Earlier I blogged about how you, an escape room owner/manager, can optimize your Google My Business listing.

Well, on Tuesday, the 13th of June 2017, Google launched its website tool.

This tool allows you to create a comprehensive website for your escape room with minimum effort and very little impact on your finances.

In this blog post I plan on giving you a complete walkthrough of Google’s business website tool; the website you can expect to create with it; and finally whether an escape room business will benefit from it.

Specifically, I plan to cover

Why you should go for it

The basics of putting the website together

Are there any precautions you need to take?

Is there any scope for optimization?

First things first: Should you go for the free website?

The short answer is ‘Yes, go for it, by all means’.

Don’t get me wrong.

Normally, I’d advise you to NOT go for a free website.

Why?

 Well, for one, you merely rent the website; you don’t own it.

That matters since it means that you don’t have a lot of control over the data you place into your site. Since the website belongs to a third party (in this case Google),they may share it with anyone they want or worse,

They can shutdown then siteleading to permanent loss of data forever at any time.

 They’r slow…

The host will want to cram as many websites as possible into each server leading to high loading times.

In plain English, your site will take ages to open, driving viewers away (increasing the so-called ‘bounce rate’). That’s bad for SEO.

 Unprofessional Domain Names..

Typically, these free website firms present you with unwieldy and unprofessional domain names like www.yourbusinessname.freewebsite.com.

 Can’t track shit…

I’m guessing as far as site metrics are concerned you’d want to go for professional services like Google Analytics.

Most free website firms will not allow you to use any services other than their own (and how good their analytics or other services are is anybody’s guess).

 They are plain ugly…

Free website services typically limit you to a few templates of their own choosing (and creation) and in most cases they turn out to be extremely unattractive.

 It may not even turn out to be free!

In many cases you may be asked to pay for simple tasks like hosting images. And of course, this will not be revealed when you sign up for the free site.

And I’m not even going into the more serious stuff like unsolicited advertisements, malware and so on which are pretty common in free websites.

So, is Google’s free business website an improvement?

The short answer to this is ‘It’s Google!’.

So, yeah, even though you don’t own your website here either, the likelihood of your site shutting down without warning or your data being shared with all and sundry is far lower than if you opted for most other free website services.

As far as analytics are concerned, you’ll be dealing with Google’s very own Google Analytics.

Yeah, the basic domain name you get will be unwieldy like in the case of other free website services but there’s an easy fix that I’ll reveal in a while.

Unlike a builder like WordPress, you can’t design the template all on your own. However Google’s pre-designed templates are pretty crisp and will more than suffice for a basic website.

It is completely free.

The basics of putting together Google’s business website

Log into your Google My Business account.

You need a Google My Business account to be able to publish your Google website. It’s not necessary for your GMB listing to be verified or even complete for you to have a Google website; only for your account to exist.

However I do recommend you complete your GMB listing before starting on your website because the information from your GMB listing is automatically transmitted to your website.

The reverse is not true.

So, completing your GMB listing beforehand ensures consistency of information and saves time and effort.

Navigate to the ‘Website’ button and click on it.

A basic website is created immediately, ready to be customized.

There are four basic options as far as customization is concerned – theme, edit, photos and ‘more’ which allows you to set your site address and language.

As far as themes are concerned, Google gives you 10 templates to choose from.

Next comes the ‘Edit’ option which performs 2 key functions.

One, it allows you to set a call to action button, as shown below. A clear call to action is critical to converting those web visits into escape room bookings.

About the CTA buttons, please note that they will operate as per your Google listing.

  • If you select ‘Contact Us’ as your CTA, player details will be sent to your registered email.
  • If you select ‘Get Directions’ as your CTA, the field will be auto-populated by importing details from your GMB listing.
  • If you select ‘Get Quote’, you’ll be notified by email if a player wants to get in touch with you.

And two, it has 4 fields where you can input your business information.

The ‘Headline’ field corresponds to what we in the SEO business call an ‘H1 tag’, that is, a primary keyword.

You should enter the name of your escape room here followed by the city you are located in. If you have a Google business listing, chances are this will be automatically entered.

Please note that the ‘Headline’ field is restricted to a maximum of 80 characters.

For example, Solve It! located in Burlington, Vermont, could enter ‘Solve It! @ Burlington, Vermont’ (37 characters) as its headline.

Next comes ‘Description’ which is self-explanatory.

This field too is restricted in size to 140 characters.

