Google Tags – Do They Help? An Anectdotal Review

Google Tags rolled out nationally at the end of June. Several questions that have been often asked about Tags are: How well do they perform? & How do searchers respond to them? Do they attract additional business?

I have one client, Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law in Orlando, that added the tags immediately after their national rollout on June 28th. We now have 4 weeks of before and after data so as to be able to compare results. While it is only a sample of one and should not be construed as representing a general truth, the results seem promising.

We chose the “coupon” Tag not so much for the coupon value but so as to be able to add content to the listing. While the coupon itself didn’t generate very much direct activity,   the overall “actions” were significantly higher on fewer “impressions” . The listing received more than a 100% increase in the number of actions while the listing received ~20 % fewer impressions.

Time Frame 5/31-6/28 6/28-7/26
Impressions 2586 2001
How many times users showed interest in your business listing 35 76
Clicks for more info on Maps 3 12
Clicks for driving directions 0 12
Clicks to your website 32 52

(click to view larger)

I would caution that this result can not be taken as a general guideline for success. It is a single month’s comparison for only one listing and the reliability of the statistics in Places are erratic at best.

The results are likely to be different in different industries. It is also very early in the life of Tags so very few other lawyers in market had yet taken advantage of them (only one other showed in the search results). That all being said, it does appear to have had a positive influence on end user actions.

What have been your experiences with Tags?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Tags - Do They Help? An Anectdotal Review by

35 thoughts on “Google Tags – Do They Help? An Anectdotal Review”

  1. Tags seem to work like traditional attention grabbers. The time to use them is now but once everyone else catch on the affect will be lost.

    I do like the fact that the coupons allow you to write instantly to the results page.

  2. @James

    They do seem to have the attention grabbing affect. That is something that will likely wear off once more of the 7 pack is populated with them. But in the meantime they seem worth it.

    The ability to quickly get a message to the front page of Google is a powerful affect. Their message says that it could take an hour but the change often shows within a few minutes and does offer a timeliness that is compelling, I agree.

  3. my experience with tags-

    We started using them on the 1st week they were rolled out in S.J & Houston.
    couple of days later- all those listings went off line.

    We tried again ~ a month ago & got the same disappointing results..

    now we are recreating all those missing listings.

    as far as the Towing & Locksmith industries- coupons are creating a huge problem..!..

  4. Mike – Thanks for sharing your data.

    On or around May 14th there’s a huge spike in impressions without any corresponding increase in actions. That made me question the results – but even if you throw out those impressions, the +tags results are better (something like 2.2 vs 3.8% take action).

    That’s a bit more than a 50% increase, which is similar (a bit higher) to what I’ve seen. I’m planning on sharing those results in a week or so.

  5. Before and after data is very beneficial. Tags aren’t currently offered for Google Places within the UK currently, therefore this data has given us a heads-up.

    Thanks

  6. @PureSheer
    Are you saying that tags are forcing Google to more closely analyze your listing to identify spam?

    @Chris
    Yes, these numbers are suspect, particularly on the impression side. The action side seems validated by our analytics but the measurement is none too precise.

    Are your Tags in competitve markets? Are there many other Tags in the listings? Please post your results here when you get a chance.

    @Phil
    I don’t imagine that Google will leave Tags money on the table for very long. I am sure that you will see them in UK soon.

  7. Mike:

    I sent you some before and after tags information. On the one hand it appeared that tags drew more attention to the business in question with percentage of actions divided by impression increasing significantly.

    Then I went back and looked at percentage of actions/impressions on a monthly basis from jan 1 this year through the end of June.

    Biggest impression? Hmmmmm…..Google Places seems to screw up data in the Dashboard. I don’t rely on Dashboard stats. They appear to be deeply flawed and need a lot of improvement.

    2nd impression. Accounting for some very wierd data from the dashboard….Tags seem to increase the velocity and percentage of actions.

    Over the period percentage of actions for this business divided by impressions ranged from a low of about 3% to a high of over 8%. Over the last 20 days with tags, the business is seeing its highest percentage of actions on a Maps/Places record.

  8. Hi Mike,

    We are testing this out on 1 Place listing and while impressions have increased noticeably, tag actions in the form of website link clicks are at 0. Impressions may have also increased due a rewritten Place listing that now includes a higher search volume keyword that is now the #1 query under “Top Search Queries”, which before was not even in the top 10.

    For this listing, “clicks to website” are more important than “clicks to driving directions”. And while many signals are good, results for this Place listing are less than ideal. I do feel that the improvements we have seen would be a great boon for, say a restaurant or grocery store.

