links:
- Your website‘s key pages (if you have another site),
- An online booking system or menu
- To your email subscription form (sorry, can’t put it in here)
- Social media platforms you might be very active on
- Your certifications/credentials on a industry body sites
You’ll see in the image above I’ve attempted to find the max number of characters. Be real with this. Just because you can add 13k characters, doesn’t mean you should. How much of a monster page would that be for someone to try to read?!
If you’re copying and pasting text from other applications, be sure to post to match the existing format. It seems to be reading the HTML from wherever you’re picking it up, and that mucks up the format shockingly.
Just like with “normal” websites, the word content on this site should be unique. This is a real website and it’s out there competing with all the other websites in the wild.
If you’re using an email service such as Mailchimp, you can use the text link in MC’s signup form. Some of these services also give QR codes for links to the form which you could add as an image.
Add a brief summary of your business attributes that would be of interest to your site visitors.
Add your happy hours or other special offers.
Adding links to other websites / listings – this works like any other website. You don’t need to write out the full URL (eg “http://www.domain.com/page/”) just put it in in ordinary text and use the link icon to add the link.
When putting links to your own website, use Google’s Campaign URL Builder for tracking in Analytics.
Photos and Menu
- Maximum Images: 5
- Shows in: photo gallery
This is where you can ADD photos that you’d like to add to the photo section which comes after your description.
Google pulls these images from your GMB photos section. The come onto the site in the order they come; they cannot be resequenced here.
If you don’t have any images yet, Google adds a suggestion Add photos, menu images and other pictures to tell the story of your business.
While I agree with the concept of a image of your menu, you need to remember to maintain it. Remember, these photos go into your photo area of your GMB listing. If you change your menu seasonally and simply upload the new menu, then the old menus will remain out there as photos. That can cause confusion and unhappy customers. So the maintenance involves going into the photos and deleting outdated ones.
The photos section is where you go if you put an image in and want to remove it. Yep – you have to leave the website builder. Save your site, go up to the hamburger menu at the top and select photos from the left sidebar menu. There you can delete images.
A wee bit painful, yet it’s a good indication of just how tied together this GMB listing is with this website.
By default, the Website Builder puts in a generic image if it doesn’t find something in your photo collection it likes.
- Business name in upper left hand corner
- Contact details in upper right hand corner. Get directions only shows for shopfront businesses.
- Call to action button in banner middle. Like the contact options, if the business has a shopfront, the button is “Get Directions”, if a service area business is “Call Now”
What you can change:
The image should be a 16:9 ratio, same as with Google+.The optimal size is 2120 x 1192 pixels.
The images go into your GMB photo library. As with the other photos, you can only add here. And images added here may be seen in the GMB photos collection or the upper right hand corner of the Knowledge Panel “see photos”.
Also, the cover photo here may go into the Knowledge Panel.
You’ll notice a line goes across your beautiful cover image underneath the business name and the contact options. It’s there by design, not a glitch in the image upload.
Website banner image tips
Cater for white text – Remember the main headline is white text, so have an image dark enough the white can be read easily.
Crop before uploading – The cropping tool seems to have a mind of its own. It’ll show cropped in your photos albums, but show the whole image in the cover image.
Most important in bottom 2/3 – Depending on the screen size, the image may appear in full, or the top 20-30 percent of the image gets cut off.
Outside is OK, but product is often better
Text, business cards and Logos suck – sorry guys, but logos in here really don’t look great. Nor does it look great when you try to stuff your phone number and loads of other text in this image.
Use some imagination – use a photo that quickly conveys what you do.
Let’s publish this puppy!
At this stage anything you have done remains private. This is handy if you start putting the site together and it’s time for dinner.
Here you can enter a semi-custom URL. Google will pre-populate the URL with the business name. You can change it, but choose wisely. Google does have some name protections in place to prevent copyright issues and such. In other words, you can’t create starbucks.business.com if you’re not Starbucks.
The websites automatically all end with “.business.site”. This is a free domain, just for you. Paid domains (which don’t end in .business.site) are planned to be available in the US, UK, Canada and India soon.
The maximum number of characters you can put in here is 64. Please don’t use that many – if you do I’ll bet dollars to donuts you’re a spammer.
You may have noticed there’s a little “alert” icon next to the tick box? It doesn’t show on the page, I’ve added it to emphasise a wee little trap.
If you don’t have a website, proceed with the box ticked.
If you do have a website, untick before you publish. The tickbox overrides whatever website you have configured on your GMB listing.
If you accidentally publish and overwrite your current website, republishing with it unticked doesn’t correct the problem. You’ll need to edit your website link in the GMB listing info area.
