Google GMB Website Builder Beta First Look

Village Dental Care, a general, cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontic dentist in Bowral,Australia, had access to the beta trial of Google new SMB website builder pop up in their Google My Business Dashboard and their dental marketing company, Smile Marketing1 kindly shared access to the account for me to take a look at the product.

It is essentially a super simple single page website builder with very little opportunity for customization or change. Upon access to the Website tab in the GMB, it comes up with a default category specific backgroundĀ image and themeĀ image:

Creation – Default View

Added Photos and Content

Photos and info are added via the standard GMB interface. There appears to be a bug where the background image, once selected does not allow replacement. If you don’t upload enough images they will replicated one of the images for display.

Theme Options

I didn’t explore these options so I can’t really speak to the specifics.

Edit Options

There are only four, very limited content areas of the page to which you can add text; Headline, Description, Summary Header & Summary body. There is no opportunity to affect title tags or meta descriptions. I did not test any limits that might be imposed on the various fields but upon re-edit there was a bug in the summary body field that doesn’t show all of the content added to the field. You can see only the first line. No ability to add links and the opportunity for spammy content is limited.

Publish

The one button publish process first asks if you want to use this as your new site at your existing URL or as a secondary site. The URL of the live site is http://business.google.com/website/village-dental-care/.

Live Site

Obviously there are still some quirks. I was unable to change the background image once it was added to the profile image. It self selected a segment of the profile image and did not give me control over that. Adding photos and info (basic business details) jumps the user back to the original pages of the GMB for those inputs and it feels a touch cludgey. There is no ability to control title tags or meta description tags and no ability to link out to other properties. And if it isn’t obvious there is no way to include updated content from Posts or Plus.

What isn’t clear either is how these pages are to be integrated with Maps or the Knowledge Panel.

Looking at a site command: site:business.google.com/website/ reveals some interesting (albeit unreliable) data about the countries where the test is taking place. Obviously this at the base domain only and while the numbers that the site: command returns I think that they might be directionally correct.

  • There currently appear to be about 122,000 sites using the Google domain.
  • English language based sites are roughly 1/2 of that number.
  • And the bulk of those in English are located in India.
  • 29,000 appear to be located in Indonesia
  • Another 24,000 are in Portuguese and come from Brazil
  • Australia seems to have just a few more than 100 sites
  • Only 1300 or so are in Spanish and seem to be mostly in Mexico2

Obviously it is a large scale test clocking in north of 100k participants. And to get to that scale it must have been present for a while.

In its current form it really is more like a fully formatted profile page than a website. That being said it is significantly easier to create than a G+ page ever was and unlike G+ is fully integrated with Maps and the verification process. Although if the verification process were even simpler and didn’t require the GMB process that might be appealing and at least for this test that might be the case.2

Calling this page a website seems like a touch of overselling. But I suppose it is easier to “sell” a “free mobile website” than to sell the concept of “verify your business listing on Google”. It effectively has the same outcome for Google of allowing them to “know” the business.

But a long standing SMB issue that Google has is that there is still no compelling reason for the business to return to dashboard to engage or up-purchase an ad campaign. In that regard it would make more sense to me to integrate this and the Posts product in testing into a more compelling package. Although even that might not be enough without customers ultimately driving their engagement ala Facebook.

1 I really want to thank Village Dental Care and Smile Marketing for their assistance in this first look. I particularly want to give a hat tip to Alicia Hardy for alerting me and assisting with the details of this review.

2 This is an odd search result that I uncovered in my site: explorations. Here is the new “website” for el rincon de la hacienda in Iztapalapa, Mexico. And here is a Google brand search for that same restaurant. The local listing is not yet verified. I suppose it is conceivable that in these situations that the website creation tool exists independently of the GMB verification process?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google GMB Website Builder Beta First Look by

17 thoughts on “Google GMB Website Builder Beta First Look”

  1. Interesting, they could really go a long way with this – allowing SMB’s to create robust sites – for free- all the while staying on the Google platform (ads, opportunities to push ppc, etc.)

  2. I wonder how content on these sites will get associated with the GMB entity. There might be some ranking benefit for businesses to build these out as secondary “sites”.

    1. I was wondering the same thing…I think it definitely fills a need for small businesses/startups that may not have the resources to build their own website or hire a design agency to do so. But right now it looks like it’s more appropriate for small businesses that benefit from walk-in visits….it doesn’t look like it’s possible to change the main CTA from “get directions” to prompt a phone call instead?

