Google Sites Review 2019—Is It Right for Your Business?
We’ve come to expect value and ease of use from our Benevolent Overlord Google, so Google Sites may seem like a logical choice when deciding on a website builder for your business site. It’s free, and it integrates with your Google docs, forms, and maps—what’s not to love?
Unfortunately, the platform doesn’t quite live up to the Google name, falling short on customization options and basic features available on other free website builders. That doesn’t make it a bad fit for companies with basic website needs, but we’d probably still recommend GoDaddy or Weebly over Google Sites.
Find out where Google Sites delivers (and where it falls short) in our complete review below.
Google Sites is a basic drag-and-drop website builder. As part of the Google apps suite, the platform integrates easily with Google Docs, Google Forms, and more. But it lacks the basic blogging features, e-commerce functions, and custom domains most businesses need.
Google Sites is best for event websites
- Free to use
- Minimalistic interface
- Decent built-in design
- No built-in blogging or e-commerce
- Surprising lack of SEO options
- Barely any customization tools
- No included custom domains
Let’s get the bad news out of the way. Google Sites doesn’t include blogging or e-commerce features. So if you’re running an e-commerce shop or depend on written content to turn a profit, you should definitely use a different internet site builder (like Squarespace or Wix).
Google Sites also doesn’t offer built-in domain registration (a standard feature on pretty much every other website builder); so if you want a professional-looking web address for your site, you’ve got to purchase it elsewhere, then follow a complex series of instructions to link your Google Sites website to your custom domain.
Granted, Google makes up for this complexity by simplifying the rest of the build process. Google Sites syncs with your Google account, so you can easily add any forms, maps, or documents. And since Google owns YouTube, you can also embed YouTube videos in a matter of seconds.
Before we get too deep, we need to clarify that Google has refreshed the Google Sites interface within the past five years. So if you built a site on the platform before the revamped version was released, you may be able to access “Google Sites Classic,” which has a different interface and slightly different features. We figure if you’re reading a review, though, you’re probably going to use the new Google Sites—so that’s what we’re focusing on for this review.
Google Sites also offers simple but visually appealing design, so it may be a good option for local businesses that just need a home page, a contact page, and maybe a photo gallery. But unless you’re willing to go through the trouble of buying a custom domain through a third-party hosting service and routing it to your site, we’d still recommend using a different provider.
So who should use Google Sites?
So who should use Google Sites? We could see Google Sites being a good solution for one-off events and pop-up businesses. If you’re running a once-a-year farmers market, for instance, you probably wouldn’t want to deal with the extra cost of a custom domain, so a “sites.google.com/view/[YourSiteName]” web address probably wouldn’t be a big deal. And since Google Sites is easy to use and integrate with your Google account, you can get your website up and running in no time—then delete it just as quickly once your event is over.
How Google Sites stacks up
At the risk of angering the Google gods, we’ve got to be honest: Google Sites falls short on just about everything from design themes to security. Here’s what you’ve got to know going in.
Like Squarespace and Wix, Google Sites features a drag-and-drop editor for enhanced ease of use (more on that later). The platform also integrates with your Google account and all your connected G Suite services. So you could (hypothetically) create an email capture form in Google Forms, set it up to sync email entries with your Gmail account (for simple email marketing), and embed that form onto your website in a matter of minutes.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is Google Sites offers no hosted e-commerce solutions or blogging. And frankly, it’s missing a bunch of other tools and features too. Just look at how the platform compares to one of our top choices, Squarespace.
|Credit card payments||✘||✔|
|Free custom domain||✘||✔|
|Free SSL certificate||✘||✔|
|Discounts and coupons||✘||✔|
|Gift cards||✘||Select plans|
|Shipping quotes||✘||Select plans|
|Transaction fees on third-party payment gateways||✘||✔|
|24/7 customer support||✔||✔|
|View Plans||View Plans|
On the upside, Google Sites websites are free, they’re mobile-responsive (meaning they automatically adjust to the right size on mobile phones and tablets), and they come with 24/7 support (albeit in the form of help articles—no phone, email, or chat support).
