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:
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:
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.