    Also, do you think that paying for a Tag listing can be a “Trust signal” to Google as they now have credit card info, such as address, to associate with your Place listing? Before they might only have had “Business Owner Verified” info like phone verification, mailed post card verification and signals from 3rd party websites that have all been manipulated in the past.

    Seems to me that if I were Google, I would add some weight to these listings because of this. Maybe only a little, but that may be enough to generate more impressions over less trusted listings.

  9. @Mike
    You got it!! but don’t get me wrong, even listings that are not spam or not even associated with spam got vanished.

    We spoke with Google about that (when they just rolled out the Tags they tried selling it over the phone. Once we had an account manager he revive the listing each day. yes, it was funny- they fought against themselves :)) & they said that they don’t know why is it happening. but of course we knew- left hand don’t know what right hand is doing..

  10. @Puresheer:

    you have an acct manager? you have someone that can change the craziness in google maps places for your businesses?

    OMG. you have CUSTOMER SERVICE!!!!! :D :D

    you have to be a first!!!!

  11. The Tags I’m running are in fairly competitive sectors in the Minneapolis area. There aren’t any other Tags in the 7-pack.

    They are running under the free trial, which was I first saw offered in an account on 7/8.

    At this point actions are up by around 40% on the one running longest, at 3 weeks. I’m also seeing relatively few clicks on the actual Tags (~15% of total actions).

  12. Keep in mind a couple other reasons this should be considered ‘anecdotal’ …until Google provides better Places Dashboard Analytics, these fluctuations could also be influenced by

    - rankings within the 7-pack for the same phrases
    - fluctuations in search volume (and thus clickthrough) for those phrases
    - additional rankings for ‘new’ phrases that other work Mike’s done have generated

    Just looking at the keywords Mike has highlighted in his 2nd slide it actually appears to me that the search volume for the top phrases has gone down in July, which may imply that Tags are even more effective than we realize…

  13. @earl,

    i wish!!! the 1-800 # is leading to nowhere & rep probably committed suicide as i bombarded him with heaps of questions..

  14. We are testing this out on 1 Place listing and while impressions have increased noticeably, tag actions in the form of website link clicks are at 0.

    Forgot to add this to my earlier comment…

    It seems to me that it they allowed advertisers to choose their own Tag Ad Text and destination URL, that that would make each unique and stand out a little more with a better experience for the visitor. You currently have some control over this if you have a Coupon listed on you Places listing, but that’s it.

    Current Options:

    < Visit our website
    < View pictures of our business
    < Custom Offer Text – link to Places Coupon

    Example:

    < Free Entree – link to coupon on business website
    < Free Estimate – link to estimate page
    < See our Menu – link to restaurant menu
    < Services – link to services page

    Thoughts?

  15. @David & David
    These numbers are all suspect

    @James

    I think a bit more flexibility would be useful too. That being said, many of Google’s action of late have been “do what is good for the user AND Google too”. These changes have all mostly driven people into Places rather than some place else

    @Chris
    Your experience is similar to mine. Very little action occurs on the tag itself but at least for early adopters it does seem to higher activity of all sorts. That result could very well diminish over time.

  16. Hm: Question: Does a tag action count as an action within the dashboard? If so how is it acknowledged? Its certainly not a search for directions? LOL.

    If it isn’t counted in dashboard actions then the stats we are presenting would change somewhat. the actions/impressions formula would change to (dashboard actions + tags actions)/impressions.

    Anyone know the answer? Also, as a number of commentators have noted that actions percentage has increased with the addition of tags. If dashboard actions exclude tags, but they have increased since an smb initiated a tag…that would imply that there is an additional visual impact wherein the simple addition of a tag brings more eyeballs to your maps/places record and generates additional places actions.

    I’m wondering how this is calculated.

  17. In that I’m not sure about the calculations, I updated stats on actions since tags compared to actions pre tags.

    Since tags we are seeing about 8.3% actions against impressions. In 21 days we have about 50 hits to tags. Adding tags actions to places/maps actions gives us about a 9.3% total actions against impressions.

    I looked at actions/impressions before tags. I looked at a 21 day period immediately before installing tags and then separately looked at actions/impressions for each month from Jan to June.

    Actions/impressions ranged from a low of 3% to a high of 8.9% during those periods. Definitely though, Google lost some impression/actions data and is not delivering everything. I think there are some flaws in the dashboard still to be fixed.

    In any case it appears that the tag is increasing visibility and action into the 7pac/3pac/onebox alternatives that are being shown for different types of organic searches, at least in our experience.

