I think it’s terrific that Google is showing analytics-style data in the Local Business Center (LBC). This has been available for a couple months now, and I’m glad it’s there. Any idea that gives small businesses more information to understand their online marketing efforts should be commended. But while the idea is great, Google’s execution is poor and makes the data borderline useless.
Google shows impressions (how many times your listing appeared in Google or Google Maps search results) and actions (how many times they clicked for more info or clicked to your web site). Those are all fine and good, but they offer no context without strong keyword data — they offer nothing by themselves that you can act on. But Google is falling down on the keyword data, so it all becomes data for data’s sake. What good is marketing data if you can’t act on it?
Where Google Went Wrong
The mistake Google made is that it pre-washed the keyword data that’s available in the Local Business Center. Google took away the most actionable, informative, and helpful parts of the data and isn’t showing it in the dashboard. Google explains what they did in the (new) August LBC newsletter: (emphasis is mine)
To protect any potentially personally identifiable information, queries with a very low search volume are put into the “other” category, and we filter addresses out of the queries (for example, if someone searched for “bakery near 5873 Maple Ave,” you would only see the “bakery” term.)
This is local search, folks. LOCAL. It’s all about location. What good is data if the addresses are removed from the keywords that people used to find your business listing? What’s happening is that people are finding you by searching for things like “Italian restaurant Spokane” or “Topeka injury lawyer”, but Google isn’t telling you that. All you’re getting is the “Italian restaurant” and “injury lawyer” part. How can you do anything with this data if you don’t know what locations were searched on when your business listing showed up in Google’s search results?
What This Looks Like
As you probably know, my wife is a real estate agent. She works with Windermere Real Estate and covers the Tri-Cities metro area, which includes numerous cities: Richland, Pasco, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, Finley, Burbank, and to a lesser degree, Prosser, Connell, and a few other towns, too. There are a lot of city names people might use when searching, not to mention the more generic “tri-city” or “tri-cities” type of keywords.
As a small business owner, Cari would sure as heck like to know what cityname keywords bring up her business listing on Google and Google Maps. But what do we see in the LBC dashboard? At the risk of giving away too much to the other local real estate agents that read this blog, we see this:
Aside from the fact that she gets a lot of visibility on agency-related terms, this tells me nothing. I know nothing about the local search terms that are working for her. Result #1 – “windermere” what? Richland? Kennewick? Tri-Cities? Result #3 – “realtors” where? Pasco? West Richland? It’s useless.
I’d especially like to know more about the specifics surrounding query #8 on that image. Riverfront Park is in Spokane, and has nothing to do with Cari’s real estate business whatsoever. Or maybe it’s Riverfront Park in Denver. Or South Carolina. Or Tampa. Or Nashville. Is something in our listing triggering Spokane-related searches to show her listing? Denver-related searches? I’d love to know, but Google is keeping that information from me.
Even Google’s own example above, from what I quoted: “…if someone searched for “bakery near 5873 Maple Ave,” you would only see the “bakery” term…” How on earth is that helpful? I bet that bakery would love to know that people are using such detailed, long-tail searches to find a bakery — and that its own listing is being shown when they do.
Mike Blumenthal did an interview with Google’s Carter Maslan when these stats were added to the LBC a couple months ago. Hats off to Carter for answering Mike’s questions, but the explanation left much to be desired:
MB: None of the “Top Search Queries” reported back include geo modifiers. Is that information not being shown? Or is it that the general terms with the out the geo phrase generates so much more traffic?
CM: Our report just includes the what part of the querie and and we are then summarizing the results with the where part of the querie. So the where part whether implied or stated are noted the same.
If I’m reading that correctly, all of the “where” parts of a query are being combined when shown in the LBC stats. So, not only do I not know what cityname is being searched with “real estate” when Cari’s listing shows, but I’m also seeing all citynames combined into one line on the chart. So, that #5 result above, “real estate” is combination of “Kennewick real estate” and “Pasco real estate” and “Richland real estate” and any other possible combination?
Again, I ask: How is this useful?
And don’t even get me started on Google’s need to “protect privacy” on the lowest 20% of searches (also in Mike’s interview) and roll them all into the Other category.
Am I Wrong?
I’ll stop there. Am I wrong that this data is borderline useless? Carter ends that interview by saying this local data “will offer huge benefits to the small business person.” I’m not seeing it. If I’m wrong, I’d love to know. If you’re a small business owner or a local search marketer, what are you doing with this data? What are you doing that’s useful to your local marketing efforts?
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