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With all the recent shakeups in SERPs/local SEO it’s becoming increasingly important to have visibility into the performance of all your search channels, including a search engines local search. These days, rank tracking alone won’t get the job done,  so I’m a big believer in tracking clicks from a Google My Business page to a website. I’m constantly surprised that this is not something that all local SEO’s are doing, especially considering that Google rankings don’t measure the actual impact to a business of an SEO campaign. You can create a quick tracking URL using Google’s URL builder tool by following these steps:

1) Put the URL that is your GMB landing page URL in the Website URL field
Add your GMB Landing Page URL

2) Figure out a naming scheme

We usually use “gmb” for the campaign name and “local” for the source and “organic” for the medium (without the quotes). This allow us to more easily roll-up GMB traffic with all other organic traffic (which it essentially is).

3) Fill out the rest of the URL builder accordingly
Completed URL Builder

4) Add your tracking URL to your GMB page(s)
When you are done filling out the campaign builder click “Generate URL” and you will be given a nifty tracking URL to use on your GMB page. It should look something like this:

Pleasanton, CA SEO Company

Now you will be able to see traffic to your website from GMB showing up in your analytics package. If you use Google Analytics it will be in the campaign section, but you can also roll it up in reports and segments using local / organic as the source / medium. A couple of pro-tips before you run off and do this for all your GMB pages:

a) Make sure you canonicalize pages that are using tracking URLs
This will help prevent Google from indexing the tracking URL as separate from the core URL and will also show the pretty URL in a branded search e.g:

Pleasanton, CA SEO Company

instead of

Pleasanton, CA SEO Company

b) Set your URL parameters in GSC
Here we call this double bagging. Google takes canonical directives as suggestions and if you are doing this for thousands of pages it could theoretically pose a duplicate content problem. We don’t want this to happen to you so make sure you tell GOOG that these parameters are just tracking.


 
 

39 Comments

  • Michael deVry  September 15, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Andrew –

    Awesome info. Thanks for providing the roadmap. Question: What are the odds that tracking URL, once placed on Google My Business would show up elsewhere? Assuming the effectiveness of the tracking URL is specific to campaign source.

    Reply
    • Andrew Shotland
      Andrew Shotland  September 16, 2015 at 10:17 am

      Hey Michael,

      This work is all Dan’s. I am just the sock puppet in the organization. That said, as long as you are canonicalizing the tracking URL you should be fine.

      Reply
  • Russ Offord  September 15, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    I thought that Google didn’t like when people used tracking URLs in their listings?

    Reply
  • Dan
    Dan  September 15, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    It hasn’t had any negative impact on rankings that we have observed Russ.

    Reply
  • Brian Barwig  September 15, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    This is huge. I hadnt thought of this before. Nice job Andrew and Dan.

    Reply
    • Andrew Shotland
      Andrew Shotland  September 16, 2015 at 10:17 am

      It’s all Dan, Brian. I just pay for the hosting.

      Reply
  • Chris  September 15, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    Great tip! I’ve been using this for a while now and works great when sending clients reports 🙂

    One note that the utm_source parameter is typically where the link lives. In this case you would want that to be GMB and the utm_campaign would be local if you were using other links on other site for the same campaign.

    Reply
  • Matthew  September 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    We have done this for years and it has not has a negative impact. However we are looking for a way to track for the results are not showed up as a campaign in Google Analytics.
    Any ideas?

    Thanks

    Matt

    Reply
  • Ryan Scollon  September 16, 2015 at 7:12 am

    Thanks for sharing this Dan! I always wondered if there was a way to track clicks from a Google+ page. I will be trying it out this week for sure.

    Reply
  • Kyle Eggleston  September 16, 2015 at 7:13 am

    Full disclosure: This is for those who use Google Analytics.

    For those that use other analytics platforms, you can still create tracking parameters but you’ll have to research that yourselves. I’ve actually found that Webmaster Tool’s Search Queries report is just as helpful. In fact, I could argue that looking at Impressions is a more valuable metrics for local search. Clicking thru to your website isn’t the ultimate goal of local. It’s simply showing up in the SERP. Most people digest local info right in the Google search results.

    Reply
  • David Ross  September 16, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Talk about timing, I started implementing this a week ago and voila here it is today.

    Appreciated power tip about segments, was only seeing it in campaigns.

