If you have content that you would like to get online, but don’t want to spend a large amount of money getting started, it may make sense to use Google Sites. Google Sites is a free website building tool that integrates easily into Google’s other tools like Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Drive, Google Analytics.
If you’re already familiar with this environment, you should have no trouble getting started making a basic website using Google Sites.
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Using Google Sites To Create a Website
When creating a website using Google Sites, there are certain steps that you must follow. These are listed below.
Create a Google Account
If you already have a Google account, you can skip this step. However, if you don’t have an existing account or wish to create a new account, navigate to https://accounts.google.com and click on “Create Account.”
You must either provide an existing email address, or you can set up a Gmail account, which we recommend as it makes the entire process smoother. Provide your recovery information ― in case you forget your password ― and you should be ready to go.
Click on the Google apps icon on the upper-right ― it looks like a small grid of nine circles ― next to the gear. Then, choose “Sites.” If you don’t see it, click on “More from Google,” click on “Browse all products,” and choose “Sites” from the list:
Choose a Template
You should see a page that looks something like this:
Now, you want to either choose an existing template for your site, or you can start with a blank canvas.
Choose a Theme
Next, you want to choose a theme for your site. (Note: you can always change the template later on if you don’t like what you first chose, but it helps to start with something that looks good to you.) Once you’ve picked a template or theme, you should see a screen that looks something like this:
Note the menu on the right. You can choose any number of layouts for your page by clicking on the Layouts section. You can also add a wide number of different interfaces to your website’s main page, including:
- Text boxes
- Code embedding
- Resources from your Google Drive
Edit Text & Images
You will discover that every section of the page is editable, so you can add text wherever you like. Enter your website’s name and add some basic text on the screen. Change Layout or Design by using the widgets on the right.
You can change the background image by hovering over it and choosing “Change Image” and then you have a choice of either uploading a brand new image or selecting one from your Google Drive. Google also provides a selection of free images that you can use right away.
Change Your Layout or Background
If you don’t like the initial layout or template that you chose for your site, you can change how it looks easily by hovering over it and clicking the small palette icon:
Here, you can change your selection. You can also choose to duplicate the selection or delete it using the other icons that appear.
One thing you may want to do is to experiment a little. Almost every item on the page has an option that can be changed by hovering over it. For instance, you may see a small gear icon on the upper left of your page. If you click on it, you’ll bring up a selection menu.
Here, you can change any of the settings on the site, including the navigation, your brand images, and more.
You may realize that you can directly embed any content that Google provides into your pages. You can add a wide number of widgets from Google by choosing these from the menu on the right. These include:
- Collapsible groups, also called “Accordions”
- Table of contents
- Image Carousel
- YouTube embedding capability
Create More Pages
Any site on the internet worth looking at typically has more than one page. You can add an unlimited number of new pages to your site using Google Sites easily. From the menu on the right, choose “Pages.”
Here, you can see a listing of all of the pages currently on your site. To add a new page, simply click on the large plus (“+”) button on the bottom right. You can add the name of your page and hit “Done.” This creates a new blank page using your default template.
Publish Your Website
Once you have completed your site to the level where you wish it to appear to the public, you want to publish it. To do this, click on the blue “Publish” button on the top right of your screen.
The first time you do this, you’ll be prompted to enter a unique folder name where your site will exist. For instance, if you were to name your website “mywebsite” it would become accessible at sites.google.com/view/mywebsite. (Note: this must be unique so that it has a name that’s different from any other Google website.)
Of course, you’ll most likely want to create a custom domain for your website. To do this, you must purchase a name. You can either purchase this from a third-party supplier, or you can purchase one directly through Google.
Getting a domain from Google is likely the easiest way and about $1 per month, but you can choose to do this through another company. If you choose to purchase a domain from an independent company, you need to configure the domain host to point to ghs.googlehosted.com. To set up your domain at any point, click on the settings as described above, and choose “Custom Domains”. Google will walk you through the process.
Do You Have To Pay To Use Google Sites?
Websites made using Google Sites are completely free. All you need is a Google account. The only exception to this rule is if you choose to register a domain name, such as “yoursite.com.”. However, that expense is negligible. If you need to simply get a website up and running, and wish to pay nothing at all, and don’t care about whether you have a unique domain name, then there’s absolutely no cost.
Is a Google Site the Same as a Website Made Using Another Platform Like Wix, WordPress, or Squarespace?
While you can build a simple website on Google Sites for free, you cannot run dynamic content on your site. You get a flat site. You also cannot use it for e-commerce because that functionality doesn’t exist. However, there’s little risk in using Google Sites to get a quick “business card” site up.
You can also use it to have people contact you. Since Google websites are compatible with the entire Google Sites universe, you can integrate Google Forms easily to gather information from people. This information is then organized using Google Sheets. Overall, however, if you’re more serious about going into business with your website, you might want to consider some other options.
Examples of Sites That You Can Build With Google Sites
Not every website you build is ideal for working with Google Sites. However, there are many good possible use-cases that may work well with a simple platform such as this.
Good examples can include:
- School classroom websites
- Religious websites
- Quick mockups for demonstrating a concept
- Small brick-and-mortar business websites
- Family gathering websites
- Personal websites
Here are a few examples of sites built with Google Sites:
This is a terrific example of how you can create a professional-looking business website using Google Sites.
Do you want an example of a solid-looking recipe website? This one should show you how to create a professional site using this great free tool.
Joshua Pomeroy’s website demonstrates how a graphic designer can use Google Sites to create a simple site demonstrating visual creation ability.
There are many other possible use-cases for using Google Sites, but you get the idea. Your only limit is your imagination.
What To Do Next
Google Sites websites are optimized for tablets and smartphones. Creating a website using Google Sites lets you build internal project hubs, team sites, and public-facing websites without technical knowledge. It is automatically added to Google Drive with collaboration features that allow editing a Google Site together with someone else in real-time, and seeing each other’s changes live. The sharing permissions make your site accessible only to people you want to share it with, like vendors or suppliers.
Start to showcase your content by embedding a Google doc that shows your restaurant’s menu, leads to your store’s physical location on Google Maps or features the social media accounts of your business. Measure your website’s traffic and track its performance by deriving insights from Google Analytics.