Study: 84% of GMB Search Is Category Based, Only 16% Direct

What does an analysis of 45,000 GMB listings tell us? BrightLocal just released a study that analyzed that number of Google My Business (GMB) listings from the US, UK, Canada and Australia in 36 industries. Most of the listings are associated with small businesses rather than franchises, presumably.

Here are the top-level findings in the study:

  • The majority of businesses are found through search (rather than Maps)
  • Most consumers search by category without a business name in mind (84%)
  • The most common consumer action after a local search (i.e., website visits, calls, directions) is a website visit
  • The average conversion rate (view –> action) was 4.7%.
  • The average number of photos for a US GMB listing is 11, though some categories (e.g., hotels) have higher averages

The majority of searches in which local businesses appear (84%) are “discovery searches,” essentially category searches. This is where a consumer is looking for a business without a brand or name in mind; in other words: “podiatrist, Seattle.” The remaining 16% are “direct searches,” in which the specific business was being sought.

BrightLocal said that on average local businesses appear in 157 direct searches monthly. This is going to vary by category dramatically (e.g., dentist vs. restaurant).

Direct and Discovery searches per Google My Business listing proportion

The bulk of local search is happening in search rather than Google Maps. According to the study, 75% of GMB listing views are in search. Individual listings see an average of 943 search views and 317 Maps views monthly. This is across all four geographies.

More importantly, BrightLocal said that “only 5% of views [in Google search/Maps] result in an action” (4.7%). On average, a business will see 59 actions (calls, visits, directions requests) per month.

Conversion data wasn’t broken out by direct searches vs. discovery searches. One would assume that direct searches convert at dramatically higher rates.

Customer actions per Google My Business listing proportion

The study reinforces the idea that local business websites still matter and that all businesses should follow GMB best practices (complete listings, images, reviews, Posts, Q&A). However, the immediate conclusion I draw is the importance of developing a local brand to drive direct search to minimize the need to compete in discovery search.

Local businesses and their marketing surrogates should be building a brand on other channels (display, video, social, traditional media). There’s mixed evidence about whether small businesses understand and care about the value of brand building. The willingness to pay for brand building is an entirely different question.

There is additional detail and discussion on the BrightLocal site.

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