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Evaluating the role of Google My Business within your reporting

by on November 19, 2019
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There was once a time when the results page of a Google search was simple: it was 10 regular web page results, and then pagination for more results.

Do you remember those days?

That's no longer the case. A results page now has advertisements, a section of image results, some shopping ads, a right side knowledge panel, map results... You get the idea. Lots of ways and places for the search visitor to look at a page. There are results in that page pulling from a number of different sources, but to you, the website owner or marketer, they all look like "organic search" in your Analytics.

To make informed decisions in your search engine optimization and marketing it is increasingly important to get a solid understanding of how your website ranks in the different aspects of the Google Ecosystem. For small and medium sized businesses, especially those with local presences and local intent, understanding the role that your Google My Business listing does and does not provide within your traffic and conversions is incredibly important (but you might not realize it).

In this article we're going to illustrate why it's important to create this means of separation (Google My Business traffic from standard Google Organic Search), how to accomplish that separation, and the benefits that come from it.

Why We're Creating a GMB Channel Grouping

When you claim your listing in Google My Business, the reason is most often that you want to impact your local search results, specifically in Google Maps listings. This is a great reason. For this reason alone you should claim your listing, fill it in as completely as possible, and beautify it. Once you claim it you'll also gain access to the Google My Business "Insights", essentially basic information about how your listing is being seen. But these insights don't tell you where they're being seen, and the reporting is lackluster in detail.

Even more importantly for our marketing purposes, any clicks from those listings miss key details such as click through rate (ctr), position ranking, a full list of queries you're showing up for, and how those clicks to your website translate into traffic and goal conversions.

Why can't you tell how those inbound clicks from GMB are performing? Because by default they're being grouped with the rest of your organic search traffic from Google.



That's right, inbound traffic from your Google My Business listing will show up in your Google Analytics looking no different than any other organic Google search traffic... unless we modify it in GMB and in Google Analytics. Once we've done that we'll have greater insight into how these listings are performing, just like you would if they were Google AdWords ads or any other source within Google.

(Note: I've also recommended doing similar for Promoted Social and Employee Advocacy campaigns as channels)

It's also important to realize that your Google My Business listing doesn't just show up in Maps searches. GMB can show in brand name searches, standard search where local listings are included, and even standard searches that your company might be by far the "most relevant" option even though the search wasn't for your brand.

Modifying your Google My Business listing URLs

When you claim your GMB listing you're prompted to put in your website URL, such as https://www.confluentforms.com. That's all well and good. But now we're going to go into your GMB and modify that URL by doing something so incredibly obvious (if you're a digital marketer) you'll wonder why you never did it before.

We're going to add UTM parameters to the link URL.

I know, obvious, right? But here's the thing: we need to do this in a way so that if we want to see ALL Google organic search traffic together, that we can. We do this by keeping the source and medium the same as it would be "normally" by setting Medium to "organic" and Source to "google". We then add the third parameter to the URL, campaign, and set it to "gmb".

Adding a Google My Business channel to Google Analytics

So now we've got all inbound traffic from our Google My Business listing coming into Analytics with the campaign of "gmb"; we can see all of our traffic in the Campaign reports within Analytics, or even see it in live reports that are customized. For many people that might be enough, but not for me. I want to see GMB traffic as it's own channel, separate from "normal" organic Google search traffic.

By customizing our Default Channel Groupings in Google Analytics, by creating a new Google My Business channel, what we'll be doing is removing inbound traffic sessions that match our UTM parameters from the Google Organic channel and instead allocating it to a new "Google My Business" channel. Follow the images below in the Admin section of your Google Analytics report:

In the Google Analytics admin, go to the "Channel Settings" option under the "View" column


Edit the "Default Channel Grouping" that is already established


Define a new "Google My Business" channel as shown


 Make sure it's above the Organic Search channel and don't forget to hit save


Please note that I am putting the new Google My Business channel near the top of the order, ahead of Organic Search in the processing order. I'm doing this so that the traffic that meets the new GMB channel will be allocated to that channel first, and not captured as Organic Search.


Seeing the new traffic paradigm in Google Analytics

Once you've made these changes to your Channel Groupings within Analytics, all traffic from that point forward will be processed with your modifications. This will mean that a disconnect will exist from previous traffic and you might see "Organic Search" declining and your new "Google My Business" channel increasing from zero. I encourage you to leave an annotation in your Analytics so that you can remember why this discrepancy is happening, but also to hopefully enact these changes when you establish new properties.



So now that we're seeing the traffic separated, I think it's worth looking at the traffic reported in the image above and the traffic reported in the first Analytics report shown in this article (same property, same date range)

Non-segmented "google / organic"

Users: 3233
Bounce rate: 47%
Conversion rate: 3.56%

Segmented "Google My Business" vs "Organic Search (generic)"

Users: 2232 vs 1278
Bounce rate: 40.89% vs 57.27%
Conversion rate: 3.9% vs 3.18%

As you can see from the comparison traffic above, the Google My Business traffic performs in a significantly different way than the generic Organic Search traffic, and the Google My Business traffic is a very large percentage of that "google / organic" traffic.

Seeing new details in your Google Search Console reporting

This part is in many ways a side effect and secondary benefit of this tactic (adding UTM parameters to your GMB listing URLs). You see, when you edit the URL in GMB to include those extra parameters, creating a unique URL that is being shared, it's also being indexed within the Google Search Console as a unique URL for your property, thereby showing up in your Google Search Console reporting:


Surprisingly (or perhaps not) we see that our UTM enhanced URL from the Google My Business listing is the top source of clicks within this website property and shows up as its own entry in this table of data.

If you're familiar with Google Search Console you're aware that you can also click on any of those Page entries to then drill down further, seeing the query data for just that entry:


If you're an advanced user, and familiar with the Google Search Console integration with Google Sheets, you could then compare the query performance of the Google My Business listing URL to your website's homepage URL both in aggregate as well as per query.

In Summary

Google Organic Search traffic is no longer just one location, but instead an amalgamation of result sets from diverse products, sometimes shown together in a patchwork results page, sometimes shown in other interfaces. At the same time, the behavior of the visitors clicking through that organic search results set can vary greatly depending on the type of result that is being clicked. While it would be helpful for Google to provide its own segmentation in the referrer data, the UTM and Channel Grouping method defined here will provide greater insight to the standard implementation along with a secondary Google Search Console benefit as well.


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