  18. Mike,

    I’m like Phil, waiting with baited breath for Tags to be rolled out in the UK. Interesting results to see the CTR increase though… and I’m impressed with the increase in driving instructions actions, that is an action with real intent.

    I was also thinking… do tags display on One Box results? It’s maybe not a huge relevance to your results as looking at the top 10 queries I don’t see the Business name as a query however they may appear as a one box for some niche keywords, if so this is even more impressive if you consider whilst undertaking your test Google rolled out the change to the One Box format effectively removing the business website link from the SERP…

    Looking forward to running some analysis of my own when it lands this side of the pond.

    Cheers,

    Andrew

  19. I don’t think my sample size is big enough to make an accurate judgement but here’s the details from my tag – it’s been up for a couple weeks

    15 actions

    10 Expansions of the Tag on the map
    5 Clicks on the Tag link

  20. thanks mike for the case study. I am not surprised that it helps.

    You bet tags works and helps click-thrus, it grabs your eye when looking at a 7-pack. Especially if your local competition isn’t doing it yet.

    Now I’d only invest in the “tags” advertising if your business is showing up in the 7-pack and assuming you have a positive social profile.

  21. @Andrew
    Tags do show in the Onebox…the client does show on a few long tail searches and their name is searched on a regular basis.

    @Julie
    I agreee that it is an abysmally small “sample”. You don’t mention which tag you are using nor what the before numbers looked like…

    @Matthew
    It would appear so

  22. Mike,

    Thanks for the great post.

    We’ve set up tags so far for 3 listings have taken them down for two of them. There has been no evidence that they provided a positive impact on the businesses at all – despite up to 15 expansions of the tag in 30 days.

    ~ The tags have all highlighted coupons which we figured would highlight a certain service of the business and get some calls for that service. No calls came in. Actual calls from local listings were actually down in all 3 businesses.

    ~ Actions did not increase despite the tag expansions, while impressions remained about the same.

    ~ There is the possibility that some potential customers might actually get “turned off” by sponsored listings which might counteract any positive impact tags may bring.

    ~ Ultimately it’s conversion that matters – not impressions or clicks. Do Tags increase conversion? Not yet for us. The jury is still out. Maybe it’s the middle of summer and everyone is camping. Maybe I should go camping.

    Can I recommend Tags for our small business customers @ $300yr? Nope. Not unless you guys tell me Tags are working for you.

    Jeffrey

  23. @Jeffery

    I agree with you. And while it appears to me working for my client, it could be a temporary early adopter benefit or perhaps the industry my client is in.

    What industry was your Tag in?

  24. Mike,

    The 3 tags we tried were for: Chiropractor, Acupuncturist, Beauty Salon – all ranking in the top 3 for various categories.

    We will be doing longer Tag Trials in the coming months within various industries. I will keep you posted with the results.

  25. Mike:

    As time goes on, we see a significant increase in visits to the universal search results. Basically since we put up a tag visits to the map have virtually doubled from about 4% in the immediate 2 months to slightly over 8%. On top of that we have visits to the tag.

    Its interesting. In our case it seems to draw attention to the site.

    In our case we are using videos.

  26. We have seen a spike in the use of Tags by blatantly spam listings. For example do a search for “carpet cleaning dallas tx” and you will see the top two listings are utilizing tags while they both are obviously keyword stuffed business names.

    Google has degraded the local listings by not providing for an effective means of eliminating spam. It almost seems that the tags act as a sort of kickback to Google. By directly combining paid ads within a “natural” placement area Google is creating a conflict of interest between profits and quality data. The tags should go.

  27. My map listing is pending / under review. I read other blogs on how to take out one word at a time and try to find the “offender”, I tried that it didn’t work.

    I am open for suggestions, but the real question is –

    If I do the Tag does anyone know if that will keep me from being flagged for review?

    Thank you!

  28. The under review flag is independent of Tags…. it is algo based and within the LBC…

    Once it is triggered it will allow you to resave and then even if it is still bad, wait 24 hrs to inform you.

    If it takes longer than 24hrs it has been released for human reviews.

  29. I’m curious, now that Google has changed the layout of the SERPs, mixing local listings and organic listings, do you think tags are as promising as they once were? Now that the local listings look more like the organic listings, I’m wondering if some of the effect is either lost, or improved.

  30. Norm

    Great question that I hadn’t really thought about. Without much, much more data it would be hard to tell… One thing that they are good for regardless is elevating coupons to higher visibility.

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