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.
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Google is using the 10-pack of local results more and more frequently in search results. Ensuring the accuracy of these listings (and improving your ranking in the 10-pack) will help online searchers discover your business.
As for your point about Google using this as a gateway to local search advertising, I would say it is more about getting them to stay. Last week we saw that over half of paid search users drop out in the first year. This data could help them know what terms to bid on and how to geotarget to get better results and keep paying the GOOG.
Yes, Google will benefit from this but we will too. It’s hard to turn down a free service like this when we can gain so much insight from it. Google’s a business too and they need make money so they can keep offering us free tools and services. Thank you Google.
I’m with Amanda. A free opportunity is a free opportunity.
I really liked your piece and appreciate your link to Mike and his post on Google Local dashboards. His breakdown of things is quite good as are the comments by 17 of his readers. I’m glad to see LotusJump experts chiming in (thanks Robert Brady), too, because all of this gets overwhelming in trying to organize and manage. At least as a small biz owner, that’s how I feel and I’m part of my work is in the search/marketing industry…
@Robert Brady Do activities for Local Search pop up in many of your to-do items within LotusJump?
Yes, LotusJump has tasks for Google Local, Yahoo Local and the new Bing Local. These are basically directory listings that you manage. We also have tasks to help you get started with review-type sites such as Consupo.com or Yelp.com.
This is perfect for Small Businesses, great to have a free dashboard that allows to see how exactly traffic is being drawn from Google search queries and listings to their sites. Google has been adding more features and applications to its ecosystem as it competes against Microsoft and Yahoo for dominance of the U.S. core search engine market
My virtual assistant signed us up with Google dashboard, sign up if you haven’t already. Well worth it.
Lisa, thanks for sharing this. I remember just a few weeks ago that there were some problems with Google Local Business Listings and now I’m happy that they have made improvements to it.
Could you use this dashboard for international business?
Thanks for the tidbit on the Google Dashboard. We will definitely have to look into it. Thanks.
I’m wondering if this is also available here in Google PH. Gotta check this out. Thanks for sharing Lisa!
Great Article. Very helpful.
Thw Warmest Regards,Dewon Lawton,small business specialist.
I need to advertize my small in home child care on google. Do they offer free ad’s? Please tell me how to find the free ads. Thanks
i’m a business management student i have finished my HND programme now i’m going to start my own businees so i need to get some ideas via mail if your send me a business magazine then it will be more bernificial for me my mail addrees is E-40 uduhuruwa pattampitiya.have a nise day!
Seo for Small Businesses
The dashboard is a spectacular feature. It allows us to analyze all the data for our customers which help us make better decisions.
Our clients are seeing a Huge boost in phone calls after we optimize for the Local Listings!
yes i think this is a great way for a small business to run analytics for their website to check stats.