The third field – ‘Summary header’ – roughly corresponds to an ‘H2 tag’.

Here you should include the terms – other than the basic ‘escape room’ – you’re trying to rank for on Google.

Therefore you should include

  • Your most popular theme(s). Don’t cite more than 2 however, it would clutter up the header.
  • Your location.
  • If you have a corporate team building program, it’s good to mention it here.

For example, an escape room based in Cheyenne, Wyoming whose most popular themes are a marauding mummy and rampaging zombies would enter

<blockquote>Escape Room Cheyenne, WY – Mummy Theme</blockquote>

They don’t have a corporate team building program yet so they didn’t mention anything about that.

Also remember, there’s a 40-character limit on your summary header.

The fourth edit field – Summary body – gives you freedom to include important information like the link to your other website (if you have one), key pricing information, a link to your booking system, whether you have promotional features like a leader board and your social media links.

Next we come to ‘Photos’.

If you have uploaded photos in your GMB listing, Google will automatically import them to your website as is.

If you haven’t, Google will prompt you to upload photos.

In either case, you’re allowed a maximum of 5 photos.

!! Sometimes business owners upload photos of promotional programs.

Later, when they withdraw that program, they forget to remove the photo from their Google listing which means their GMB listing and website will suggest the program is still active.

That leads to disappointed customers who can leave bad reviews.

So, always keep a watch over your photos and delete any containing outdated information.

In the final option – ‘More’ – you get a chance to change your site language.

If you want to set your site language to Spanish, select ‘Español (Latinoamérica)’.

Finally, it’s time to publish. Hit ‘Publish’ which occurs under the ‘More’ option.

With your website published, Google will prompt you to start your AdWords campaign, if you haven’t done so already.

Is there any scope for optimization of Google’s free website?

The scope for optimization is fairly limited since this is a one-page website with most of the input taken in a preset format.

One key optimization you can make is to your domain name (that is, the name of your Google website).

Google offers you a free domain name with a format <yourescaperoomname>.business.site

This is definitely a little unprofessional.

When you’ve published your website, Google offers you an option to buy your domain (as shown in the picture above) so you can have a website ending in something like .com which definitely looks more professional.

The second thing to look out for are your GMB photos. Remember, Google automatically drags photos from your GMB listing and uploads them on your free website.

So make sure you delete photos of closed rooms, withdrawn promotional offers and so on from your GMB listing and your Google website.

Under the ‘Edit’ tab, Headline, Description and Summary header matter the most in SEO but they are character-limited (a maximum of 80, 140 and 40 characters are allowed, respectively).

If you note the format of the Google website, your website/escape room name appears in the top left hand corner anyway.

So you can enter a catchy caption about your escape room in the ‘Headline’ field, grabbing the viewer’s attention.

Use all three fields judiciously and try to include whatever keywords you can within them.

In the ‘Summary body’ option, you’re obviously going to enter key information like open hours, group size, timings and so on.

However you should also include information like

Parking facilities

Wheelchair access

Nearby hotels and restaurants

 Nearby tourist attractions

If you have tie-ups with any establishment (other escape rooms, pubs and so on) include the link to their websites

To give viewers a complete picture of how they can plan their programs around your escape rooms.

If they can find all that information on your website they’ll hang around longer, leading to a higher ‘Time on page’ which is good for SEO.

There’s just one call to action (CTA).

If you want more CTA options you can consider placing relevant links in the ‘Summary body’ field under the ‘Edit’ tab.

Will an escape room benefit from having a free Google website?

One specific advantage Google offers is that it has been concentrating on mobile searches for some time now.

So your Google website will be responsive to mobile visits which is an advantage since mobile site visits are constantly increasing.

So, that’s it!

A guide on how you, an escape room owner, can create, customize and optimize a free website on Google.

To recap,

Generally, a free website is a bad idea. However, this being Google, most of the risks like site shutdowns, malware etc are minimal.

You need a Google My Business account to be able to publish your Google website.

There are 4 main options for you to customize your website – Theme, Edit, Photos and More (which includes the option to change your language and publish your website).

Most of the design is preset but Google’s design has vastly improved over the last few years and the final website is quite crisp and professional.

You must keep an eye on your photos and remove any that are outdated (closed rooms, withdrawn offers etc).

One key way for you to optimize your Google website is to buy your own domain so you have a website name ending with something like .com which looks better than .business.site.

Feel free to leave a comment in case I have missed anything.

I wish you all the best in your escape room business!

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