Recently, BizIQ Google My Business team manager, Danni Petersen discovered a possible issue with the free websites that companies can create within Google My Business as well as a lot of confusing information online when it came to Google and free website builders.
Back in 2017, Google quietly rolled out a new feature within Google My Business in the form of a free website builder that can create a free website for your small business by pulling in information directly from your Google My Business listing. You don’t have to do much except press a few buttons and voila, website! Sounds pretty neat, right?
At the time it rolled out, all the latest Google My Business account features for your listing hadn’t been added yet, so there wasn’t that much to pull from. Now that Google has brought back business descriptions, added a questions and answers capability, plus other enhancements like Google Posts, and the ability to add services or menu items and photos, it’s tempting to forego a real website and just use the Google My Business Website Builder instead. However, that might be a huge mistake.
Google has at least 4 free website builders.
First, I need to clear up some of the confusion. Why? Because Google has at least 4 free website builders. When Danni performed a search, she first used a term for another free Google website builder, Google Sites, that is aimed at small business owners. She also discovered that if a business owner has a verified Google My Business listing that they can choose to let Google auto-generate a website for them using something called a Google My Business Website Builder. To make things even more difficult, there are 2 different versions of Google Sites. I did some more research and here’s what I discovered:
Google Classic Sites
Google Classic sites are also geared towards small businesses, specifically businesses who use another Google G Suite product. This website builder allows you to create a company website using templates. Websites created with the Classic Site builder can be public or private.
They can exist as a subdomain on the Google Sites domain, or you can register your own domain just like you, or an online marketing company does when you create a website. In the first case, your website URL would be https://sites.google.com/a/whatever domain you choose.com. In the second one, your Classic Site is like any website and would have a URL like https://whatever domain you choose.com.
Google New Sites
Basically, Google Classic Sites and Google New Sites are almost identical. They’re kind of like those fraternal twins you knew in school who look almost exactly alike, but they’re not. If you look really closely, you start to see the differences. We’re not going to go into all of them, but there are a couple you need to be aware of.
While they’re very similar products as far as building a website goes, Google New Sites has different content policies from Classic Sites. That could cause an issue for any business that decides they want to convert from a classic site to a new site. Unlike Classic Sites, New Sites is part of Google Drive, so things like sharing are controlled in your Google Drive settings.
While technically not a website builder, Google encourages users to create a website themselves in conjunction with another website builder product immediately after setting up their domain.
It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of do-it-yourself website builders, and neither is BizIQ. As a company, we think they’re a bit of a disservice to most small businesses and aren’t always as simple to use as they might seem at first. Although some of these popular companies claim to have some built-in Search Optimization (SEO) features, SEO is far too complicated and multi-layered for you to try and do yourself or for you to trust a plugin with. It really takes an experienced SEO or team of SEO experts.
Google My Business Website Builder
And finally Google My Business’ website builder. Again, the concept seems great on the surface. All you do is go to the dashboard in your Google My Business account and click the Website menu. After that Google automatically creates a mobile-optimized website for you using the information and photos from your Google My Business listing. You can further customize the website yourself if you want from within that same menu. When you’re satisfied with it, you hit publish. That’s it.
However, Danni discovered a huge problem with this last website builder that makes us wonder why nobody else in our industry is talking about it.
What’s the problem with the Google My Business free website builder?
Since the websites are made using your photos and posts from your Google My Business listing, if you have to transfer ownership of your account to someone else or someone hijacks your listing by creating a duplicate, your entire website just disappears. There’s no way to retrieve your website or transfer the domain to a new one. It’s just gone. Poof!
Every piece of business generated content you added to your Google My Business account, including all the photos, services, posts, and images that Google used to create your website just disappear and if you contact Google My Business support, they don’t know what you’re talking about or how to help. How do we know?
Because Danni spent a lot of time on hold and talking to several Google My Business support representatives and they had no answers for how the problem could be fixed, how a business could get their website files, or if you could transfer your auto-generated website to a new website host server. They couldn’t even tell her what happens to all the images and content from the old website.
Losing your auto-generated Google My Business website creates online listing inaccuracies.
At this point, you might be thinking, “well, that’s annoying, but I can just have Google generate a new one from my new listing.” You can. But what happens to your website address, the URL, on all the listing services you’re on when Google deletes your old site because your Google My Business account changed?
Everyone who clicks on the link when they find your business on one of these services gets a big, fat, ugly “404 site not found” error. Considering that these people are usually new customers, what does this do to your reputation? How much potential business could it cost you? You know all those people are just going to do business with one of your competitors instead.
Google uses your Google My Business website to create content for any Google Smart Campaigns you’re running.
Read that one again. The fact that Google uses your Google My Business website to create ads and landing pages for any Google Ads Smart Campaigns you’re running means, if you change ownership of your listing or someone hijacks your listing and creates a duplicate, it impacts all the content of your online advertising campaigns. Even if you create your own ad content yourself, Google still creates “alternate ad text,” to create new ads from your Google My Business website.
That’s right, if you’re using Adwords Express, now Google Ads Smart Campaigns, to manage your PPC campaigns, if you lost your Google My Business auto-generated website, then those campaigns are going to be affected. Unlike your Google My Business listing, your online advertising campaigns aren’t free. And yet, a free Google product has now potentially cost you money because it interfered with advertising you’re paying Google to manage. The only thing you can do when information from your Google My Business account that’s linked to your Adwords Express advertising or your Google Smart Campaigns is used is to add your new listing to your Google Ads account, describe your business, and set up a new ad.
While it’s tempting to let Google just generate a free website for you, it won’t actually save you money in the long run.
I totally understand how much you want to cut costs. Being a small business owner is tough. I’m considering turning my jewelry making hobby into a business. Just trying to figure out how to find the money and budget for materials is expensive. Let alone worrying about creating a website and marketing the business once it’s set up, and I work in online marketing- However, I will never let Google auto-generate a website for me or use a DIY website builder of any kind, and you shouldn’t either.
While the Google My Business website is technically free, how much money could you lose in ad spend and lost business when you need to change the ownership of your Google My Business account, or there’s another problem with your Google listing? Plus there’s all the time you’ll have to spend creating a new website, updating your listing on countless directory websites, as well as setting up all new Google Ads campaigns. If you ask me, it’s just not worth it.