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.”
Google 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
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.
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
This 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.
needs to be 301 redirected to the following URL
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
• 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.