Google’s Local Business Center Gets a Facelift
Google announced today (though it leaked out yesterday) that it will integrate more analytics features in its Local Business Center.
The LBC, for those unfamiliar, is the place where businesses can go to “claim” their listings and correct or update any information about them. The benefit to businesses doing this is that this information will make them more findable: These are the business data that end up in Google maps. More importantly, these are the listings that get fed into Google’s local 10-pack.
Today’s integration of more analytics features in the LBC will do a couple of things for Google. First, it will allow businesses to be more effective in improving and updating their data, which equals a better index of data for Google and search experience for their users.
This will essentially happen through a better feedback loop. These new analytics features show businesses lots of things about the performance of their listings; as a result it becomes more clear what they need to do to improve them.
One example is a score given to every business location that tells them on a scale of 0-100, how complete their business information is. This is not only the level of simplicity that is required for SMBs, but it is very transparent.
A concrete “score” tells them how complete their info is and what they need to do to boost that score (add hours of operation, products sold, etc.). This is similar in some ways to Localeze’s recently announced “confidence score.”
The second way this helps Google is to feed more businesses into its AdWords SEM platform. By seeing the analytics around how effective their organic listings are performing, it may interest some businesses in graduating to AdWords, where they can generate even more traffic in a trackable way.
The features of these new LBC analytics are in fact similar to Google Analytics. They also include things like seeing where searches are coming from and where directions are originating from (when a user generates directions to a business in Google Maps). This could get advertisers interested in paid search that utilizes AdWords geotargeting features.
Overall, getting more AdWords advertisers has been an important issue for Google as sign-ups have started to plateau. This is one of the challenges of “self-serve” online advertising and is supportive of the strengths of some of the local media organizations out there (YPs, newspapers, etc.) that are capable of more of a “push” via physical sales force.
Local Comes Up in the World
The importance of all this is further underscored by the impact of the aforementioned 10-pack.
As I discussed on a recent webinar for Search Marketing Now, we can put the effect of the 10-pack into perspective by looking at Google’s 63 percent share of the roughly 15 billion monthly searches in the U.S. If 10 percent of search queries are explicitly local (using a geographic modifier like a ZIP code), this means that about 900 million searches are being fed local results on Google monthly.
This will only increase as users get more sophisticated with their search behavior, such as learning to include geomodifiers in search results. The average search query length is growing all the time, which suggests users are getting more sophisticated and more granular with their search terms.
More local results will also get served as Google gets better at recognizing local intent in more “implied” situations. It’s already started to do this with the move made a couple of months back to serve the 10-pack in cases where geomodifiers aren’t used but “local intent” could be inferred based on a type of search (i.e., plumber, pizza, etc.).
The point is that local search is growing. Getting listings correct and updated is becoming more and more important for SMBs as well as national organizations with lots of franchises or branches. Better analytics in the LBC makes sense and should be a powerful free tool for businesses, and a growth driver for paid search.