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Google giving small businesses local search data

Small merchants wondering how Web searches impact their business are getting additional data from Google related to their local search results.

Google is giving local merchants the ability to access data about how Web surfers arrive at a local listing in Google Maps, in hopes of figuring out why so many people in a particular neighborhood are searching for pizza.

Google lets small businesses create a small Web listing that appears next to queries such as "pizza San Francisco," which pop up in Google Maps with a link to a business' Web site and address information through a service called Local Business Center. Inside the center, they've been able to do things like verify their address and phone number, but Google is now adding search results data to the dashboard within Local Business Center, said Carter Maslan, director of product management for local search.

For example, San Francisco pizza parlors will be able to see the zip codes from which searches originate that wind up at their listing, the keywords that searches are using to find their result, and basic stats about search activity, Maslan said. The idea is to give those businesses a set of metrics from which they can make business decisions about expanding delivery areas, advertising in certain areas, or what people are looking for in a local pizza joint.

"It's that kind of new visibility into search patterns that we hope will help business owners," Maslan said. This feature is not linked to any of the accounts that businesses might have with Google's AdWords or AdSense programs.

The service is gradually rolling out Monday to those in the U.S. with Local Business Center accounts, with support for additional countries coming later.

The new dashboard for Google's Local Business Center now comes with a lot more data. Google