Google Local Search Stats for Black Friday

As promised in our post about the impacts of the October 27th Google update, we have put together a quick look at the traffic trends we saw for retails outlets on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

About The Data

  • Sample (hundreds) of retail chain locations across the United States (other verticals responded differently and this analysis focuses only on retail stores)
  • Click and ‘click action’ data from Google Places for November 12th through December 12th
  • All locations have clean, complete and verified listings in Google Places

Our first step was to take a look at the number of clicks generated per day across the sample locations.  We took this data and indexed the performance to the click totals on November 12th:

bf-vs-cm1

Few things standout on this graph:

  • Not all that surprisingly, Black Friday was the best day in terms of the number of clicks generated
  • Local traffic popped on Cyber Monday as well
  • Big slowdown going into the Thanksgiving holiday
  • Black Friday is just a launching pad for the season with local traffic accelerating strongly starting in early December

Now we wanted to understand a bit more about the Black Friday burst versus the Cyber Monday burst – specifically if Black Friday is truly a ‘physical’ and in-store event while Cyber Monday is an online event.  To do this, we simply looked at the click actions (as reported by Google) for clicks to the location’s website versus clicks for directions to the location.  We used this data as a metric to help understand what people’s intent was once they found the local listing:

bf-vs-cm-type

The data showed a material difference in the click behavior with a full 10% of user clicks shifting from directions to website on Cyber Monday.  While this data is not perfect (for example, many people going to the website just ended up using the on-site functionality to get directions) is does provide a reasonable proxy for the behavior of shoppers on these two days.

In early 2011 we will be posting an analysis of the entire 2010 holiday shopping season.  Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to get the latest updates as they become available.  Thanks!

Google Local Updates: Performance Impact Analysis

Right around October 27th Google rolled out an update to both how they rank their local listings and how they integrate those local listings into the main search result pages.  While the 3-pack and 7-pack still exist, this layout is starting to become the norm for local listings on the main Google results page:

blog-google

To help understand what these changes mean to local businesses listed on Google, we have put together an analytical summary of what we saw during and after this update.

About The Data

  • Sample of retail chain locations across the United States (other verticals responded differently to the change and these number apply only to retail stores)
  • Click and Impression data for October 18th through November 14th, as reported in Google Places
  • Removed outliers based on total number of clicks and/or impressions
  • All the locations have clean, complete and verified listings in Google Places

Summary of Results

  • Significant CTR improvements
  • Some of the CTR improvement is driven by increased impressions for branded traffic
  • The number of reviews for a location seems to have impacted overall traffic growth for the location
  • The average review rating does not seem to be connected to overall traffic

Details and Graphs

The impact of the change is clear when looking at the clicks and impressions:

blog-avg-perf1

Clicks grew over 50% in the ~2 weeks following the update while impressions grew only ~15% — implying that a majority of the click benefit came from increased CTR.  This leads to the question of “did the query stream change?”.  To help answer that, we took a look at the growth in clicks and the growth in the percentage of branded traffic:

blog-perf-branded

While the update did drive a noticeable and material change in the percentage of branded traffic (up over 10%), that change alone did not account for a majority of the increase in overall traffic to the locations.

So, good clean listings seem to have benefited from the update…but how do reviews play into the performance equation?  To help answer this we took a look at the click growth for locations that had received 3 or more reviews in the last 6 months versus those that have received 2 or less:

blog-perf-num-reviews

The locations with 3 or more reviews performed better after the update.  Now, this does not mean more reviews = better ranking.  It could simply be that more reviews is just a good proxy for the overall number of citations a location has.  That said, this data does provide additional evidence that the more times Google can find matching information about your business location on the web the better it is for your ranking.

With the recent discussions around how rating could/should/does impact ranking, we also took a look at the click growth based on the average rating for the sample locations.  We split the locations into two buckets, one for those with a rating over 3.5 and the other for those with rating of 3.5 or lower.  Each bucket had an average right around 5.5 reviews per locations (to help deal with the impacts that total number of reviews could have on the analysis).  Here is what we saw:

blog-perf-rating

Based on this data, the poorly rated locations actually saw better click growth than the strongly rated locations.  While not definitive, it certainly points to the average rating being ignored by Google at this point (but not by your potential customers!).  And this actually makes a lot of sense given the issues we have seen with Google importing 3rd party reviews correctly (which we will take a look at another time) and the lack of credibility of the ratings/reviews on many 3rd party sites.  However, as Google (tries) to gather it’s own rating data via Hotpot they will be able to build a data set that they can trust — and can then start to use more actively in the ranking process.

