How to: to make a free website the Google way
Most small businesses have a website, but every so often you find one that doesn't! Ouchie!
I've written articles in the past about how to make a free website, and the goods news is that it's now easier than ever. A site like wix.com will let you create a great looking site and throw their advertisements on it (or ask you to pay), but if you want ad free and money free I really recommend the 100% Google solution which is to use Google Sites (to make your free website) and Google Domain (to get your $12 a year domain and connect it to Google Sites). It's just clean and easy and it shouldn't take you more than an hour... although maybe more if you take a long time to find all the nice picture you want.
STEP 1: Create Your Website Using Google Site
Make sure you have a Google email account and are logged into the correct one. If you have a bunch of people you want to manage your website you might create a "firstname.lastname@example.org" account specifically for your website, and make sure you're logged into that. Whatever gmail you're logged into will be associated with the "Google Site" you're about to create.
- Double check you're in your desired gmail account.
- Go to https://sites.google.com/new and click the plus arrow to create your first Google site! Give it a name (eg: "my-business") and set it up... it's really easy to do.
- Here's one I set up in 10 minutes: https://sites.google.com/view/demo-business-site/home < and importantly the text I've written explains how I added the map and textbooks etc.... starting by chasing a Theme and a Layout for the page.
- Here's some others I've made: strawberriesforsmiles and datingappwingman
- Once you're happy, click publish, and you'll get a URL like https://sites.google.com/view/demo-business-site which you can send people too. Only one problem now... who wants to type that! It's too long!
Pages for your site
Adding pages is really easy. Small enough business you really only need a single page with you contact details or a "call to action button", but if you have a storefront you might decide to create a page full of photos, or stick with one of the common page structure for businesses, such as:
* About Page * Services / Product * FAQ * Testimonials / Reviews * Contact
It's your site... be a bit creative if you like!
STEP 2: Register a Domain Using Google Domains
Okay, so this part costs money (it's not 100% free), but it's cheap and absolutely worth it! To register a domain name like "mybusiness.com" is important as you can then put it on your business cards! Domain name costs are pretty standard and I recommend Google Domains as it's very easy to setup.
- Make sure you're logged into the same gmail account as you created your Google Site in.
- Go to: domains.google.com and chose a free domain (tips: here) to match your business. You'll pay ~$12 a year, which is not bad at all... and it's really easy to setup. Should take you 15 minutes.
Now you'll want to connect your domain to your website. One easy way is in Google Domain click the "Forwarding" option.... Then enter your website URL (eg: https://sites.google.com/view/demo-business-site ) and wait about 20 minutes and then when you type in your "www.mybusiness.com". This works, but it isn't ideal because the URL will change after you type it in... and you might want it to stay the same. Now that part is actually a bit tricky, so you might decide to just settle for what you have, but I've written separate instructions to get it working properly: Connect Your Custom Google Domain URL to New Google Sites.
Hope this was useful! Sincerely,
STEP 3: Google My Business to get onto Google Maps
If not already.... be sure to sign up to Google My Business to make sure you business is on Google maps in a way where you can update top photos and business hours (as the registered owner). This is independent of your Google site, but yes, you should link in your site!