Monday, August 24, 2009

Small Business Questions About Google Sites

It is the last week of summer vacation!

I've had the joy of working at my home office, with my kids around all day, all summer! Long story short, I'm looking forward to having my days free to meet with clients and get back out to more networking events with other business owners.

Although I still specialize in elearning development and collaborative learning environments, my main focus is helping small businesses move to cloud computing. I love the collaborative aspects of Google Apps and the scalability of the platform, but sometimes these aspects are not appreciated by the very small business or micropreneur. Until a business feels the pain of web and mail security, the cost of IT services for Microsoft Exchange, and the hassle of not having mobility, they aren't looking for a solution. In the very small business world, the area of focus is on find-ability, not scalability. The benefits of Google Apps is widely unknown among small businesses in Seattle.

I've been providing workshops and training on a variety of Google products for the last year and even among the 11,000 plus members of Biznik, in Seattle, the two biggest questions continues to be "How can I use Google Sites for marketing?" and "Can I use Google Sites for my website?".
Truthfully, I was thrilled to have Google Sites for building my public website, but I was a little leery about promoting it to other business owners as website building tool. I didn't know if Google was going to keep Sites an obscure part of Google Apps (marketed as a great way to build a "work/team site" or a little site for your ski club type activities), or if they were going to support it as a viable way to quickly publish websites for business. But then this past June, Google quietly announced the ability to "Monetize" Google Sites with AdSense; which tells me they think it is good to be able to make some money with a Google Site. In fact, it is incredibly easy to insert AdSense in a Google Site. I'm rather surprised there isn't more buzz about it. No hosting and AdSense..Internet marketers could go crazy with this model. That is another blog post though. In July, Google released a whole slew of updates and new features for Google Sites! This is really good news for micropreneurs looking for an affordable way to quickly create and publish good looking sites.

Ugly Websites

While Google Sites gets a fair amount of criticism for lack of "design" I think we are seeing more and more examples of escaping the academic template look of Google Sites. I remember reading an article that Google was hoping the limited design options would save the world from really horrific looking sites. Seriously, when non designers start building websites, there's no way around ugly sites. Like any website, when building a Google Site, it is important to follow basic design rules and understand how to optimize your site for search engines. While Google Sites seem to get indexed quickly, you still want to submit a sitemap of your Google Site to Google Webmaster Tools , Bing and to Yahoo Site Explorer

Need for Speed

IMHO, you can go a long way in building a web presence by using Google Sites for a website. Especially if you focus on good content and functionality. A small business owner or micropreneur has a huge advantage over competition by having a website that is easy to update. Google Sites includes Gadgets and one click functionality like YouTube videos, maps, Picasa slide shows, Google Presentations, and Google Forms. Most business owners I know, prefer a website that is updated and engaging over a beautiful static site.