How Changing the Links to Your Site In Google My Business Listings Can Make Your Google Analytics Work Smarter.

Google My Business (GMB) listings play a vital role in most businesses’ visibility to prospective customers.  In order to understand the impact a GMB listing has on a business, it is crucial that all links in the listing are configured correctly.   I’ll show you how to make some simple, but important changes, but first I’m going to show you through Data Studio visualizations the impact this will have on your Google Analytics data. This one change can shift your whole perspective on how your different properties are working together. I call that the “GMB Effect”.  You can see this effect on your own sites but first, you have to configure your GMB listings with tracking links using UTM parameters. Don’t worry, it’s easy!

Examples of the GMB Effect on Traffic to Actual Sites

First, take a look at the traffic attribution for a couple of sites that have GMB listings but have not configured their GMB links correctly. All of the examples here are from real sites and GMB properties. The graphs below show how visitors are getting to the business web site.  Each bar represents a major marketing channel, or medium,  and each bar shows how much each source contributed. Google Organic Search is often the largest source of traffic, and the charts below are quite typical of many websites. These charts come from a template I made to provide a quick site overview for people who manage many sites.  You can get the template here, but do that later…. pay attention!

Analytics results in Data Studio without the GMB Effect

Sauna Business with Service Area

Spa Equipment Distributor with Service Area

Adult Education Non-Profit with storefront

Education Non-Profit with Storefront

 

 

 

 

 

Note the similar pattern of distribution of organic, direct and social traffic coming to these sites.  I see some variations of this pattern occasionally where someone is doing particularly well with some social media posts or advertising. Usually, those other sources of traffic bounce around over time while the organic remains steady and we return back to this distribution over time.

Now, compare those distributions to the traffic of similar sites that have their GMB links correctly configured.  Now Google Analytics, the Data Studio charts, you and your clients can distinguish GMB from other organic traffic sources. The difference should jump right out at you from these charts!  See the big bright green chunks?  That’s the GMB Effect!

Analytics results in Data Studio with the GMB Effect

Fence Business GMB Effect

Fence Installer with Service Area

Health Spa GMB Sources

Spa Business with a Storefront

Charity Food Cupboard with Storefront
Charity Food Cupboard with Storefront

Again, the bar chart patterns show the same distribution and follow the same patterns we saw in the first group, but now the “GMB Effect” can clearly be seen.  The GMB source of traffic is the largest in all three of these cases.  This is a common pattern that I see even before any optimization is done on the GMB listing. After optimizing a GMB listing the visuals can be even more compelling.

So, here is the point and the big payoff.  What do you think is happening in the first examples?  Does GMB play an important role in driving visits to those websites? Should the business stakeholders be paying more attention to their GMB listings?  Do they think that the phenomenal design of their home page is driving traffic to their site?

The point is without using UTM params you can’t answer those questions!   Who would not want to know their largest driver of traffic to their site? Of course, it is possible that a particular GMB listing does not have that much effect in some cases, but the point is you can’t know for sure without using tagging!

How to Add UTM Tracking Links to your Google My Business Listing

A few days ago I was watching a webinar where some well-known experts had a round table discussion about digital marketing tactics for local businesses.  When asked for one top tip they wanted to leave people with,  Claire Carlile’s response was an emphatic “Tag your GMB links with UTM parameters!”.   She has backed this up by providing “Claire’s Complete Guide to UTM Tagging for GMB”  just released the same day this post is being written.  Instead of duplicating that information, I’ll give you the basics here and some alternatives to Claire’s work. Despite some differences, our approach is the same.

Here is an example of a pretty standard GMB listing.  The website for the organization is linked to the website button as shown below.

GMB Listing Without UTM

Unfortunately, this link is not tagged with UTM parameters, so the URL for the link looks like this …

https://oaces.net/       Untagged link on this GMB listing

If this link was tagged properly it would look like one of the examples below.

https://oaces.net/?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=organic&utm_content=listing&utm_campaign=oaces1
This is my preference for tagging. An example of Claire’s version would be:
https://oaces.net/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gmb-listing

The anatomy of a GMB tracking link

In Claire’s structure, the utm_content tag is optional and is to describe specific pieces of content you might add to the listing such as posts. I prefer to change the UTM source tag to “gmb” for some reasons I’ll explain later.  Either one of these formats will work – the important thing is to keep your labeling consistent, descriptive and precise. The figure below shows how a tracking link is constructed following my suggested structure.