    Reply
  • James  September 16, 2015 at 11:26 am

    To set my URL parameters to ignore your example UTM link, I’d simply create a passive parameter with “gmb” or something as the parameter text?

    Reply
  • Kyle  September 17, 2015 at 8:36 am

    I guess I have more faith in GSC data than you after reading your article. I don’t agree that GSC is very poor. I see positive correlations between Impressions and Visits (using Omniture). I can attest that, for large brands at least, Impressions in GSC are a reliable data point for measuring local visibility.

    Clicks and visits are less important for measuring local visibility. My client’s location pages have a ~4% CTR for branded queries. So 96% of users are digesting local data right in the SERP.

    Reply
  • Dan
    Dan  September 17, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    We will have to agree to disagree then. I also do a lot of work with multi-location clients and have often, though not always, found GSC data bordering on comical. In SERP location-pages are only a part of a balanced local SEO breakfast.

    Reply
  • Frank Motola  September 18, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    With the latest “hiding” of links to the actual Google My Business Page in SERPS I am wondering how many folks will ever find my clients pages! Even in the new local 3 pack there is no link as far as I can find. Am I missing something?

    Reply
  • Dan
    Dan  September 18, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    @Frank

    While there is no website link in traditional snack packs (the ones that replaced the carousel in 2014) the new 3 packs have a website button that would contain the tracking info.

    Reply
  • Josh Salvage  September 21, 2015 at 7:32 am

    Tracking GMB listings was the best thing I ever did for my local campaigns.

    Proved the initial success & showed where there was/is room for improvement.

    No brainer!

    Reply
  • Gyi Tsakalakis  September 22, 2015 at 7:40 am

    @Kyle – I apologize in advance if I misunderstand your comment. However, Google is on record as saying that local data (i.e. clicks on local page listings) is not included in GSC.

    Reply
  • Kyle  September 22, 2015 at 7:56 am

    @Gyi,

    Apologies for the confusion. What I meant was that we segment our on-site location pages in GSC as a separate property (i.e. domain.com/location). Since our Google+ local pages are tied to these domain.com/location pages, we can measure Impressions, Queries, Clicks and other valuable local data. I’ve found this to be the best approach for tracking local visibility.

    Reply
  • Marcelo  September 22, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Hi there, thanks for sharing this. I have a small doubt: is the tracking URL supposed to be used as the default website URL in my GMB profile? Or is this just for any posts that I may be sharing via GMB?

    My concern is that if changing the “Website URL” field in my GMB listing to a tracked URL may have a negative effect.

    I already discovered that it would display as a different URL in the SERPs, please check the following screenshot: http://s18.postimg.org/4md3hp155/all_auto_part_sales_recycling_orlando_Google.png

    Reply
  • Josh  September 22, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Hi Marcelo,

    If you have breadcrumbs (and Breadcrumb Schema) implemented on your webpages, then the tracking code would not appear in SERPs. It would have an anchor text value appearing instead.

    Ensuring that a rel=”canonical” rule is applied to query string URLs is also a must.

    Reply
  • Dan Leibson
    Dan Leibson  September 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

    @ Marcelo

    It hasn’t had any negative effect that we can trace, and we have used it on clients with hundreds of locations.

    In order to solve the display URL issue you link to in your screenshot, you have to apply a canonical tag and set your URL parameters like I explain in the end of the article.

    Reply
  • Brett  September 22, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Hi Dan,

    Great tip and I’m excited to be able to implement this!

    I’ve done everything as you’ve instructed, although I’m stuck at the last step – implementing the canonical tag. Where would I find the file for this newly created “page”/URL+string params? Would this be located in C Panel?

    Naturally it’s not a page within my WordPress, so I’m not exactly sure where and how to be implementing the canonical tag.

    Thanks again for the great tip!

    Reply
  • Dan Leibson
    Dan Leibson  September 23, 2015 at 7:57 am

    @ Brett

    Implementing canonical tags in WordPress is tricky. I would say just use a plugin like Yoast SEO (which applies self-referencing canonical tags out of the box).

