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How to Track your Google Local Listing

Did you know women talk more than 15% more than men every day? Men smiling at that figure now should stop as 8% of you never cleaned your teeth this morning.  Welcome to the wonderful world of statistics. They give us an insight and a clearer indication of how successful our marketing campaigns are and highlight areas of weakness that need to be addressed. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously stated:

“I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

tracking_google_localGoogle Local is a relatively new channel for marketers to obtain traffic and however much we theorise and assume how valuable it is, nothing will give clearer data than tracking and monitoring. We track and monitor every other aspect of our organic and paid search so why wouldn’t we want to track other channels that generate site traffic?

From an analytical point of view Google Local could previously only be measured if a browser came through the Google Maps section to our site.  We were not naturally able to measure visits from a Local Business Listing (LBL) unless we implemented tracking codes.  Now there are a few posts around the web detailing how we should track Google Local, in particular from Martijn Beijk who specialises in Google Local. What I found interesting after reading these posts was that no one ever replied back, detailing whether implementing the analytic codes created any problems and if so, how they dealt with these issues.

We recently implemented tracking code to one of our clients’ local business listings. We experienced some issues along the way which inspired me to write this post about how to track Google Local.

Track URLs in Local Business Centre

One method that was recommended by a few people was implementing a tagged URL within your local business listing through the local business centre. This included giving each local business listing a URL with GA parameters. By doing this, theoretically it should then appear in GA under traffic sources – campaigns

In order to tag a URL you should use the Google Analytics URL builder tool, which you can find here: http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=55578

google_local_tagged_url

You only need to fill in specific information in the tool. The campaign source (in this case; Google local), the campaign medium (local business listing) and also give it a campaign name to differentiate various listings, for example Search_Consultancy_London.

Just to clarify, if tracked correctly the statistics should appear within Traffic Sources – Medium – Local Business Listing

One aspect that you need to be aware of before you update the new tagged URL is to remove any “%2B” or “%20” symbols.  The symbol %2B is part of the URL encoding process and it merely means ‘+’, similarly to %20 which means space. In my experience and after discussing this with others these characters should be replaced with underscores. Hyphens are better from a search perspective but you are not trying to rank this page as it is merely a tagged URL.

Once you have inserted this tagged URL, the local business centre it states that it can take up to 48 hours for the change to be updated. We waited, and waited some more but the change never took place. Some people say you have to wait up to 2 weeks for Google to update their listings to include your utm source code within the URL. After 7 days the update still did not occur and we were not willing to wait any longer as a week without data was long enough. I still remain sceptical that this method works and would love to hear from anyone who implemented this –  was it successful and how long you had to wait? Are you still waiting?

Use Vanity URLs to track page views

Another option is to create separate landing page URLs for each listing that is within the Local Business Centre. The separate landing pages are essentially duplicate pages of the original URL but given a vanity URL name.

For Example:

Original URL:

http://www.example.com/location-service

Vanity URL:

http://www.example.com/localad-location-service

To avoid the duplicate content issue and to specify to Google the canonical URL we would simply input the canonical tag within the source code of the Vanity URL:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/location-service”/>

Once you have created this page, insert the vanity URL into the Google Local Business centre. The beauty of this method is that it appears in less than 48 hours and you can see instant results. Statistics would appear in content – top content – then type in “local” within the filter box.

However, there are some drawbacks to this method; the main factor is you are restricted to the amount of quantitative data you can analyse.

Since the URL of the local ad page has not been tagged it does not appear within the traffic sources as a ‘medium’. This prevents you from easily evaluating how much traffic this medium generated in comparison to other sources. Furthermore, site visits to the local ad page can only be determined through accessing the top landing pages within the content section of analytics which is not ideal.

Another negative aspect to tracking your local search this way is if you are running an ecommerce booking engine through your Google analytics you will not be able to analyse how much revenue was generated through Local search.

This can only be determined if you tag the URL, which brings me on to my last method.

Track Local campaign using 301 Redirects

tracking_using-301-redirectsThis method may take a little bit more time in liaising with client programmers and web developers but it is the preferred and recommended method.

First you need to set up a vanity URL, but this time do not create a page, just a URL that will be 301 redirected to the original tagged URL which we spoke about in the beginning.

For Example:

http://www.example.com/localad-service-location

needs to be 301 redirected to the following URL

http://www.example.com/localad-service-location.htm/#utm_source=GoogleLocalutm_medium=local_business_listing&utm_campaign=london

This would then track all visitors and able us to see the TOTAL number of visits from Google Local Listings within the Traffic Source (separate to organic and everything else) under the medium local_business_listing (or whatever you decided to title your medium within the URL builder)

This will ensure reporting on monthly statistical data is far easier as you can compare the effectiveness of your campaign and evaluate individual segments.

The amount of data you can now analyse through this method is much greater than the previous method. Additionally to appearing under traffic sources – medium it will also appear as a tagged campaign under traffic sources – campaigns which will let you view each individual listings analytics.

It also provides you with further dimensions in which to breakdown the data, including:

•    keywords visitors typed into Google to trigger your listing
•    Visitor type (new vs. returning)
•    Visitor Country/territory/region

Most significantly, if you have e-commerce set up through analytics it allows you to view how successful your local ad is in terms of generating revenue.  Within traffic sources you can breakdown the following:

•    Overall Revenue
•    Transactions
•    Average Value
•    Conversion rate
•    Per visit value

We also found that by creating the Vanity URL and implementing this in the Local Business Centre it actually improved our local ranking.  We believe this is due to the added keywords within the Vanity URL so ensure you use appropriate and relevant keywords (without spamming) related to what you wish to appear in the local listings for.

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11 thoughts on “How to Track your Google Local Listing

  1. Martijn Beijk

    Hey Sam!

    Great post and it was great to share findings during this specific business case and spar a bit on the issues you have encountered. It is good to see everything worked out and you documented the process in this excellent post.

    About adding the GA campaign URL to the LBC I must say that this has always worked for me. I must admit however that I have seen cases where the business suddenly ‘disappeared’ from the top rankings after some time. Updating the LBC profile with a 301/vanity URL to the redirected domain with campaign parameters solved the problem almost instantaneously. As soon as Google Maps had updated the URL the rankings were back to ‘normal’.

    Reply
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  3. Lisa Myers

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your comment. The blogpost on SEOoverflow says pretty much the same as us. Good to see someone else came to the same conclusion. We didn’t use the # but used canonical tag which is the only difference really.

    This has made such a big difference to our clients, the buy-in to local search has totally changed since we have been able to implement the tracking :)

    Reply
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  7. Carl Larson

    So, I dunno about y’all, but this solution (repeated on about 10 other Local SEO blogs) does not work for me. Too complicated even if I had so much access to a client’s site, which I never do.

    Acting on a hunch, I used the normal utm modifiers in the Google Maps listings of a few of my clients. Took a week for Google to approve them (otherwise says “pending”) but then, once the right segment is set up in GA) works like a charm!

    Reply
  8. Local SEO Guy

    It would be too easy for google to come with better tracking for their place listings. Good tips and I think they still hold true. I remember seeing an article, I think on searchengineland that had some good tips as well. Using a vanity URL is a great tip!

    Reply