UTM params for GMB diagram

  • The URL of the target page. The only difference is the “?” is added to separate the URL from the parameters. Parameters are separated from each other by the “&” symbol.
  • The utm_source tag is used to set or override the normal google analytics value for source. In this case I set the value to “gmb” which overrides the standard “google” analytics setting.  Many people like to leave this set to “google”.
  • The utm_medium tag is used to set or override the normal google analytics value for Medium which is used to group similar types of sources. Anything coming from a search result is usually considered as “organic”. Facebook and Pinterest would be “social”.
  • The utm_content tag is used with campaigns to distinguish more precisely which link the user clicked on. In this case “listing” refers to the link from the website button on the GMB listing. If you produce posts for our GMB listing your might set the content tag to identify specific posts.
  • The utm_campaign tag is used to organize sets of links so they can be grouped together. This allows you to measure all the links you created for a specific effort. This tag allows you to compare the performance of a group of links against others. Vital when evaluating the performance of paid campaigns.

Why I set source to GMB instead of Google ….

First, I don’t think of GMB as a campaign.  Many businesses have listings even if they don’t claim them, so it’s hard for me to think of those as accidental campaigns.  GMB is so standard now that it is a fixture in the search results.  I also don’t think of GMB listings as giving the same experience as regular site links.  I feel they deserve to be their own source because they are experienced by users differently.

Second, setting the source to “gmb” gives me more information at a higher level.  I find that charts showing breakdown by source are better at showing the “GMB Effect” to business owners.  Sure, It is simple to show campaigns too, if that is your preference.  I just think it is harder to get the context you need to really compare GMB traffic to regular site listings in the search results. I like using campaign tags for detailed information and they come in handy when the business has multiple locations.  It then makes it easier to see the total effect of GMB listings and then break down by location if I have the campaign tags free to use for that.

Whether you decide to use “gmb” in the source tag is not the most important thing here.  It’s a bit of a pain, but it is entirely possible to rewrite the data into new source fields,   should you feel the need to, through the magic of Data Studio case statements.  What’s important here is that you implement some changes to your links in GMB listings.

Getting Your Tracking URLs the Easy Way!

I highly recommend Claire’s article mentioned above for her organization of UTM links. I use this method when I am working with a lot of links myself, but when I am working alone I use a different system.  I tag a lot of things for different reasons so I use this very handy Chrome extension,  “Google Analytics URL Builder“.   Using this extension to create a tracking link is easy! Just load a page in your Chrome browser and click the little cart icon.  This will pop up a URL form for the page as shown below. You can either fill in your parameter values on the fly or you can save presets and just change field values if needed. This keeps my links consistent and speeds up the process!

Use Google Analytics URL builder for GMB UTM Tags

Once you have your tracking URL copied to the clipboard you can paste it into your GMB listing where you would put a regular link. To set the main website button GMB link first click on the “Info” link in the GMB manager as shown below.

Next paste your tracking URL into the globe icon. This controls the link for the website button for your main listing GMB link as shown below.

Set the tracking link for the GMB website button

Once you save the changes it may take a few minutes for Google to verify that the link is valid.  After that every time someone clicks on the link they will register with Google Analytics as coming from your GMB listing.  Simple right?

Please note that adding the tracking links to your GMB listing will also give you more insights into your Google Search Console data also. You will be able to tell which keywords are driving traffic through the GMB listing and which are coming from your regular search result links.   I often find that the listing outperforms the regular links in driving traffic to the site, particularly the home page for brand terms.

Give the site owner the insights they need!

When site owners realize that before a user clicks through to the website on a GMB listing they must be viewing the listing first, they tend to take better care of the listing!  I’ll post more about insights you can pass on when using UTM GMB links with search console in another post.

Just in case you were wondering,  tagging your GMB listing is not something new – there are some other very good posts all about the topic.  You can see one of mine from last year that was inspired by a presentation I gave to the London Analytics Meetup.  So, why are people like Clarie and I repeating the message in so many ways?  Because we keep seeing business listings that are not tagged!  If you have an untagged listing you have the opportunity to get a much better understanding of the GMB Effect!

Have some thoughts on the subject or need some help?  Post a question or comment in the section below or look me up on Twitter @Helpfullee or connect with me on LinkedIn – Lee Hurst 

Header Image from  Skye Studios and Unsplash.com