Every month, there are over 5 billion searches on Google for restaurants. 3 billion searches for hotels. 1 billion searches for clothing stores. 600 searches for hair and beauty salons. 5 million searches for coffee shops (Google My Business data, December 2019). These are all local businesses with physical locations. Customers visit those locations. But what if you’re NOT a local business.
What if customers don’t visit your location? Do you really need a Google My Business (GMB) listing? Probably not. Let me explain.
As you may or may not recall, I have a theory that some Google My Business listings are hurting websites and not helping. So, I removed my Google My Business listing. Not only did I remove the GMB listing once, but I removed the listing twice. Essentially with a 3-month time difference between the removing of the listing. It’s been a few weeks since the second removal of the Google My Business listing, and I have some interesting data to report.
If you can make changes to something and see positive results, then that’s interesting. But if you can replicate those positive results twice, then that’s even better. I removed the GMB listing once, and saw an increase in organic search traffic. I put the Google My Business listing back live and whoops! Organic search traffic appears to have gone back down. Then, removing the GMB listing again and the traffic and search engine rankings went back up again. Is it a coincidence? Perhaps.
But let’s look at the data first. You can decide for yourself whether or not your website and business should have a listing or not. I’ll discuss the reasons for removing your GMB listing later on in this post.
Let’s Look at the Data
Here are the key dates, based on when the Google My Business listing was removed and then put back live:
GMB removed: 7/16/19 to 8/14/19
GMB active: 8/14/19 to 11/14/19
GMB removed: 11/14/19
The same dates, but with more detail from Google Analytics data:
GMB Active: pre 7/16/19
GMB Active, 6/16/19 to 7/16/19
Google Organic sessions: 67.4%
Direct sessions: 25.84%
Bounce Rate Google Organic: 79.70%
Bounce Rate Direct: 87.58%
Pages/Session Google Organic: 1.52
Pages/Session Direct: 1.25
No GMB: 7/16/19 to 8/14/19
Google Organic sessions: 62.99%
Direct sessions: 30.08%
Bounce Rate Google Organic: 78.36%
Bounce Rate Direct: 90.63%
Pages/Session Google Organic: 1.58
Pages/Session Direct: 1.21
GMB Active: 8/14/19/ to 11/14/19
Google Organic sessions: 64.04%
Direct sessions: 21.13%
Bounce Rate Google Organic: 80.98%
Bounce Rate Direct: 82.16%
Pages/Session Google Organic: 1.36
Pages/Session Direct: 1.36
No GMB: 11/14/19 to present (data as of 12/2/19)
Google Organic sessions: 70.00%
Direct sessions: 22.59%
Bounce Rate Google Organic: 81.51%
Bounce Rate Direct: 87.50%
Pages/Session Google Organic: 1.33
Pages/Session Direct: 1.21
I Removed the GMB Listing Twice
I removed the Google My Business listing not once, but twice. The first time, it was removed for about a month. Then, it was put back live for about 3 months. Then, it was again removed. It’s been 19 days since the 2nd removal, so I now have enough data (I think) to compare the first removal with the 2nd removal. If you can do something once, you can make an opinion on what happened. But, then if you can do it twice, and get the same results again, then there’s something to it. In this case, the whole reason to remove the Google My Business listing is to determine whether or not a “national” or “international” business, one who doesn’t have local customers visit their office, needs a Google My Business listing. My theory, and my opinion, is that a “national” or “international” online-only business does not need a GMB listing. In fact, my belief is that having a GMB listing can hurt a site’s traffic.
The search engines (mainly Google) associates the business/website with a location. That can be a problem, as the site literally will only rank for certain keyword phrases, as there is a local “bias” in Google’s search results. For example, as I went into detail in my previous post about removing the Google My Business listing, if a local business will only rank for “national” keywords or the more generic keywords if the searcher is in the area near the local business. If the business is not local, and Google thinks the business is a local one (based on the GMB listing they know about), then the business can be missing out on organic traffic and rankings.
The 2nd Time I Removed My Listing
I compared having No GMB listing (11/14/19 to 12/2/19) versus having a GMB listing (10/26/19 to 11/13/19).
Google Organic sessions: 5.50% change
Direct sessions: 33.86% change
Bounce Rate Google Organic: 0.16% change
Bounce Rate Direct: 3.27% change
Pages/Session Google Organic: -0.81% change
Pages/Session Direct: -13.13% change
Users: 1.74 percent up over previous period (previous period had a GMB listing)
New Users: 0.98 percent up over previous period (previous period had a GMB listing)
Direct Users: 33.86 percent up over previous period (previous period had a GMB listing)
New Users 33.33% percent up over previous period (previous period had a GMB listing)
So, about two weeks after I removed the Google My Business listing for the 2nd time, overall the website hasn’t suffered any traffic loss. In fact, it’s gone up a bit, with a 5 percent increase in Google organic sessions versus the previous period of time, when the GMB listing was in place. But, what’s interesting to me is that the direct sessions is also up 33 percent versus the previous period of time, when the GMB listing was in place. So, it appears that removing the Google My Business listing resulted in an increase in Google organic traffic, and the direct traffic went up.
The First Time I Removed the GMB Listing
What happened the first time that the Google My Business listing was removed? Let’s take a look at that data, as well, to compare the removing of the Google My Business listing the second time versus the first time. Because, you know, one time can be contested as an anomaly or one could say that it’s something else at play. If something can be repeated, well, that certainly changes things, right?
