Google My Business (GMB) users may have noticed an odd increase in the count of Direct Searches reported during the months of July and September. Direct Searches is the count of instances where a consumer searched for your business using your business name or address, like “Jenny’s Flowers San Francisco, CA,” as opposed to Discovery Searches, where the consumer typed in more general keywords like “florist near me.”
Because Brandify manages Google listings for thousands of brand locations, we are able to take a broad view of the impact when changes like this occur. To make sense of the change in the Direct Searches metric, we analyzed 13.7 billion data points from GMB Insights across a range of verticals, covering the months of June, July, August, and September 2018.
As indicated in the chart below, the increased count of Direct Searches was especially dramatic in the July to August period, where the number of searches increased by 228% across all GMB accounts in our study.
Also notable was an increase in Discovery Searches during the same period. Though less dramatic than the change in Direct Searches, we noted a 40% increase in Discovery Searches during the July to August period. In fact, the actual increase in counts was comparable during this period, the lower percentage increase for Discovery Searches merely reflecting the fact that their volume historically has been much greater than that of Direct Searches. No other Insights metrics changed significantly during the same period.
Though not all brands were affected equally, 98% did see a significant increase in Direct Searches, and 93% saw an increase in Discovery Searches. In a post on the Brandify blog we dive more deeply into these numbers and assess the impact of the change on specific verticals such as automotive, finance, hotels, restaurants, and retail.
As to why these metrics changed, we have only scant evidence from Google to go on. The online help pages for GMB Insights now contain a note as shown below.
Both the change and the messaging around it are strongly reminiscent of the change last year to Map Views, where we were told that Google had decided to count as views instances where your business appeared on the map, even though the user was searching for something entirely different. For instance, a user searching for “Starbucks near me” may see a map where the business next door to Starbucks is identified as Jenny’s Flowers, in which case both Starbucks and Jenny’s Flowers would get a Map View.
There’s some evidence that the same kind of thing is going on with searches, and that Google is now including more search contexts in the count. The uptick is significant enough, however, that I would suspect Google may also have detected that searches were previously underreported.
Regardless, as Google’s help message indicates, there will be no changes to historical data, so businesses should adjust their benchmarks accordingly moving forward, but should not attribute the change to their own activities or to any algorithm change. Rather, this is just an internal adjustment on Google’s part. Hopefully, Google’s metrics now more accurately reflect search activity for your brand. The new Branded Searches metric, which was added to Insights last month, will have an impact as well on the way brands and businesses measure search performance.