I've been using Google URL builder weekly for more than a year. Never thought of using it with Google Maps. Thanks for the tip!
Obtaining a listing that shows up in the prominent Google one-box or local 10-pack is becoming increasingly important for any business looking to compete in a local marketplace. Where the print Yellow Pages used to dominate the local advertising dollars, the big 3 search engines, local and national vertical directories and IYP’s are on the rise, full steam ahead.
When Google one-boxes first started popping up years ago, it was few and far between for most local based searches without a great set of tools to further improve the visibility and rankings short of adding keywords to your business name. If your name was showing up next to the map above the organic search results, great! If not, hopefully you would be soon. Nowadays the Google Local Business Center (LBC) has a much more robust set of data options to fill out about your business, a verification system to help combat the spam, a local analytics reporting platform and the rankings seem to largely revolve around citations and reviews once the base information is intact.
This is all fine and dandy and the Google Local Business Center analytics were a huge improvement when they were added, but there is still a large gap in the information that is available. An option to import the data into Google Analytics (GA) would be the best solution for marketers and local businesses that want to use the data for making better decisions, but for now we are left with workarounds.
Most importantly – which keywords in Google Analytics were from organic vs. one-box listings? Sure, 31 of the 62 actions reported in the LBC resulted in clicks to the website, but there were 2,420 impressions. How can we sort through this data?
Setting up Google Analytics Tracking for Google Local
Until today, our URL in the LBC was simply http://www.digitalthirdcoast.net/. Optimize and get the traffic to the site and hope we are grabbing some of those 10-pack clicks. Sure we know we got the 31 website clicks as reported in the LBC analytics, but in GA we don’t know the difference between organic and local without some assumptions.
In steps in the Google URL builder! Using this tool, we fill out the following information:
- Website URL: http://www.digitalthirdcoast.net/ (feel free to use our URL for your website as well, we don’t mind)
- Campaign Source: google (these are case sensitive, so always keep that in mind)
- Campaign Medium: maps (this is up to you, maps or local seems most logical though)
- Campaign Source: local
With only one location, the Campaign Source was not as important to us, but if you have 10 locations all pointing to the same website, this option could be very advantageous in differentiating between traffic from different listings.
So our new tracking URL now looks like this:
Not so pretty huh? The good news is that Google Maps and the one-box results only display the root URL in the search results, so unless you hover over the URL and look at the status bar or click on the URL and look at the address bar, it’s basically invisible to the user. So take that URL, pop it into the URL field in your LBC listing and kick back for a day so you can start accumulating some data.
Or take it a step further for even better results!
Know a thing or two about setting up 301 redirects? You can even create a nice vanity/clean URL for your website by implementing a 301 redirect. Before setting this up, I added the following line to our server’s .htaccess file:
Redirect 301 /chicago http://www.digitalthirdcoast.net/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=maps&utm_campaign=local
This tells our server that http://www.digitalthirdcoast.net/chicago should permanently redirect to the long and ugly URL we built for tracking purposes. This URL looks a lot better and also includes the name of the city we are targeting. Double bonus!
Now we don’t want that URL to get indexed since it’s the same content as our homepage, so I would also recommend adding the canonical URL tag to thesection of that page so as to avoid any negativity from duplicate content:
The final step is to change the URL in our LBC to http://www.digitalthirdcoast.net/chicago and execute 3 goals all at once:
- We can now track the visits to our website from Google Local and differentiate the traffic from Google Organic.
- We have a nice vanity URL that looks better and gives some local flavor and only when a user comes to our site would they see the tracking URL. Ideally your website is good looking and no one will even notice!
- We are avoiding duplicate content by being a good webmaster and adding the canonical tag.
Going back to the Campaign Source option again for that business with 10 locations and one website, you can now create a clean URL for all 10 locations and track them in Google Analytics!
Great, now how do I view the traffic?
Don’t worry, I know how to do that part, too! Now in order to view the traffic, load up your Google Analytics reports (GA is not retroactive, so you’ll have to wait to get some visits before the data will be visible). Click on Traffic Sources from the left navigation and then click on All Traffic Sources from that subnavigation. Here’s what our report looks like from a few hours later:
Look at all that traffic! Normally at this point we would go to the Search Engines report and then click on Google so that we could see the keywords used to find the website, but we are now tracking the visitors from our LBL differently. In the example above, the Google search engine report will only show 4 visitors as opposed to all 5 that came from that source.
To view the keywords used in this newly segmented traffic source, click on “google / maps” and this will bring up the general information about that traffic source. To get the keywords, we’re going to add a Dimension to the report, so click that handy little drop down and select Keyword. You should now see a report similar to this with a list of keywords included:
Now we can tell which clicks came from Local vs. Organic and also see which stream of traffic provides better conversion points. Much easier to make actionable decisions when you have actionable data!
The always invaluable Mike Blumenthal has some further steps that can be taken as well to tack on some tracking from maps.google.com (originally written by Martijn Beijk). Anyone interested in learning about local search should be reading Mike’s blog.
Has anyone else utilized tactics like this and found success?
Taylor Cimala is the Strategic Director at Digital Third Coast, a Search Engine Marketing company based in Chicago. You can find Taylor on Twitter and Google+. Connect with Digital Third Coast on Google+.