Google as Your Landing Page
We’ve heard of Google as your home page for local business. The idea being your website is no longer the most sought-out representation of your business online—the Google search for your business is. This concept has been around for years. We embrace at Classy Brain, but I personally don’t think it goes far enough.
I think you should think of the Google search for your business as your primary landing page.
This is because if you rank organically, your Google My Business profile is responsible for the majority of your online transactions. Our research suggests users from Google organic traffic collect all the decision-making information they need about a business before they visit its website.
As a result of this finding, we been explored the idea of, instead of upgrading a website… optimizing the Google search for the site first.
The Dreaded “Upgrade” Talk
A client in Colorado was considering upgrading their website. They are a multi-location business that ranks well for all of their keyword phrases in some pretty difficult markets (Denver & Colorado Springs).
Conversations like this always make me nervous. While it’s true, the cost of a new website has the potential to pay for itself by improving conversions in the Adwords, Facebook, organic search, and maybe (probably not) YouTube campaigns. The negative is well, an 8 million dollar business becomes a 7 million dollar business while different web companies scramble to find out why conversions/rank are down and how to fix it.
Look at what happened when SnapChat decided to upgrade.
I’ve never personally seen that doomsday scenario. Everything usually goes as expected. It’s just one of the two things that scare me in life, that and the idea of scorpions evolving to grow wings someday.
Classy Brain doesn’t directly offer web design, but we work with a lot of partners who do. If a business ranks in search, SEO’s are great people to consult with before web design because we know a lot of what can go wrong in the process. The two biggest problems I’ve seen web developers have with upgrading existing websites that rank in search: (1) messing up the migration & (2) messing up the internal link equity distribution.
Both of these have a negative impact on rank.
The conversation with our Colorado client went differently this time around. Organic search is a large chunk of business for this company and easily outperforms the ad programs. We went through the hit list of pros vs. cons. We started talking about organic search conversions in Google.
Specifically—how big of a role does the website play in conversion for organic keywords?
We Perform Science
SEOs are getting closer to answering that question. At CB, we’ve had this ongoing science project studying how users interact with Google My Business vs. a website. Darren Shaw, Mike Blumenthals, and other folk discovered how to install a tracking number into Google My Business without losing Google Maps rank (since 2014, I feel like we are all still catching up).
I’ve personally been curious to test that out as much as possible. Here are some recent results that led me to start asking these questions.
Local Tire Shop in Colorado Springs
We installed a call tracking number on a local tire shop’s GMB pages, both for their Delaware Street & Nevada Street locations. We then installed a different number for each location on their website. We let this run for about a month.
The findings we had for a local tire shop were striking. Around 90% of the user’s “customer journey” ending at the Google My Business listing with a phone call.
Only 10% would visit the website and call (remember, organic search only).
- Results were tracked in CallRail.
- Again to clarify, “Delaware” & “Nevada” are streets in Colorado Springs.
- “Google Organic” calls were from the website tracking number.
- The date range was Jan. 9th to Feb. 22nd of this year (2018).
- This is no longer running because it is wildly expensive—CallRail’s 0.05/minute charge after the free minutes really adds up.
- These guys do no other active form of marketing.
As Dr. Pete said in his 2015 Moz talk, “Users will start on a Google page and end on a Google page.” He was referring to knowledge panels. However, this seems to be coming true for local SEO as well.
We Perform More Science… But Science-ier
For the client thinking about upgrading, we decided to do the same experiment. This time around because of an internal invoicing software, we would actually be able to track how much money was made off of each job too.
The directions if you want to try this out:
- Install a call tracking numbers on Google My Business, be sure to include the primary phone number in the “Additional numbers”.
- Install a different tracking number on the website.
- Triple-check the schema to make sure Google will understand the actual number.
We let the data collect through February. Here were the results:
Tracking # Location
New Cust. %
Existing Cust. %
Google My Business COS
Key Takeaways (so far):
-The vast majority of leads come from Google My Business.
-Jobs booked from the website were worth more money.
-Google My Business outperforms the website for total revenue.
-Existing customers seem to have a preference for contacting the business.
Note: Since the booking software has a database of all prior customers, we can be reasonably confident in the “New Customers” vs. “Existing Customers”.
A couple things I wanted to point out in conclusion:
- These guys do have other advertising channels: television, magazines, referrals, etc. All of those campaigns have their own tracking numbers. However, there could have been some that snuck into our results.
- These post is meant to be more anecdotal in nature, I’m hoping people much smarter than me will get ideas, do better tests, and share better results… and in the process maybe reference this post so we can get exposure.
- This isn’t a case against web developers, you 100% need a website to have any sort of meaningful rank.
- Rank did not drop from the tracking numbers. I seem to get that question a lot. You can and should use tracking numbers for organic search.
We implemented this same experiment for Denver as well. We will update (if anyone wants), once we get enough data.
If anyone has feedback for next time I definitely welcome it.