If you are still reading…thanks and we will be posting an update on the holiday shopping traffic in the near future.

The Local Business Center is now Google Places

Google announced today that the Google Local Business Center is being renamed to Google Places.  Nothing has changed in the UI as of yet, but as part of the announcement on their blog they did rehash some recently added features and announced a few new ones:

  • Service areas (previously available)
  • Expansion of the paid ‘Tags’ service into new regions
  • Business photo shoots are a cool (and free service) that they have been testing and is now more widely available
  • 50K more ‘Favorite Places’
  • New Google Places help center

The Google Places announcement also included some interesting stats on the local search space:

  • Four million businesses have claimed their Place Page globally and two million in the US
  • 20% of searches on Google are related to location

Consumers More Accepting of Local Ads Online

Interesting article about the ‘ethics of advertising‘ and how contextual targeting and behavioral targeting can impact journalistic integrity, or the perception thereof,  on news sites.  One nice local nugget included as well:

Respondents also revealed that when the ad was local and relevant to the content, it had a favorable impact. “One of the things that surprised me was how people were much more tolerant of local advertising in odd positions,” says Best. “We asked people about it, and they said it was kind of weird but OK because it was a Seattle thing.

Local Marketing Stats to Ring in the New Year

Some interesting local marketing stats in an article on Search Engine Land.  A few that stuck out for me:

  • Almost half of Facebook’s domestic user base is now over 35
  • Print Yellow Page usage is estimated at 21% in Miami versus 46% in Orland

Biggest Problems for Small Businesses?

Based on a NFIB Small Business Optimism Index study and via The Business Insider:

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Poor sales?  Some online advertising can help with that!

November 2009 Search Numbers From comScore

Microsoft’s Bing is up over 25% from May! …but is still only 10.3% of market.  Bit easier to grow fast when you are small.

Summary of the numbers below and more detail at SIA.

May 2009 to November 2009 according to comScore:

Google — 65.0% to 65.6%

Yahoo! — 20.1% to 17.5%

Bing — 8.0% to 10.3%

Opportunity in Locally Targeted Display Ads

At allLocal, we believe locally targeted display (a.k.a. banner) ads are a huge opportunity for local businesses.  When done properly (i.e., good creative, proper targeting, proper optimization) a small business can see significant ROI from display advertising and reach an entirely new market.

BIA/Kelsey estimates that the local display advertising market will reach $1.9 billion by 2013, over double the $879 million spent in 2008.  The locally sourced portion of the market (as opposed to national players buying locally targeted ads)  is estimated to have the highest growth with a target of $565 million by 2013, up from $45 million in 2008.  See MarketingProfs summary for more details.

Growth in Locally Targted Display Advertising

Local Sourced versus National Sourced

Recession and the Small Business

Undercapitalization is one of the primary drivers of the high failure rates for small businesses.  Of all the impacts the recession has had on small business, the magnification of this particular issue is the greatest.  Of course, sufficient capitalization by itself does not guarantee success nor does undercapitalization guarantee failure.  However, what a business gets with sufficient capitalization is room…room to experiment, room for the economy to slow and, most importantly, room to make mistakes.  No business executes flawlessly, and the amount of operating capital that a business has access to dictates how close to flawless they have to execute in order to ‘make it’.  The more cash (or credit) a business has, the further from the path of perfection they can explore and still find success.  This path to success has been further muddied for small business by two simultaneous and dramatic impacts on operating capital:

  • Reduction in customer spending (less cash in the door)
  • Reduction in lending (less access to cash through borrowing)

This means the small business segment, already undercapitalized in many instances, is seeing its position further weakened.  The result?  Increased bankruptcies and continued job cuts.  In fact, businesses with less than 50 employees cut 68,000 jobs in November (according to ADP and CNN).  This represents 40% of the 169,000 total private sector job cuts that ADP reported (PDF) for November.  Looking for a bright spot?  How about this: according to the same report small businesses with less than 50 employees account for 44% of total employment, so the 40% number represents a contraction rate slower than businesses with 50 or more employees.  A stretch?  Yeah, a bit…but still something to consider as I believe it will be the small and local businesses that lead out us of the recession.