Google Unveils LBC Dashboard

I spoke to Google’s Carter Maslan on Friday about the new Local Business Center dashboard but when the embargo lifted earlier today — cause people noticed it and started posting — I was on a plane. So now I’m in my hotel room and have a few minutes to dash off some thoughts before the drinking (at SMX) begins [insert maniacal laugher]. Here’s the mock screenshot Google provided to everyone:

Picture 8

This sort of thing is not going to be new to any experienced user of analytics software. The dashboard shows impressions, clicks, search queries — and driving directions requests by originating zip. That last element is novel. But to many SMBs this will all be new information and pretty fascinating. SMB surrogates may also find value in some of these data. I also predict this dashboard will see more online-offline data and tools in the future. Notice, for example, the coupon tab in the screen above. (Google has long offered coupons but it’s been a bit of a dud so far; that could change.)

Google already has all the data so it makes sense that they’d expose it as they have in other contexts and with other tools such as Google Trends. But beyond the simple fact that Google can do this, why is it doing this? My view is that Google will gain better and more complete data from SMBs over time and do some education about online marketing in the process. A deeper level of direct engagement with SMBs will benefit Google in the near and medium term in several ways.

In the category of getting better and more complete data, the module in the upper right shows (as with LinkedIn for CVs) how “complete” the business listing is:

Picture 4

Maslan said that Google was going to make this area (and related pages) very explicit and help businesses better understand the categories of information and types of content (e.g., video) that can/should be uploaded. The implication for SEOs will be: more complete information, better ranking. But Maslan told me that lots of SMBs have no idea that you can add videos from YouTube, for example, to their listings.

Moving on . . .

Picture 5

This part of the screen shows impressions vs. clicks and “actions” like CTRs to the SMB site and (more interesting) driving directions requests. Many people will get very excited about seeing this. I asked Maslan about calls and call tracking. Google had free call tracking with its radio ads product but that’s no longer available. He said that there was no call tracking available, but he didn’t entirely exclude the possibility in the future.

Picture 7

This module shows verbatim queries that resulted in the exposure of the business listing. This will obviously be interesting to professional SEMs but also very interesting to SMBs and help “demystify” Google and search engines a bit. That may sound crazy but there’s still lots of confusion and uncertainty surrounding search marketing and online marketing more generally among SMBs. The “transparency” of the information presented here will help overcome some of that confusion over time.

Picture 6

The area depicted above shows where local customers are coming from. The chart points are based on the “start” zip codes for driving directions. The obvious implication is business service area and it has some pretty interesting implications both online and offline marketing. Imagine translating this data into AdWords custom targeting areas, with the system offering a suggested service area by business category and location. When the browser very soon (or mobile device today) can better pinpoint the user, a relatively narrowly defined area could be more effectively served with ads. I may be spinning a fantasy here but there’s some interesting potential uses for this data on the advertiser side it seems to me.

The overall, net effect of this dashboard will be to show SMBs (that don’t already know) Google is driving traffic and leads to their sites and into their stores. This won’t directly translate into a big rush into AdWords, but it will stir up demand among SMBs for a more effective online presence and better online marketing. Google should also get more engagement from many SMBs who will want to offer an improved and more “complete” presence on Google.

This kind of simplicity is required on the advertise side if Google is going to penetrate more deeply into the traditional SMB market via self-service. This dashboard may give the company some insights and ideas that it can then use in AdWords as well.

___

Another thought: Here Google does seem to be taking some “responsibility” for data quality by trying to encourage businesses to complete their listings profiles. The flip side of this was permitting any user to edit data on Maps. That was introduced last year. Once the listing was claimed by the verified owner or rep, however, it could no longer be edited. Google does realize that beyond other methods it has to get content and information directly from SMBs in order to address the data quality issue we’ve discussed so many times on this blog.

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28 Responses to “Google Unveils LBC Dashboard”

  1. Will Scott Says:

    That is great stuff Greg. Surely this will be helpful for SMBs and their marketers alike.

    What would be really cool would be API availability of these data. Any word on that?

  2. Don Campbell Says:

    Wow, thanks for taking us through this Greg – very exciting to see. I dig the view showing where your local customers are coming from.

  3. MiriamEllis Says:

    Nice introduction and tutorial, Greg. This is really an exciting change in the LBC! Thanks for the detailed walkthrough.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Last night at SMX there were a number of people expressing some skepticism about these feature and any impact they might have. We’ll have to see. I think this is all interesting data, especially the effort to get at “actions.”

    The addition of a call tracking option would be quite valuable as well.

  5. Will Scott Says:

    Greg,

    The skepticism probably reflects the search marketing industry’s lack of faith in Google’s transparency.

    That said, even incomplete data is better than what we had.

