Knowing how customers find your business can help you gauge the effectiveness of your marketing, but understanding what those customers are looking for and where they're located can help you drive more revenue for your existing business and even develop new products and services.Earlier this week Google introduced the Google Search Analysis Dashboard, a free service that provides business owners with information about how visitors discovered their local listings. Paired with Google Analytics, which provides information about Web site visitors, these no-cost services combine to offer business owners unprecedented insight into customer behavior both before and after they discover your business.
In this video introducing the Google Local Business Center, the value proposition is presented as a no brainer so simple and easy to use that you'd be an idiot not to sign up.
If the power of this tool obvious to you, you're not reading this -- you're checking your dashboard. But what about the skeptics who aren't sold quite yet. I spoke with Carter Maslan, director of product management for local search at Google about actually putting the dashboard to use. After completing Google's verification process (they send you a PIN in the mail, via sms, or voice), you can get up and running with the dashboard in about minutes (worst case) and help your business listing with a few simple steps regardless of whether you have a business Web site or not (though he strongly urges any business to have Web site) according to Maslan. His advice was to start with the basics:
First, verify that your business information is accurate and represents your business. The basic stuff, like correct spelling and address are important, but the more precise the category the better. "Precision is important," said Maslan. "Don't just select restaurant, select Mexican restaurant. Not just bakery, vegan bakery."
After ensuring your business information is correct and precise, Maslan suggest the next step is to enhance your listing with additional description. You can add your business hours, information about parking, associate photos, and even videos (associating YouTube videos is free). Anything that will be helpful to the end user (i.e., your customer) will enhance your listing.
The first two steps are just a prelude (and revisiting the enhancement step to bolster the info should be ongoing), to the payoff, which is seeing how customers are finding you -- and not finding you. As Maslan pointed out, Google Analytics gives you insight into the customers you did connect with (they found your business Web site), but doesn't tell you anything about those that got away. Right now data's available back to the end of April and data typically is delayed 24-32 hours from real time.
He shared an anecdote about a hotel owner who discovered (via the dashboard) that his business was appearing in search results for banquet services. That was part of his business, but not one that he promoted very much -- you can bet that's changed already. Not only can you discover the searches that may lead to your business information, but you can see the areas where customers are looking up directions. Data like that can at the least inform your marketing spend and potentially lead to changes in your locations and product offering.
Maslan noted that when they were developing the dashboard the customer they had in mind was a local shoe store owner who didn't even have a PC, but he see the likelihood that business of all size will make use of the information -- any business with a "location" can gain value.
And what of the value to Google in offering yet another free service? There's no monteziation plan, though Maslan acknowledged that anything that boosts search use and online advertising helps Google.
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