Hey there! If you‘re wondering whether Google Sites is really a completely free way to build a website, you‘ve come to the right place. I‘ll walk you through exactly what you can do at no cost, what the limitations are, how it stacks up to paid options, and when Google Sites is the right choice.
After reading this detailed breakdown as a fellow web builder, you‘ll know if Google‘s free website builder has everything you need or if it‘s worth exploring paid alternatives. Let‘s dive in!
An Overview of Google Sites‘ Features
In case you‘re new to Google Sites, here‘s a quick rundown of what it is and does:
Lets you create websites right within Google Drive with pre-made templates
Features a drag-and-drop builder to add texts, images, videos and other elements
Provides collaboration tools for real-time editing with other users
Allows connecting your own custom domain once published
Offers free hosting on Google‘s servers when you publish your site
Integrates nicely with other Google services like Docs, Sheets, Calendar
Google Sites works well for basic websites like:
Internal team/intranet sites for a business
Simple portfolio sites for creatives or students
Informational sites for events, groups or clubs
Collaboration hubs for projects and documents
It‘s not built for complex sites like online stores though. The focus is ease of use and speed.
Now let‘s look at everything you get 100% free with Google Sites.
What‘s Included for Free
The core Google Sites platform doesn‘t cost a penny to use. Here are all the features available without paying:
✅ Pre-designed templates
Google Sites provides various templates to fit different use cases like projects, events, portfolios and more. They make it easy to get started quickly.
✅ Drag-and-drop builder
The intuitive editor lets you add, arrange and stylize elements on pages with just clicks – no coding needed.
✅ Hosting & subdomain
Your sites get free hosting on Google‘s servers. Published sites are given a free sites.google.com subdomain.
✅ Custom domain support
You can connect a domain purchased elsewhere to replace the sites.google.com URL.
✅ Unlimited pages & storage
There are no limits on how many pages you can create or the storage space used by your sites.
✅ Adding rich media
Embed videos, insert images and documents, embed maps and calendars right on pages.
✅ Built-in collaboration
Share sites and edit them simultaneously with colleagues right within Sites.
✅ Access to Google Apps
Easily embed Docs, Sheets, Forms and other Google app content within sites.
✅ No ads or tracking
Google doesn‘t show ads on your Sites pages or track visitors for marketing.
✅ Available on mobile
View and edit Sites from iOS or Android apps. Some limitations exist compared to desktop.
✅ Support articles
Google provides extensive help documentation to learn how to use Sites.
✅ Google-level security
Your data is protected by the same security used across Google‘s infrastructure.
So as you can see, you get access to a versatile website builder and host for $0! But let‘s look at what‘s not included…
Limitations of the Free Version
While the basics are covered, Google Sites does lack more advanced features that paid builders have. Limitations include:
⛔ No HTML/CSS editing
You can‘t modify code or scripts. It‘s a closed drag-and-drop system.
⛔ Limited design options
Options to change colors, fonts, layouts exist but are more restrained vs paid builders.
⛔ No built-in SEO
You can‘t customize titles, meta descriptions, alt text for images etc.
⛔ No forms, surveys or mailing lists
No easy way to collect data from site visitors built-in.
⛔ No ecommerce
No online store features or payment processing options. External tools needed.
⛔ No site search
No way to let visitors search your site content built-in.
⛔ No visitor analytics
No insights on traffic stats, behavior and conversions without adding own analytics.
⛔ Can‘t embed sites
No embedding Sites pages into blogs, social posts or as web elements.
⛔ Some Google branding
Faint Google footer branding still shows up, even with branding removed.
So for simple sites, you may not need the advanced functionality. But it‘s something to consider if you want more complex capabilities down the road.
Potential Costs to Factor In
While Google Sites won‘t cost you anything itself, there are a few potential expenses that could come up down the line:
Domain registration – To use your own domain name, you‘ll need to purchase one for ~$12-15/year.
Extra storage – If you exceed the free 15GB from Google, you‘d need to pay for more storage space.
Removing branding – There is a one-time $7 fee to attempt to remove the faint Google footer branding.
