If you’ve been holding out for just one more reason to list your small business in Google’s Local Business Center, you’ve got it. Google is now offering a full dashboard of information to small businesses who are proactive enough to verify their company’s listing. The dashboards contain information intended to help SMB owners understand where their visitors are coming from and how they found them in the search results.
Starting this month, small business owners who create and verify their business listing in Google’s Local Business Center will be privy to their own customized dashboard that reveals stats like how often people visit your site, your top search queries, how many times people asked for driving directions and the cities the people who ask are from. If you take a step back, you’ll see that Google is really offering basic analytic data to help you understand and improve your Web site. Through the Local Business Center dashboard, you’re given a strong look into what terms you’re ranking well for, where you need to improve, and maybe even whether or not you need to open up a new location in a popular area.
The motive for Google’s generosity is very likely two-fold.
First, they want small business owners to verify their business listings so that they’re more accurate and are therefore more useful to searchers. The more complete Google’s listings are, the more people will use them, and the bigger Google Local will grow. However, you have to wonder if Google isn’t also doing a good job setting up small business owners to dive into the area of paid local search by encouraging the use of free analytics.
The dashboards offered by Google give businesses a quick lesson in Google Analytics without overwhelming them with too much information. They provide a small amount of strong analytical data to help people understand what is happening on their site and which queries are bringing them traffic. Knowing what queries searchers are using (or are not using) to find your Web site, and which zip codes they’re from, is valuable information for anyone thinking of starting a local paid search campaign. This data can very easily be used to create targeted ads that hone in on a very small group of searchers to help you maximize your ad budget and not waste dollars on frivolous clicks. If empty traffic is one reason why SMB owners have been reluctant to adopt local search, this helps solves that.
Staying along the ad route, Reuters half-jokes that Google will probably mine the information SMB owners offer up to for the dashboards to serve them better ads in the future. I’d agree that’s probably true, however, there’s not much you can do about that. Google will always look for ways to put ads on content. We may as well take advantage of what they’re offering.
And really, you should be creating a listing for your business in Google’s Local Business Directory anyway. As we’ve stated many times before, these listings are very, very important to your Web site’s rankings and it’s always better to complete and verify the information yourself than to leave it to chance. If you have multiple locations, you can also now take advantage of Google’s bulk upload system to make the process even easier.
It’s worth nothing that Mike Blumenthal wrote a very detailed post attempting to quantify the value of Google’s Local Business dashboards and I’d recommend giving it a read.