  3. @Darren
    That isn’t at all clear yet. Obviously if you use your domain it gets integrated into the GMB that way. If it is a “secondary” site we don’t really know. If you look at the search in the second footnote it is is clear that it isn’t

  4. Mike do you think this will ever develop into an “actual website”? I agree this would merge nicely with the Post’s product. But if this does substitute for an actual website – what’s the point?

  5. I have no idea the long term plans but for now the target markets (see data above) are heavily populated, developing nations with lots and lots of very small businesses. These folks would never be able to afford a full blown mobile site.

    So if you think micro businesses than this makes sense as is.

    If you think anything more, it would have to come a long way to replace a CMS

  6. Mike, I’ve just created one of these sort-of mini sites for one of my clients (virtual tour still pending publishing) but it is interesting to see where Google is going with this. A few thoughts I can share from this experience are:

    – After calling Google directly on this, they’ve confirmed that the url will always be based on their own business.google.com format
    – This may be how the kill off the G+ issues that have plagued it for so long. They would have eventually wanted to monetise that platform but it probably was too inconsistent with their existing models, but now this fits right in. This will be rather easy to monetise by connecting an Adsense campaign or similar. What I think we’re more likely to see are integrated tools to encourage ad purchasing.
    – One thing that is missing but I’ll be you (since they already have the data), they’ll ad a reviews page in there. That would be an easy one for them and maybe even make it possible to collect non-Gmail reviews which is the biggest challenge they continue to face in getting participation. What would be more curious though is whether they provide review management tools as part of it – and that is something you probably want to pay special attention to.

    I plan on playing a bit more with this for a few of my clients but surely not comparing it to a proper site build.

  7. Fascinating.

    Inability to edit title tags (seriously, did Google buy the old Microsoft Frontpage at a yard sale?) is not good.

    I really do not like the absence of NAP in the masthead.

    That being said, this looks as good as many non-Google-built websites. It’s something, rather than nothing. Let’s see where this goes.

  8. Mike, thanks for posting this. Are you familiar with Tablehero? They seem to be a bit ahead of the Google effort, and are taking an automated approach to building websites. It’s pretty clever – seems they’re scraping the web and building websites with the content they find. Quality is surprisingly decent.

  9. Fact is, most SMBs don’t care about the “limitations” we all see in this offering. In fact, they are benefits to the target market. With low effort at no cost, SMBs can tick the box of “ya gotta have a website” or “you need (insert basic SEO tactic here) to rank” and move along their way. Sure, we care about a lot of these things like citations, schema and UX. In fact, many here may make a decent living from Google’s target market of the SMB. But the SMB could care less, let alone pay for it.

    Don’t kid yourselves, HINDUSTAN CAR ACCESSORIES could care less about the apparent, strict confines of the GMB Website Builder box. Even if they were aware of them, they’d be happy to not have to be aware – ignorance is bliss!

    These “sites” already sit directly on an authority domain, preformatted with linked data, etc., so there’s no need for meta tags or the like. Goodbye low end cookie cutter web builders and SEO plays for that tier.

    Another brilliant move by the web disintermediation engineers at Google – or as I like to call them, the AOLificiation Taskforce. So Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress and entry-level web design/seo shops? You’ve just been made redundant.

    Mike, thank you for doing such an outstanding job covering yet another one of the many facets that make up Google’s disintermediation of the web.

  10. Interesting to see this come to life.

    When I attended the Google Summit earlier last year, they were discussing this specific pilot project as well, partnering with ‘web development agencies’ to build websites for less than $500 turn-key (which never ended up happening).

    It’s obvious that Google’s biggest area for growth is the SMB segment, and Google views websites as the ‘loss leader’ and want as many SMB’s to get online for as little as possible so they can invest that budget on Google ads. The idea is sound, and in my opinion, for many startups, I personally don’t believe it’s a good idea to invest 20-25k in just a website, but more so their ‘online presence’. Either way, exciting!

  11. Interesting .. I am from India & we manage quite a few businesses in GMB and this came as a surprise for me too.

    I completely agree with you that though “free website” is overselling, I think it will work wonders for a lot of people in India, especially those who struggle to get any online presence.

    However, I don’t see option for a custom domain yet, so not sure if having such a long domain name makes sense.

  12. For SMB’s this helps them get online and into the Local mix. Easy for visitors to click for directions or click to call.

    It will definitely be interesting to see where they go with this.

  13. SMB’s could certainly find value in being able to create a site at no cost. It’s interesting that Google is always stressing that websites provide a “good user experience”, yet a basic one-page site will certainly be short on detailed information about products as well as the related company. For more detailed information, an organization would certainly have to use another platform to provide additional, relevant information for its readers.

    This begs the question: if the content on these websites were published on a different platform, would that website be penalized for, “thin content”?

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