Custom development – To add advanced features, you may need to pay a developer for custom work.
G Suite subscription – Paid G Suite plans unlock some additional Google Sites capabilities.
The only one you really "need" is a domain name to present a professional brand. But the other costs listed could arise for more complex sites.
Okay, let‘s now compare Google Sites to some paid website builders…
How Google Sites Stacks Up to Premium Builders
Google Sites is missing some key features that premium builders like Wix, Squarespace and WordPress offer. Here‘s an overview of the main pros and cons:
Pros of Google Sites
- Totally free to use
- Super fast and easy setup
- Great for beginners
- Tight integration with Google services
- Can edit sites simultaneously with others
Cons vs Paid Builders
- Very limited design customization options
- No built-in SEO, analytics, surveys etc.
- No online store capabilities
- Can‘t edit HTML/CSS code
- Still shows faint Google branding
Now let‘s look at some specific comparisons:
Google Sites vs Wix
Wix is a popular freemium builder with advanced capabilities, but at a cost.
Wix has 500+ designer templates vs Google Sites‘ 30 boring templates. More visually appealing designs to start with.
Tons of template customization ability with Wix‘s Editor X vs very limited options in Sites.
Wix has better mobile responsiveness – Sites can have issues on mobile layouts.
But Wix lacks real-time collaboration editing features that Sites has.
Overall Wix provides way more design flexibility, features and better mobile experience if you upgrade to a paid plan.
Google Sites vs WordPress
Self-hosted WordPress is free to use but requires more technical setup.
WordPress is way more customizable with plugins and code access. Lots of SEO and marketing plugins available.
Google Sites is easier/faster to set up initially vs installing WordPress and finding a web host.
WordPress still has a learning curve for beginners vs Sites‘ extreme simplicity.
So WordPress has better long term scalability for advanced users, but a steeper initial learning curve.
Ideal Use Cases for Google Sites
Given the pros, cons and comparisons, here are the main types of sites Google Sites works well for:
Internal knowledge bases – For company info, policies, manuals.
Group collaboration spaces – For clubs, teams, event planning.
School and church sites – For announcements, calendars, rosters.
Personal sites – For portfolios, blogs, resumes, tributes.
Small business brochures – For simple company descriptions, contact pages.
The common thread is informational websites without a ton of custom design needs or complex functionality.
But once you want to sell products directly, have advanced SEO capabilities, or customize every element extensively, a paid builder will prove better.
Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your First Site
If you want to dive in and set up your first Google Site, follow these steps:
Go to sites.google.com and login with Google Account.
Click the + button > Choose a template like Portfolio, Event, Blank.
Give your site a name and set permissions. Click Create.
Edit the homepage by clicking on text, images etc to customize.
Use the sidebar to add more pages, attachments, links. Organize navigation.
Preview changes. When ready, click Publish to make public.
Share published URL or embed site. Unpublish to edit.
Connect custom domain in Google Domains (optional).
Some tips for getting started:
Start with a simple homepage explaining the purpose of the site.
Use headers, lists, and emphasis tools to format text.
Embed relevant YouTube videos, Google Drive files, or images stored locally or on your phone.
Think about site navigation – what pages should go under each header in the sidebar.
That covers the basics of setting up your first Google Site! The more you explore, the more ways you‘ll find to customize things for your needs.
The Bottom Line: Is Google Sites Completely Free?
So in closing, is Google Sites really 100% free? If you‘re okay using the template designs and limited drag-and-drop editor with no access to code…then yes! You can build full-featured informational sites without paying anything.
However, for users wanting extensive customization, built-in marketing tools, analytics integrations, online stores, or embeddable elements – a paid builder like Wix or self-hosted WordPress will be a better fit.
But for personal portfolios, small business pages, event sites or intranets, Google Sites still brings an incredible amount of value at no cost.
There are some caveats around branding and scalability to keep in mind. But for launching simple websites, it‘s worth trying Google Sites given the price and ease of use.
Hopefully this detailed breakdown gives you a clear sense of whether Google Sites has everything needed for your upcoming web project or not. Let me know if you have any other questions!