Today Google is announcing the worldwide release of their small business web builder, Websites. First spotted in January, it is a simple, single page web builder that allows a business to create a basic webpage in 5 minutes (or less if really simple).
It is accessible either via the Google My Business dashboard. The Website Help files are here. In India, signup has its own page and the product warranted an official Google India blog post. So far the announcment in the US has been decidedly muted and shy of details.
If there is a verified listing in the GMB, the data for hours, driving directions & business name as well as photos will be automatically inserted into the web page. Any changes to the GMB will also auto-flow to the web page.
As I have noted previously, the product is not really a replacement for a full blown multi page website that many businesses have already in the United States but for the business just coming on line in the developing world. It is also a reasonable play for a business in the US that has a Facebook only presence but wants to start increasing their exposure in local search.
The product lacks a number of obvious features like social sharing buttons, structured data, control over title tags & meta-descriptions and an easy way to create a call to action button.
It does however allow a small business operator to produce an attractive mobile ready site in 5 minutes. And it is well suited to a first time website for a business with no or very little web presence.
The web site produced resides at business.site and while it creates a default url (yourbusinessname.business.site) there is an option to easily change the default url or to buy your own domain for the site directly from Google.
Here is an example of a site that I built in a few minutes this weekend: sissons-chainsaws-stoves.business.site.
Obviously the product is confronted with all of the standard issues that Google has in the local space:
- Will Google bother to spend any money promoting the product or will it languish in the backwaters? All too often Google has lacked the commitment to make their local products work.
- Will the product, which is one of several current web builder products at Google, be a long term stable feature or will Google give it the axe in 18 months? For a business to build a strategic asset like a website takes faith in Google that I am not sure that they have earned.
- Will the product continue to evolve feature wise? This is a very nice 1.0 rollout but it is clearly not yet feature rich enough. Will it suffer from Google ADD that we have so frequently seen in the past where they build something and then forget it?
- How will Google handle the obvious problem of a business thinking that they immediately deserve higher web visibility without any of the standard web prominence activities? It seems that the gap between producing the website and appearing regularly in search is large and without significant educational resources Google will continue to experience an expectation gap amongst their users.
When viewed together with the other tests that are still active, Google Posts and Google My Business Chat, we are starting to see a picture of Google’s plans for the Google My Business Dashboard as a place where a business needs to go regularly. These three products are attempting to overcome the set and forget it problem that Google has always had with the business dashboards of the past.
These are clearly also products that are direct competitors to Facebook’s ready ease of use and enticing engagement for the small business operator.
Google really needs this website building product to take off in the developing world or they run the risk of small business irrelevancy. The business web did not develop in much of Asia as it did in the US. And alternatively texting as a b-c interface and smartphone apps did develop and Google does not have anywhere near as strong of a presence in those arenas.
This product and the others I mentioned were needed by Google in 2013. Unfortunately Google was mired in the need to extricate local from Plus and both time and focus was lost. It has also taken a number of foundational GMB developments in both their product and thinking to get to this point.
The product isn’t an obvious knockout win. While it may be of value in developing countries, it is not at all clear what value it will provide in the US were web sties are the norm and can be had inexpensively. However when paired with the previous efforts in developing the Google My Business Dashboard and the current products in testing, it seems to even the playing field with Facebook and give Google a fighting chance to hang onto their lead in small business discovery.
And if Google properly promotes the product and its benefits then the chances of success would increase.
Google needs this product for two foundational reasons; as a source for getting and updating small business data and keeping the “open” web relevant for small business marketing.
Do you think that Google will succeed with this product in developing countries? In the US? In the other industrialized nations?
Here are screenshots of the process (Click to view them larger in order of the process of setting up a page.): Continue reading Google MyBusiness Website Builder Released Worldwide