Dear SEO’s,  please answer these three questions.  

  1. Do you work with a business that has a Google My Business (GMB)  listing in addition to a regular site? Are you SURE? Go check right now!  If not, I’m curious why! Let me know in the comments.
  2. Does the GMB listing link to the website?  Sure it does! If not, could you tell me why it doesn’t?
  3. Is the link “plain”?  Is it missing UTM campaign parameters that will register the source as GMB?

If you answer yes to all three of these questions I’d like you to do something right now!   Modify the listing so it has UTM campaign parameters. I think I can safely say that all SEOs know about UTM parameters in URLs. If you are a newcomer, go google them or see some of the links below.

I suggest this format for your GMB tracking links, but you can make your own. Replace the “location”  with the branch location city or a unique ID.

GMB link

Bonus question: If the GMB listing does posts… Do the posts have their own tracking links? They definitely should.  

Why all the drama? I don’t care about GMB. Why should I change these GMB links? Because …  

Google My Business (GMB) listings and site pages are recorded in Search Console and Analytics as the linked to page not the GMB listing! They show up as impressions and clicks to the URL linked in the listing, NOT the listing itself!  

In other words, all your organic data for your normal listings and your GMB listings are inseparable unless you add some kind of identifier. You can’t tell what applies to a site page and what applies to the listing.

This means that if you don’t have tracking links:  

  1. All Impressions, Clicks, CTR and Keywords and Ranking data for the site in Search Console are skewed.
  2. Your organic analytics is skewed. You don’t know how many came from the page link in the search results and how many came from GMB.  And, if organic is a large part of your traffic mix then all your analytics assumptions are thrown off.  

Bold statements, I know.   And I hear you calling “Shenanigans” right now.
So, respectfully SEOs, prove me wrong.   

Tell me how much of your Search Console stats are attributed to the linked page and come from your normal page impressions, not GMB.  It could be a little, but the point is, without a tracking link YOU DON”T KNOW. 

“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”

W. Edwards Deming

Maybe this is old news to you, and I hope it is, but I fear this is not the case. I see some local SEO posts from 2018 pointing out some of this issue, but I’m afraid they didn’t get much traction in the larger SEO audience because they are mostly focused on GMB optimization. Here are some good ones.

So what?  How widespread is this issue with GMB data?  

I spent a total of 10 minutes on Google Maps looking at different business listings – it’s super easy, just type in a brand or business type.  You will see some of the biggest brands are using UTM tags, but some are not.  And when you get to regular businesses the results are dismal.

Try this: Do a google maps search for lawyer, a super competitive SEO keyword.   Mouse down the page and see how many of the URLs have UTM arguments. Then try  “library”.  And bank …  You will start to get the picture. Too scared to try? Here’s an example for all my SEO friends in Spain – Points of interest in Barcelona

When I did the same for lawyers Barcelona far less than 10% of the top results were tagged.  My city has about 10%.
How about “Solicitors in London”?  Only about 15%!

What is the impact of not having UTM parameters on your GMB links?

  • You cannot tell what percentage of visitors are viewing or visiting from the GMB listing and which are interacting with the actual page in SERPS.
  • If your listing gets lots of impressions, but few clicks, this will dramatically lower your Click Through Rate (CTR).
  • If you GMB listing has high ranking it will fool you into thinking your brand organic is working when it is really the GMB listing. Very true for small sites
  • You have no way of knowing which keywords are more productive because you have your regular results mixed with the GMB results.   The intent for local can be far different than the intent of other searchers.
  • If brand organic is a major part of your traffic it can actually skew all your assumptions, not just organic.

How to keep Google My Business (GMB) data from skewing organic results

  1. Make sure ALL of your GMB listings and posts are using UTM campaign tags.
  2. Create Google Analytics segments to capture and isolate this traffic.
  3. Create Google Analytics profiles to isolate this traffic or remove it through filtering.
  4. Adjust your reports to take this segment into account (or ignore it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!).

Good things that happen when you do this…

  • You will be able to see much more accurate (and in most cases better) results for your organic traffic, particularly brand related searches.  
  • You will be able to see more accurately which keywords are producing on GMB.  The GMB search data interface is terrible anyhow. Note that your listing in GMB and Search Console will likely differ though.  

Note: As pointed out in the articles above, Search Console will only show results for GMB listings where the URL is visible. GMB will show information about all the appearances in search whether the site link is in the results or not.  Still, some info is better than none!

I got so excited about the implications while writing this that I decided to put this out there quickly.  I will write a follow-up post with actual examples and Data Studio detailed instructions and templates.

What’s your opinion?  Am I crying wolf? Have you already dealt with this?  Please comment or reach out to me on Twitter @Helpfullee