If you use G Suite and your organization needs a website, take a look at what you can do with Google Sites. Google Sites lets you create a website that works on mobile and desktop with a drag-and-drop editor.
However, Google Sites may not offer enough customization for every organization. If you need ecommerce capabilities, custom control over themes and branding, or integration with databases or other CRM systems, look at web hosting alternatives.
But for organizations that need an easy-to-edit website with little maintenance, a Google Site can serve as your organization’s website. A Google Site also benefits from Google’s security because it’s protected with your Google account sign-in, and served securely, too.
As of May 2018, you’ll need the following to create and use a Google Site as your website: Administrative access to G Suite (admin.google.com), administrative access to your domain host (often, this is your domain name registrar, such as Google Domains), and either desktop Chrome or Firefox to create and edit your site.
1. Create a new Google Site
First, enable the new Google Site for people in your organization. A G Suite administrator can sign in to the G Suite admin console (admin.google.com) > Apps > G Suite > Sites > New Sites, then make sure “Users can create and edit sites” is selected.
Then go to https://sites.google.com/new and select the circle with a plus in the lower right to create a new Google Site. Choose a theme, fonts, and colors that best represent your organization. Add pages and customize menus as needed. Embed content from Google Drive or other places, insert a map, or create and insert a Google Form to collect inquiries.
Choose “Publish” after you’ve added the content you need on your site. Enter a name for your site appropriate for your organization, such as “YourBusiness” or simply “website.” You’ll need to refer to this name later.
Select “Manage,” then choose “Change” to the right of “Published,” and select “Anyone can find and view the published version.” This makes your site visible to the public. Select “Save” then “Done.” Leave the Search Settings box unchecked to allow search engines to index the contents of your site. Choose “Publish” to share your site online. (Check your work. Look at the site from a browser window where you are not signed in to make sure the site is public.)
2. Map the web address
Next, a G Suite administrator will map your site to a web address from within the G Suite admin console. Go to Admin > Apps > G Suite > Sites > Web Address Mapping then choose “Add a new web address.” The URL Format will likely default to the “new Sites” format, which is what you want. The domain display will also likely default to your organization’s primary G Suite domain. Enter the name you selected for your site after the domain name. For example, if you named your site “website” above, enter “website” to the right of your domain name.
In the web address field, enter “www” to the left of your domain name. This way, when people type “www.” before your domain, they’ll go to the Google Site. Add the mapping. It may take a few hours for the change to complete.
You may also need to add a CNAME record at your domain name host to map your domain to Google’s servers. For example, in Google Domains, an administrator would sign in, choose the domain, and select the icon under the column “DNS.” Scroll down to the “Custom resource records” section. Either edit an existing mapping or add a new record. The goal is to have a record with “www” in the name column, CNAME (selected from the Type), and “ghs.googlehosted.com” in the data field.
3. Enable naked domain redirect
With the above completed, people will see your site when they type “www.” followed by your domain. But you likely also want people to go to the same site when they type your domain–without the “www.” before it.
A G Suite administrator enables this redirect from the admin console (admin.google.com) > Domains > Add/Remove domains > select “Redirect your naked domain” for your primary domain. Make sure that “www” appears in the subdomain box, then choose “Continue.”
Next, you’ll need to modify your A records at your domain host, such as Google Domains. These records ensure that requests route to specific servers with the IP addresses when people type a domain in a browser without the preceding “www.” For example, to enter this information at Google Domains, you would go to domains.google.com, sign in, choose the icon under the column DNS next to the domain you want to edit, then scroll to the “Custom resource records” section. Look for an A record, choose “Edit” to the right of the “A” record. In a separate browser window, open Google’s ” Configure A records” and expand the “Configure A records (generic steps)” section, then expand the “A record values” section. There, you’ll see several A records. Modify your domain host A record entries to match the records display. (For example, I modified my domain’s A record to point to four different IP addresses.) Optionally, you may also add AAAA records, which similarly direct IPv6 requests to the appropriate addresses for your domain.
Once you’ve completed these steps at your domain host, return to the G Suite admin window and select “I’ve completed these steps.”
Wait and Work
Domain and DNS changes may take up to two days to complete. In most cases, you can see the impact of changes within one to four hours. And double-check your settings: I mistyped two IP server addresses when I went through this, which created problems.
Once everything is working, you’ll have the benefit of the G Suite team’s systems powering your site. You’ll no longer need to periodically upgrade your website CMS, update plugins, or run website security scans. You can focus on your work, not website maintenance tasks.
If you know of a business that uses G Suite to power their primary website, let me know–either in the comments or on Twitter (@awolber).