The first time the Google My Business listing was removed, let’s look at that data, and compare that data. Luckily, we can compare the same amount of time: 2 weeks removing the listing (when it was removed) versus 2 weeks prior, when the GMB listing was in place:
I compared 7/16/19 to 8/4/19 (when the GMB listing was removed the first time) with 6/26/19 to 7/15/19 (when the GMB listing was previously active).
I compared having No GMB listing (7/16/19 to 8/4/19) versus having a GMB listing (6/26/19 to 7/15/19).
Google Organic sessions: 7.16% change
Direct sessions: -4.22% change
Bounce Rate Google Organic: -0.99% change
Bounce Rate Direct: -0.47% change
Pages/Session Google Organic: -7.19% change
Pages/Session Direct: 6.67% change
Users: 9.79 percent up over previous period (previous period had a GMB listing)
New Users: 11.14 percent up over previous period (previous period had a GMB listing)
Direct Users: 0.00 percent up over previous period (previous period had a GMB listing)
New Users 0.00% percent up over previous period (previous period had a GMB listing)
So, the first time that the Google My Business listing was removed: it resulted in a 9.79 percent change. Google organic traffic went up nearly 10 percent. The 2nd time the Google My Business listing was removed, Google organic traffic went up 5.5 percent. The first time the GMB listing was removed, the direct traffic didn’t change at all (which is odd, but that’s what the data shows). Then, the second time the GMB listing was removed, the direct traffic went up 33.86 percent, nearly 34 percent. My theory is that because previously when I removed the GMB listing and wrote about it I saw an uptick in traffic because of the blog post. More people started searching for the brand. Another outside factor, however, could be related to another factor that’s not related to this issue. It could have just been in an unnatural increase in direct traffic.
What about Search Engine Rankings?
If you use SEMrush, you can look directly at the organic traffic and rankings over time. Overall, the search engine ranking position changes, according to SEMrush, are interesting to see.
I took a look at the data, and generally speaking, when the GMB listing was removed, there were rankings changes (the site ranked for more keywords). Then, when the site’s GMB listing was reinstated, rankings (number of keywords) went down. Then, when it was removed the 2nd time, the rankings (number of keywords) went back up again. So, the data regarding rankings is in line with the removal of the Google My Business listing and then the reinstatement of it, and then the removal of the listing again. It lines up with what I am seeing as far as traffic goes. And, keep in mind that these “rankings”, or the number of the keywords that the site is ranking for is done by SEMrush at a “national” level. So, it’s not actually checking rankings from a particular location. If the data above was checking for rankings based on a location (that would then show the GMB listing ranking), then removing the GMB listing would show a loss of rankings when it was removed. But this isn’t the case.
Should You Remove Your GMB Listing?
If you’re a national business or an online only business, then you might consider removing your GMB listing and references to your business location in prominent locations on your website. I’d still keep your contact information on your contact page so customers can reach you, but there’s no need to put your business address and phone number right there on the home page or in the footer on the site. And you don’t need local Schema markup.
Let’s take, for example, the word “Realtors”. It’s one of those keywords where the actual search engine rankings will change based on the searcher’s location. For example, if you search for “Realtors” from San Diego, California, then you will most likely see local Realtor websites in the top results, along with some national brands. But searching for “Realtors” in Colorado Springs, Colorado will show different results. You will see local Realtor websites “ranking” for “Realtors”. That’s because Google knows what the business/website is located in San Diego or located in San Diego or Colorado Springs. Those websites and local businesses will NOT rank for “national” keywords because they’re local businesses. There is a location tied to them. This is good for a local business, as it gives a local business the chance to rank for more generic keywords, keywords that do not include a city name in them. But, if you’re not a local business, then does it make sense to have a Google My Business listing and tie your business and website to a particular location? No. If you don’t qualify for a Google My Business listing, it doesn’t make sense to have a listing. It’s perfectly fine to NOT have a GMB listing.
Here’s My Advice
My advice? Consider whether or not a Google My Business listing is actually hurting your search engine traffic and rankings. Do customers visit you location in person? Do they visit your office? Or are you customers only online and you’re an online-only business. I am an online-only business, even though I do have a few token local clients. I chose to remove my Google My Business listing because of my belief that it was hurting my search engine traffic and rankings. Not only did I prove it to myself that that’s the case once, I have now proven it TWICE. I’ve had the GMB listing removed twice, and in both cases it has helped my search engine traffic (and the direct traffic to the site, as well).
Have questions about whether or not you should remove your Google My Business listing? Feel free to contact me, but it really should be clear: if customers visit your location or you service your customers within your local area, then you SHOULD have a GMB listing. If your customers are online only, then you should remove your Google My Business listing.
Read Part One of Removing My Listing
Want more details? Read my first post about removing my GMB listing, why I did it, and the results in more detail here.
Long-Term Update: 7 months
After 7 months (I first removed the listing in July/August 2019), I am seeing no adverse effects from removing the Google My Business listing. In fact, I’ve seen a jump in January 2020. In January I did do some additional promotion and content, so that’s mostly jump in traffic because of that. Even after the January 2020 content and promotion, the site continues to not see any adverse effects from removing the GMB listing. Here’s a recent screen shot from Google Analytics, looking at month over month:
Click on the image above to see a larger version. As you can see, even when removing the listing the site continued to see a good amount of traffic, as usual.
Seven months later, my recommendations are still the same: if you don’t do business in person with your customers, and your business is primarily online, then consider not having a Google My Business listing or completely removing it. If your keywords don’t include city names, or location names, and are not “local” keywords, you may be missing out on traffic from the search engines.