But ultimately, Google Sites doesn’t offer blogging, and it’s not an e-commerce platform. And for most businesses, that disqualifies the platform from consideration. Google Sites also doesn’t include an SSL security certificate—which is weird since Google won’t show any nonsecure sites (those without SSL security) in search results. For an SSL certificate, you’ll need to purchase separate hosting for your site through a provider that offers such security.
It doesn’t get better from there either. Google Sites doesn’t offer web hosting, nor does it include a free custom domain for the first year of your service—both commonly offered features among competitor website builders.
So while Google Sites does make it easy to create a basic site, we don’t think it’s a good fit for most businesses looking to build a completely custom, professional-looking business website.
Usability score: 3/5
Google Sites is a drag-and-drop website builder, which automatically gets it some usability points from us. And the interface matches a lot of other Google apps, so anyone who’s used a Google product before should have no trouble navigating menus or finding the tools they need.
Google Sites also makes the build process easier with its pre-built section templates. All you have to do is drag a section template onto your page, then fill in the images and text boxes. Themes are also easy to navigate since the platform can automatically apply new themes to your existing site without you losing any of your content.
We also like that Google Sites syncs with your Google account. That gives your site complete integration with a number of Google apps, so you can easily incorporate docs, forms, and more on your web pages:
- Your Google email account (Gmail)
- Google Drive
- Google docs
- Google Sheets
- Google Forms
- Google Maps
- Google Photos
- Google Calendar
You can even access Google Analytics directly from your site management page. That way, you can track users’ site experience and see which search engines customers are using to find your page—all in one place. That’s definitely an improvement over builders like WordPress (which make you add a plugin to access your Google Analytics account on site).
That all sounds great, so you may be wondering why we knocked our usability score down to a three. Well, Google Sites also has some huge negatives going for it.
In classic Google style, Google Sites strips down your options to the bare bones—all in the name of simplicity and ease. The result? It’s extremely difficult to find the customization tools you need, which ultimately makes the simplicity of the platform more frustrating than helpful.
We also have to harp on the custom domain situation again. If you want a professional domain, you have to go to the extra trouble of buying it somewhere else (then juggling a hosting plan). And then you have to jump through hoops to connect that custom domain to your Google site. All in all, it’s a lot more trouble than it’s worth, considering how easy it is to get a custom domain on other builders.
TL;DR version: Google Sites is really easy to use if you don’t want to change anything about your template and you’re okay with using a non-custom domain. But if you want a completely custom site, Google Sites’ simplicity winds up being a huge barrier to creating a website your business can actually use.
Design score: 3/5
We gave Google Sites a three out of five for design because while the platform produces easy-to-navigate, clean-looking pages, it also doesn’t offer any standout design features. So if you’re looking for a site builder that can take you beyond a generic-looking, cookie-cutter website design, you’re probably better off going with another provider.
The Google Sites builder lets you drag and drop pre-built section templates onto your page. Once you place a section template on your page, you can add YouTube videos, extra images, additional text, dividers, and other visual elements where you need them. You can also toggle between themes easily to see how your site looks with different fonts and design elements.
Google Sites also puts bumpers on your design by automatically adding white space between elements and automatically adjusting background images to enhance readability. That means you’re virtually guaranteed to wind up with a professional-looking site, even if you’re a web design novice.
Here’s the problem: all the on-page layouts, menus, and features adopt that classic Google aesthetic. It’s clean, it’s simple, it’s easy . . . but it’s also pretty boring.
We also noticed that the platform’s Google account integration caused some pretty serious design problems. All embedded Google docs look just like they do on your Google Drive (the big, clickable square with a visual preview on top and the document title underneath). And because you can’t customize the colors, fonts, or background on any of those elements, they often don’t match the design on the rest of your site. The end result is jarring and a little off-putting for users.
Customization score: 2/5
Google Sites’s lack of common customization options ultimately tanked our opinion of the platform.
Google Sites offers only six layout templates and six themes to choose from. Individual elements like videos and image carousels look pretty much identical across all themes too. You can’t add apps or other customizations to your site (at least not without navigating tricky embed codes). You can’t even change font sizes, colors, or spacing—options that other website builders treat as the bare minimum.
