I love Google Sites. It’s an excellent and free website builder that is perfect for “about me” style websites or any topic where yo just need to create a simple, effective 5-10 page website.
Maybe you’re a YouTuber or an online personality and don’t want to get a hosting account. Perhaps you’re a coach for a sports club or are wanting to create a website for an organization. Google Sites is perfect for you.
Create a website with Google Sites:
With Google Sites you get free hosting, can setup a custom domain and you get an SSL certificate. To get started simple head over to the Google Sites homepage and log in with any Gmail account.
You should be presented with a blank dashboard (my Google Site is listed below). To create a Google Site just hit the plus sign.
Now we’re ready to begin. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to:
- Setup a custom domain name.
- Design tips for creating your website.
- Pros and cons of Google Sites
How to setup a custom domain name for Google Sites
Before you design your website, you’ll want to set up a custom domain name. That means people can visit your Google Site by going to example.com instead of sites.google.com/view/example.
So the first step is to register a domain name.
I strongly suggest using Namecheap as they have some of the best domain name registration prices around. I know GoDaddy is more popular, and their an excellent service provider. But for strictly domain names, you can’t beat the price and convenience of Namecheap.
Get your domain names at a great price at Namecheap.
To register a domain name at Namecheap simply search for the domain name you want, if available go ahead and purchase it. I normally suggest getting a .com for content oriented niche websites.
But because Google Sites is more geared for personal websites, any extension you want to get is fine.
Set a custom URL in Google Sites
Once you have registered your domain name of choice, the next step is to set it as the “custom domain name” in Google sites. To do that you simply need to go to settings in Googles Sites and put in the domain name you want to set. It’s that simple:
Please note that Google Sites does not support naked domain names. That means it must be www.example.com instead of example.com.
Verify ownership with Google Sites
Now you have to verify that you are in fact the owner of the domain name you are attempting to assign.
This process is easy and it begins by clicking “verify your ownership.”
Please select your domain name registrar from the drop down list. In this tutorial we’re using Namecheap, but it works the same with any provider.
Next, you have to add a TXT record to your DNS configuration. Sounds complicated but it’s a simple copy and paste job you can do in under 5 minutes.
Log into your Domain Registrar and set the TXT and CNAME records
Log into your domain name registrar. We’re using Namecheap but again it’s the same process for all registrars. You want to set host records for your domain name.
For Namecheap, just click on “manage” for the domain name you want to edit then click on “advanced DNS” to access these settings:
Now take the TXT record you have and add it by clicking on “add new record” and selecting the TXT record option. The host value is www.
Next, add a CNAME record. The CNAME record for all Google Sites is ghs.googlehosted.com. Thehost is www.
The TXT record verifies ownership, the CNAME record directs traffic to this domain name to your Google site.
Wait 30 minutes and then verify your domain
Once you have setup the CNAME record and the TXT record you’ll have to wait 30 minutes to 1 hour for everything to propagate. Changes take a bit of time to take effect and are not instantaneous.
After you have waited the appropriate time, go back to Google Sites, click on settings and again add your URL as a custom domain. If you’ve followed instructions correctly, your domain name will be accepted as a custom domain.
Congrats, you’ve just set up your first Google Site!
Design your website
Now I suggest following along with the video (found at the beginning of this post) as a way to design your website. You have a few different options to be aware of.
Set a header image or a gif
You can set a header image or a gif for your Google Site and it looks fantastic. If you decide to use an image make sure it’s around 2000×2000 pixels in size so it fits correctly and is not blown out.
To add text, images, embed social media posts or add videos to any pages simply double click the white space on your website and you’ll have a popup dial where you can select to add an image, video or text.
With the text editor you can add links, heading, and stylize font as you like.
Edit Google Sites Themes
Google Sites look and feel can be adjusted slightly via the themes feature. You can not edit themes themselves to look a specific way. You can only change colors and font choices that are unique to each theme.
But overall, each theme has a professional, modern design.
