Yesterday, Google announced the availability of the Local Business Center dashboard. Initially, I was surprised that this received so little coverage, but I realized it had nothing to do with early adopters or startups. So, you did not see anything from the typical tech blogs.

However, you should absolutely look at this. Basically, this gives small business owners a chance to control what you see on a web search:

The LBC is a free tool that enables business owners to control the content of their business listings as they appear in Google Search and Google Maps.

At first, it sounds like a simple business directory listing, but if you verify your business, you get access to some very interesting information. You do not need to hire a web developer or SEO guru to find out how customers are finding your business. The information is even better than typical analytics data:

  • Impressions: The number of times the business listing appeared as a result on a search or Google Maps search in a given period.
  • Actions: The number of times people interacted with the listing; for example, the number of times they clicked through to the business’ website or requested driving directions to the business.
  • Top search queries: Which queries led customers to the business listing; for example, are they finding the listing for a cafe by searching for “tea” or “coffee”?
  • Zip codes where driving directions come from: Which zip codes customers are coming from when they request directions to your location.

Granted, much of this is traditional analytics data. You have the number of times in the search results, whether people clicked a link, and top search queries. No surprises, right? WRONG. They include zip codes where customers requested driving directions from! If you look at the detailed announcement on the Google Maps blog, they even show this very cool graphic of the zip code data.

Map of user zip codes requesting driving directions

Map of user zip codes requesting driving directions

As you can see, it basically will give you a general area of where your customers are coming from, especially those who need driving directions, those people not entirely local. Why is this so important? People normally pay a lot of money to determine how customers find their business. Knowing what zip code customers are coming from costs even more money. Google is basically giving this all away for free. This is a potential gold mine for small business owners. Demographics are a big business, and now it is potentially in the hands of every business owner. The zip code data allows you to figure out if there is any interest in an area that is just outside your “local” area. You can develop marketing and advertising plans based on the data.

LBC may be dry and boring, and it is definitely not the next shiny object for early adopters, but this could be huge for small businesses.

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