The internet can be a powerful tool for local businesses but in many cases, it’s the mom-and-pop shop down the street that doesn’t have the resources or tech savvy to make the most of the web.

Google is trying to change that and yesterday announced the launch of a Local Business Center dashboard that gives local businesses a set of free tools to monitor and analyze their business listings on Google.

Right now, many local businesses benefit from Google without even knowing it. When someone does a search on Google proper or Google Maps, Google will, where appropriate, provide listings for local businesses. These listings typically contain a business’ address, website (if one exists) and any details, reviews and photos that are available.

But out of all the businesses that benefit from these business listings, few businesses take full advantage of them. By claiming a business listing on Google and using Google’s new Local Business Center dashboard, local business owners will be able to see first-hand how much activity their listings are seeing and how users are finding them.

The dashboard is sort of like Google Analytics for business listings. Data that is being made available through the dashboard includes:

  • Impressions.
  • Actions (a measurement of how users engaged with the listing).
  • Top search queries.
  • Zip codes responsible for Google Maps direction requests.

Needless to say, this type of data can be very valuable for business owners. And Google is offering it completely free to those who claim their business listing.

What’s Google get out of it? If it can attract and educate more local business owners, it may be able to acquire more AdWords customers. Using the data the Local Business Center dashboard provides, such as top search queries, local businesses can potentially create more effective AdWords campaigns.

The question is whether Google will succeed in reaching this large but difficult-to-target market of local business owners. If you own or work for a business that has a Google listing, be sure to check out the Local Business Center.

Photo credit: dave_mcmt via Flickr.