Pages for your website
Unlike blogger and WordPress, Google Sites only has a page function. That means you can’t create categorized blog posts. You technically can blog. What you could do is create a page called “blog” then make a bunch of sub pages. But Google Sites is really not designed for blogging.
Pages are added automatically to the menu but each page comes with the option to delete it, hide it from navigation, give it a custom URL path, duplicate it or make it the homepage.
How To Use Google Sites – Pros and Cons
Is Google Sites the perfect website builder? No of course not. It has good things and bad elements and may not be right for everyone. Let’s cover what you need to know.
Why use Google Sites? Some positives:
There are a few stand out reasons to use Google Sites as a website builder. After having used Google Sites for 30 days here are the main things I like:
- Beautiful, responsive design.
- Perfect option for casual use.
- Can setup a custom domain name that is https
Beautiful, responsive design.
I find the overall look, feel and design of a Google Site to be modern and professional. So much so I was asked by someone what WordPress theme” I was using for my website.
Compared to other website builders that have very dated templates, Google Sites templates implement many modern design trends people have come to expect.
Perfect option for casual use.
Google Sites is the superior option for simple about me websites. Why pay for hosting when for a simple 5 page website when you can use Google Sites?
Custom domain that is secure
You can setup a custom domain name with Google Sites and it’s secure so people can subscribe to your email list or send you a message via a contact form. Not only is this important from a user experience perspective, it’s also important for website to now be secure and encrypted.
What are the negatives of Google Sites?
There are quite a few negatives to be aware of if you decide to go with Google Sites. Again, this website builder is ideal for casual use and if you’re expecting to create a profitable website or blog, Google Sites is not for you. Here are the main drawbacks:
- No naked URL’s.
- Naked URL does not redirect.
- Your Google Sites URL and your custom domain name are both available.
- No control over meta data for your content.
- You have to have a “home” link that acts as a duplicate page.
- Can not run AdSense.
No naked URL’s
A naked URL is the non-www version of your website. Most websites today are non-www. All websites powered by WordPress are non-www. It’s not something you’ve probably ever noticed but with Google Sites your URL must be https://www.example.com.
Again, not a big issue if you’re building a simple website.
Naked URL’s do not redirect
If you try to visit the naked domain name version of your custom URL (https://example.com) it does not redirect properly to the www. version.
This is an issue because most web browsers assume you’re looking for the non-www version and will attempt to visit that first then redirect you. But with Google Sites it simple lands you on a 404 page if you try to visit the naked URL.
Google Sites URL and your custom URL are available
Even if you setup a custom domain name, your Google Sites URL is still available. Meaning visitors can visit both and get the same content. Again, not an issue if it’s a simple site, but just be aware that your Google Sites URL does not redirect to your custom domain name like you think it would.
No control over meta data for your content
With WordPress you can control page titles, meta descriptions and so forth. Not with Google Sites. It’s not SEO friendly at all so don’t expect to create a website that can rank for anything.
Home link required
You must set a page to be the home page. Not a big deal, the issue is that it’s then added to your menu bar as “home” and has it’s own URL path, https://www.example.com/home and has the same exact content as your custom domain name.
Thus you end up with a website that has two URL’s with the same exact content. I have no idea why Google Sites loves duplicate content so much.
Can not run AdSense
One fun aspect of blogger.com is that you can run AdSense ads on your blog and make a 100% passive income website with no costs other than your domain name. Blogger.com provides free hosting, you create the content and it’s all free like YouTube.
With Google Sites however it’s a violation of their terms of service to run AdSense ads.
Google Sites Tutorial Conclusion
Google Sites is my favorite website builder for casual use. Ideal for an about me style website, personal website or landing page builder for your YouTube description if you’re in need of wanting to link out to a website.
As it’s for casual use, it has a lot of drawbacks if you’re needing something for a bigger project. But for what it is, it’s one of the best website builders around.
Get your custom domain for your Google Site here.