Want to unpublish?
Go to the Settings.
In this area you can change the URL, change the language setting, and unpublish the site.
And there you have it!
In a matter of minutes you’ve just published your very first Google Website Builder site. Congratulations!
A few more points
- Google’s documentation (previously not available at time article was published)
- GMB to website builder, but not reverse. Changes made to the business information here does not flow back to the GMB listing info. However, edits to the listing flow do through to the site.
Those edits can be by you OR members of the public! This emphasises the importance of claiming and keeping on top of your listings!
- You can publish and unpublish at any time. The site can be unpublished for any length of time. Just know that the domain name will be cleared and someone else could use it.
- Spam detected sites will be taken down. This also includes copyright violations, etc. If you see one and you want to report it, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “report abuse” link. The wording indicates it’s for listings and what you’re reporting is a website. Hopefully Google will be checking both.
- Outgoing links are follow – so these sites will count as citation and backlink.
- The site does not use AMP, rather it’s sleek and fast by design.
- Have your own domain already? Point it at the Google site.
- HTTPS is coming.
- The site may publish the alternate phone numbers you can enter on your listing. The knowledge panel lists only one, this is the one place those extra numbers may be seen.
- There are a few variations in how Google displays the contact info compared to the knowledge panel:
These variations are based on how you set up the service area. The map placed on top is what is seen in the knowledge panel and on the local finder.
If you don’t have business hours on your GMB listing, the business hours section shows as blank.
If you have business hours entered but they don’t show in the local pack or the local finder, they will show here on the site.
You can also see more than one phone number. These extra numbers (have seen up to 3 displayed so far) are the alternate phone numbers on your listing. This is the only place people can see those extra numbers.
- Special hours don’t currently appear in the footer. This includes Google’s automatic notification about business hours possibly being varied due to public holidays.
- Google reviews don’t currently appear on the site.
- Attributes don’t currently appear on the site.
- Only one call-to-action button is available. You can put other links on the page (in the summary body), just keep it to a few. I suspect the number of links in the body is part of Google’s spam detection.
- There is no support for videos or gifs currently.
- There is currently no import/export functionality. Since it’s only a one-page site, a simple copy and paste should suffice.
- Want to “SEO” the site? Forget about it. No meta alterations are available, including title and description). No Alt text for images either.
- Want to put schema in it? Google’s stance is the site is light enough and fast enough it doesn’t need it.
- Want to AMP it? Google’s is the site is fast enough it doesn’t need it.
- No tie (yet) to Analytics.
- No social sharing buttons
Extra Styling Images
Occasionally when you visit one of these websites, you’ll see a special image coming out the right hand side of the page.
These appear to be added somewhat randomly by Google. Business category is a key factor for triggering an image. Also necessary is having your summary headline & body filled out. The body doesn’t need to be lengthy, and having phrases in the text that align with the business category may be helpful.
A small sample of 32 feature images spotted so far.
Grey figure in photo spot
Sometimes when you delete photos out of the gallery, the system doesn’t always reflect that change instantly. When there’s a delay within the system, Google substitutes the grey circle with a minus sign in it. This normally clears itself within 24 hours.
Google “404” that is an error message
- Has your listing been suspended? Check your dashboard for messages. Correct whatever has triggered the suspension and you should be able to re-verify your listing and republish the site.
- Has your site been unpublished? Did you (or a staff member) select the option to unpublish?
- Has your site address changed? While the site at a new URL may be published immediately, Google sometimes keeps the old URL of the websites in its memory for a while. It typically flushes out within a week.
How to fix the website URL
(if you accidentally send people to the Google site instead of your website)
- Google My Business dashboard
- Go into the listing in question (if you have multiple listings, go to manage location, otherwise it should show up when you enter the dashboard).
- If you have a wide screen, you should see a menu down the side. If not, click the hamburger menu in the upper left corner.
- Click Website
- Depending on your screen size, you’ll see 4 icons down the side or across the bottom.
- Click the Gear – settings
- Underneath settings, it’ll say the current URL (the one your listing is currently going to)
- Untick the blue tick box that says “make this my website address on Google Search & Maps”
- Click Change
- Close the settings (if needed – depends on screen size)
- Click the hamburger menu in upper left hand corner to see the left-side menu
- Click Info
- Scroll down until you see the website URL
- Click the pencil to edit
- Correct the URL, Click Apply
There are many more features in the pipeline for Google’s Website Builder, so be patient.
As they are released, I’ll update this post. Feel free to bookmark it and check back every so often. Alternatively, download the guide and updates will come to your inbox.