As we mentioned above, Google Sites also doesn’t let you customize embedded forms or docs from your Google account. And the fact that the builder doesn’t offer an e-commerce platform or basic blogging functions is kind of mind-blowing to us, considering Google’s reputation for . . . well, general internet dominance.
The end result is a rigid platform that makes it ridiculously difficult to create the business website you envision (rather than the website Google envisions for you).
That said, Google Sites’ lackluster customization tools may not be a negative for business owners who are worried about their website-building skills (or lack thereof). Without a ton of customization options to clutter your interface, it’s admittedly a lot easier and faster to build a perfectly decent-looking business website.
But for our money, not being able to fully customize the placement of elements on your site kind of cancels out the benefits of using a drag-and-drop website builder.
Google Sites plans by price
Unlike other website builders, Google Sites doesn’t have a complicated pricing structure. You can create as many websites on Google Sites as you want for free. You don’t pay extra for plugins, themes, apps, or features—you get everything the platform has to offer. Easy peasy.
Or maybe not.
Google Sites doesn’t offer web hosting for your site. Instead, it stores all your website data on your Google Drive. So if you create a website that takes up more than 15GB, you’ll need to pay to upgrade your Google account to one of the plans below. If you opt to get a custom domain, you’ll also need to pay for that through a third-party domain registrar.
|Plan||Storage||Other features||Learn more|
|Basic||30GB||Video and voice conferencing; secure team messaging; shared calendars; 24/7 phone and email support||View Plans|
|Business||Unlimited*||Low-code app development; smart search across G Suite; eDiscovery for emails, chats, and files||View Plans|
|Enterprise||Unlimited*||Cloud Identity Premium; data loss prevention for Gmail; audit report to track user activity||View Plans|
Search engine optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital if you want your customers to find your website online. After all, how can taco-craving lunch-goers find your Mexican restaurant if your website doesn’t show up when they search for “tacos near me”?
Considering that Google’s main product is a search engine (they don’t call it “googling” for nothing), we were surprised (and less than impressed) to find that Google Sites offers little to no SEO customization.
At first, we assumed that best practices for search engines were automatically coded into Google Sites’ themes. But then we realized that Google Sites websites don’t include SSL security—a feature that Google itself has identified as essential if you want to show up on search results.
After doing some more digging, we did find a few minor SEO tools buried in the platform settings. But we still can’t verify whether Google automatically optimizes the rest of your site settings for search engines. So for your peace of mind, we’d recommend using a website builder with more SEO options (like WordPress) if SEO is an important part of your business strategy.
We’ll be straight with you: it was pretty much impossible to find direct customer reviews of Google Sites. The website-building platform is just one of many apps included in G Suite, and Google is a massive worldwide company. So most entries on review websites like TrustPilot are about Google in general (or they’re spam reviews from bots).
But we did a bit more digging in the Google Sites community forum and found a few trends. In general, many Google Sites users enjoy the simplicity of the platform, how easy it is to integrate with other apps on their Google accounts, and the fact that the builder is free. However, many users are also frustrated by how difficult it is to incorporate a blog or e-commerce store on their sites.
Likewise, third-party reviews from other website-building experts complain that Google Sites doesn’t offer hosted e-commerce or blogging features. Most other reviewers also agree with us when it comes to Google Sites’ lack of unique themes and customization tools. Specifically, the consensus is that the builder doesn’t offer the tools business owners need to create the best possible website for their needs.
The bottom line
Google Sites is a decent website-building platform for basic needs. It integrates easily with your Google account so you can add Google forms, docs, and maps with ease.
However, Google Sites doesn’t include a custom domain, it lacks fundamental customization tools found on other website builders, and it doesn’t offer any hosted e-commerce or blogging features. These drawbacks make Google Sites a hard sell for most businesses—from blogs to e-commerce shops to local businesses.
Google Sites is free, though, so if you’re on a budget and have minimal website needs, Google Sites could still be a viable option for your company.
Google Sites is okay, but it’s not exactly our top choice if you want to create a professional site. Check out our guide to the best business website builders to see if another provider is better for your company.
At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don’t guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.