    Reply
  • Marcelo  September 24, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    @Dan

    Can you please check what’s wrong with my setup? My site has already rel=”canonical” implemented, so I don’t know why it’s displaying the other characters in the SERPs.
    Thanks

    Reply
  • Kyle  September 24, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    @Dan and @Marcelo,

    This link is showing up in the SERP because Google crawls and indexes the URLs submitted in the Google+ Business Page. Was your canonical in place before you changed the URL in Google+? If not, then I wonder if Google ignores canonicals altogether if the URL is submitted this way.

    Am I wrong?

    Reply
  • Dan Leibson
    Dan Leibson  September 24, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    It usually takes a bit before the canonicalization trickles back to the display URL.

    Reply
  • Jake Judd  September 25, 2015 at 2:22 am

    Why have I never thought of this? It’s seems obvious, but the benefit more so. I’ve made the changes as you suggest but assumed my blog had canonicals in place… It didn’t. I added them before Google noticed and the tracking data is now starting to trickle through. Don’t forget the canonical tags or it’ll bit you in the backside!

    Reply
  • Dino  September 25, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Excellent write-up!

    Could the tracking code be applied to the home page or should a specific internal landing page be used?

    Also, could similar metrics be garnered by segmenting referral traffic by source that includes “plus.google?”

    Reply
  • Dan
    Dan  September 25, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    @Dino

    You apply the URL parameters to whatever link you use in your GMB page. It could be the home page, or a location page etc.

    You can no longer fully segment GMB traffic by referrer.

    Reply
  • Jeff  September 28, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Now while I’m not saying Local SEO doesn’t matter. Obviously that isn’t true but there is something called “the law of diminishing returns” that is return on your investment in time/money etc. I’ve been doing some research on the current state of “Local SEO” and while it seems like an attractive service to market to local businesses, you will find in viritually all articles/blog posts/etc advocating the important of Local SEO any sort of comparative data between what channels people use to find local businesses. Could the reason be that the piece of the “local traffic pie” is so small for any directory other than Google/Google Maps, Bing/Bing Maps, and Yahoo combined that really virtually all other local directories (aside from maybe the BBB) are virtually insignificant? Pretty much every educated person in the U.S. knows that 18 out of 20 of their friends searches for local businesses on Google. (That’s a guess but I bet I’m not that far off.) SuperPages and the like are only surviving off less knowledgeable business owners with an ‘old school phone book’ mentality still lurking in the back of the brain that think paying these people (local SEO servcies or the directories themselves) has a good ROI. What’s interesting is despite a couple hours of searchs, I still can’t find a recent traffic breakdown on what percentage of local business traffic comes from which directories/search engines (excluding word of mouth, print advertising, etc.) I think it’s an image that people like BrightLocal MozLocal, SuperPages, Factual, etc. etc. don’t want people to see. People are bashing Yelp for whatever reason, but in fact, aside from the BBB and word of mouth (and maybe the struggling Angies List), Yelp may have been overly aggressive on pushing their advertising services, but if you polled your average user, I think you’d find other than Google/Google Maps, Yelp is in their top 3 “go to” directories for local business search.

    Reply
    • Dan Leibson
      Dan Leibson  October 2, 2015 at 8:26 am

      Hey Jeff,

      I don’t think you are saying anything that we, as local SEO professionals, don’t say all the time. Most reputable local SEO’s aren’t saying “work on SuperPages it will get you leads.” However you are missing several critical pieces of local discovery the puzzle. Links and citations are both parts of Google’s local and organic search algorithms. Because of this, lower tier directory sites do help a Google My Business page rank better, to some extent, and are seen as valuable in that regard. They are also a source of links that are important for ranking in local organic search.

      I have personally seen GMB and local organic ranking increases for thousands of terms (for multi-location businesses) because of the links from second tier directories and from limited NAP consistency work.

      Reply
  • Jason Mills  September 5, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Hi Dan, thanks for this really useful resource. I have always wondered why more people don’t do this but I didn’t do it using quite the method you show – this is a super resource for future reference. Thanks again.

    Reply
  • Andrew Hewatt  April 7, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Hey Dan, really useful info. One quick question, why do you choose to use ‘local’ as the source for these websites instead of ‘google’ or ‘yelp’? Why do you place this info in the campaign tag?

    Reply
  • seo Birmingham  May 30, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    Hey Dan, Thanks for sharing this useful info. Never tried this. I have made up my GMB page about two months ago . I always thought that URL tracking can put negative impact on ranking.

    Reply

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