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Edmonton businesses react to Google shutting town free website-building tool

Super 7 Foods is one of many Edmonton businesses that generated its website through a free Google tool. Google has announced the websites will be shut down in March 2024. (Submitted by Rohana Palamandadige - image credit)
Super 7 Foods is one of many Edmonton businesses that generated its website through a free Google tool. Google has announced the websites will be shut down in March 2024. (Submitted by Rohana Palamandadige - image credit)

Edmonton businesses that used a free Google tool to generate basic websites will soon see those sites disappear as the company shuts down the feature.

Google has offered companies the ability to create simple websites since 2017, but recently announced it plans to shut them down this month.

The websites ending in "business.site" display businesses' names, locations, photos, hours of operation and contact details — information pulled from the profiles they set up with Google.

Google explained in a post on its help center that it will redirect website traffic to companies' profiles, but only until June 10. After that, website visitors will see a "page not found" error.

A Google spokesperson told CBC News the company is winding down the websites "due to low engagement," but small business owners will continue to have access to business profiles, ad landing pages, and other ways of connecting with potential customers online.

Millions of businesses around the world have generated websites through Google's tool, including thousands in Edmonton.

Edmond Ndira, who owns Serengeti BBQ, a restaurant on 118th Avenue that specializes in East African cuisine and has a Google-based website, said he had not heard about the planned shut down.

"We'll have to create it with another company," he said.

Ndira said having a website is important but most people discover the business through word of mouth, events like Feed the Soul Dining Week and social media.

Rohana Palamandadige, who owns Super 7 Foods in the food court of Millbourne Market Mall in south Edmonton, said he created his website through Google because the company was popular and its tool was fast and free.

Palamandadige said most of his customers research establishments and read reviews online before visiting Super 7 Foods.

"They're all talking about Google," he said.

Once his Google-based website disappears, he said he will definitely have to build another one since, in his experience, social media pages don't have the same reach.

One Edmonton business has launched a service for businesses losing access to their Google websites.

It is offering basic websites for $1 a month and two free years for Edmonton-based businesses transitioning from Google.

Whitespark founder Darren Shaw says hundreds of businesses that used to rely on Google for basic websites have signed up for his company's new service.
Whitespark founder Darren Shaw says hundreds of businesses that used to rely on Google for basic websites have signed up for his company's new service.

Whitespark founder Darren Shaw says hundreds of businesses that used to rely on Google for basic websites have signed up for his company's new service. (Mat Simpson)

Whitespark, an SEO and digital marketing company, already had a platform for managing Google's business profiles, so it built a tool that replicates the Google-generated sites.

"We had the ability to do it and we wanted to help, so we built it in short order," said Darren Shaw, the company's founder and president.

Since the company rolled out the service two weeks ago, Shaw said, more than 350 businesses around the world have signed up.

"It just felt like a great opportunity to provide these businesses with an extremely easy, simple and affordable solution that they wouldn't have otherwise," Shaw said.