    Will

  6. Greg Sterling Says:

    Will I didn’t have time to go into a number of areas I might have liked to explore. So I don’t know the answer to that question. However, you could request that of them. It’s certainly consistent with things they’re doing in other areas with APIs.

  7. Greg Sterling Says:

    Agree.

  8. Dave Hucker Says:

    Google has made some attempts at refining the quality of hijacked and fake-o listings by allowing business owners to report these on their LBC Groups page….although it remains a question as to how often it is regularly visited/patrolled by Google employees…they almost never answer questions now posed by users. Probably because the business listings are really a ‘lost leader’ for Google and for this reason G is probably relying more on a ‘community’ of users to provide free assists to other business owners as well as why they’ve had limited tracking up till now…

    having said that (whew)… it is a much needed revision designed to give their ads a shot in the arm. Like “here’s a sneak peek people, but you can get the REAL DEAL when you buy Adwords”. Again, these tools are cool, but Google really wants businesses to buy their ad space, so I’d be very surprised if they ever added a call tracking option to the local business center….unless it were something they were going to charge for.

    side bar: they had the perfect opportunity to do so recently when they allowed Adwords customers the ability to add a (Google provisioned) call measurement number last year, but they’ve recently removed that ability. Adding it now to a ‘free product’ is not likely in my view.

  9. Greg Sterling Says:

    Dave:

    Call tracking used to be free with Radio Ads and they had call tracking numbers in Print Ads for some period of time — also free. So they’ve done it, although Radio and Print Ads are both gone now. The logistics of it are probably too complex to do without active participation by the SMB.

    We’ll see.

  10. Google Explains LBC Dashboard « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] do think this is a significant step for Google and will evolve in directions that are even more [...]

  11. ian Says:

    this will help tech-friendly SMEs be more efficient, better/bigger spend, updated profile, but how can *more* tech help those who still don’t understand the basic premise of online advertising (when their YP rep continues to bring in a coffee every time he goes for the annual renewal)?

  12. Greg Sterling Says:

    Ian:

    To some degree this dashboard can be used as a teaching tool for those SMBs that don’t understand online marketing. Agree it’s not transformative and won’t reach those who are disinclined to pay attention to stuff like this.

  13. predictabuy Says:

    Great write-up Greg. I also think this is a significant – and positive – move by Google. There are still a lot of business owners out there who aren’t aware such a tool exists – but I think if a trusted person introduced them to this tool and information they’d get excited pretty quickly.

  14. Dave R Says:

    Greg,
    Very nice post. My hope in the future is that they enable the ability to link local business listings to a Google Analytics account similar to AdWords and AdSense. Putting pre-click data in one place is very helpful in understanding marketing mediums.

  15. links for 2009-06-02 | bg Theory, LLC Says:

    [...] Google Unveils LBC Dashboard « Screenwerk (tags: google+maps) [...]

  16. WebShare Blog » New Dashboard in Google’s Local Business Center Extends Your Analytics Says:

    [...] limited and not very useful.  More in depth demonstrations are availalbe from Google or from Greg Sterling’s blog [...]

  17. Garmin Portable Friction Dashboard Mount for nüvi Series and StreetPilot C5XX Series GPS Navigators (C530, C550, and C580) | coolthisyear.com Says:

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  18. dashboardspy Says:

    Good post. I wrote up this dashboard before the embargo, but didn’t have the amount of detail you do. I’m going to mention your review on my post at http://www.enterprise-dashboard.com/2009/06/01/google-local-search-dashboard/

  19. Google Local Search Dashboard | Dashboards By Example Says:

    [...] There is good coverage of this dashboard at http://gesterling.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/google-bows-lbc-dashboard/ [...]

  20. Bryon Says:

    Impressions vs. clicks looks very useful.

  21. Early Look at LBC Dashboard « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] When more marketers and those that have access to multiple accounts take a look, I suspect we’re going to get lots of interesting data out of the new dashboard. [...]

  22. John Says:

    I find the dash board to be very user friendly. Good job and thanks.

  23. Get On Google Says:

    seems like it will be quite useful

  24. George Says:

    I use Google analytics software but didn’t know about this dashboard tool. Thanks for the explanation.

  25. The last Dashboard google you will ever need. | Blogisbeautiful Says:

    [...] Google Unveils LBC Dashboard « Screenwerk Sphere: Related Content [...]

  26. Dashboard Monk Says:

    google anayltics is nothing Business intelligence and BI is the umbrella covering dashboards and reports

  27. Jimmie Elkington Says:

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  28. Google Homes In On Small, Local Advertisers With New Analytics Tool — paidContent Says:

    [...] Greg Sterling notes, experienced search marketers won’t be wowed by the local business center (LBC) dashboard [...]

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