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[2021] How to Interpret Google My Business (GMB) Insights

Updated March 4, 2021

There are many questions that often come up about how to properly interpret Google My Business Insights.  I’m going to break down the different sections and explain what they mean.

For an overview of the new Mobile vs Desktop breakdown and the upcoming display to track driving directions, website clicks, and bookings via GMB, check out this article about the 2021 GMB Insights Update.

How Customers Search for your Business

This chart is only reporting on impressions (not clicks).

  • Direct = People that are searching for your business by name or location.  I would say you can attribute these impressions to other forms of marketing since the person has already heard about you. A lot of these impressions are most likely existing customers as well.  These are searches that return a knowledge panel of your business. I got confirmation from Google that impressions will count in this section when the search results only list a single business listing (so this could be misleading in cases where you see a one-box for a non-branded query).
  • Discovery = People that are searching generic categories and see your listing (auto insurance, dentist near me, italian restaurant etc).  These are impressions you can most likely attribute to your SEO efforts.
  • Branded = These are searches for a brand your business sells that return a set of results (you are not the only one listed).

What is the difference between branded and direct searches?

We often see a lot of confusion around the difference between branded & direct searches so I’m going to give some examples.  This is a car dealer that sells for Nissan (a brand) in Woodbridge, VA.  When you are located near the dealership and you search “Nissan dealer near me”, you get a single result.  This would be counted under direct.

However, if you move a little further away from him and do the same search, you now get a 3-pack.  This would be counted as branded.  

For more examples of what is considered branded vs direct, see this forum thread.

What is the difference between branded and discovery searches?

One way to tell if Google knows a term is branded is to see if the 3-packs  have an ABC label on it.   For example, “botox” returns a normal 3-pack but “progressive insurance” returns a branded 3-pack that has the ABC label.  For more on these different types of 3-packs see this article.

However, since this only appears to happen when business names contain the brand being sold, it’s not always the case for businesses that carry products. I’m currently trying to get more clarification from Google on how they distinguish a branded term from a discovery term.

Where Customers View your Business on Google

Where customers view your listing
This graph is a bit confusing if you don’t understand that when both boxes are checked, the graph is cumulative (the top of the graph includes the total of both numbers).  So for those of you scratching your head wondering why the heck the graph is up near 60 for July 25th in this picture when you hover over it, it’s saying 17, you’re not alone. Here is how you actually see the numbers – the total searches on Maps was 41. The total searches on Search is 17. Therefore the total for the two is 58, which is what the graph is showing. Yes, very confusing. To avoid confusion just look at the graphs separately (only click one box – either Search or Maps).

Searches on the Local Finder are included in “Search” since they happen on and not

As of March 4, 2021, Views in Google My Business Insights are the number of unique visitors to your profile.

Users who viewed your profile: Number of unique visitors to your profile. A user can be counted a limited number of times if they visit your Business Profile on multiple devices and platforms such as desktop or mobile and Google Maps or Google Search. Per breakdown device and platform, a user can only be counted once a day. Multiple daily visits aren’t counted.

  • Since this metric represents the number of unique users, it may be lower than the number of views you find on Google My Business and in email notifications.

  • Since the metric focuses on views of the Business Profile, as opposed to overall views of the Business on Google, it may also be lower than the number of views you find on Google My Business and in email notifications.

Customer Actions

Driving Directions

This section shows where your driving directions came from if you have enough of them.  Google will also show details about the areas where your direction requests come from including a nice heat map.  If driving directions seem high, it’s probably because you are in a building and Google is counting driving directions that were actually to other businesses at the same address.

Phone Calls

Don’t be surprised if the numbers on this graph don’t match the numbers under “customer actions”. This graph shows 4 weeks whereas the actions section shows 30 days.

As Tim Capper illustrated, you can still copy and paste the values into a spreadsheet if it’s easier to interpret the data that way.

Chat To You

The GMB Messaging feature is the newest feature that generates insights data. You first need to setup the GMB Messaging feature before Google can collect this data.  Additionally, if you are using a 3rd party for the messaging feature, the graph inside GMB Insights might show zero even if you actually have been receiving messages.  In this example, the business is using Podium for this feature and has been receiving messages but GMB Insights shows zero.

Photo Insights

Photo Views

My church (in a very small town) gets an average of 20-40 photo views a day.  Their monthly photo views exceed the number of people who actually attend the church.  When I asked Google for an explanation for this, they said that “view photos” is counting both impressions (the photo appears in the 3-pack or knowledge panel) and if a user clicks to go to the photos. So these really are not clicks but rather impressions (and could be very misleading).

This section will also compare the number of times your business photos have been viewed, compared to photos from other businesses.

Photo Quantity

This section compares the number of photos that appear on your business, compared to photos from other businesses. It breaks them out by “Customer Photos” and “Owner Photos”

Popular Times & Visit Duration

Popular Times data gets pulled into the Insights section of GMB for businesses that have a decent amount of foot traffic. If you have “Popular Times” displaying in your knowledge panel then you will likely see the data in Insights as well. Visit duration is calculated slightly differently.  It’s based on how much foot traffic you’ve received in the last few weeks whereas Popular Times is looking at the data from the last few months (reference).

Search Queries

This section focuses on the search terms people typed into Google to find your business.  The numbers under Search Queries might appear smaller than other metrics you see in Insights for the following reasons:

  1. Search queries are showing the number of unique users.
  2. It only includes queries that meet Google’s privacy threshold.

It’s important to realize that the data here shown for “1 quarter” is not representing the last 3 months.  It doesn’t get updated in real-time and often will show the same data for several weeks.  Unlike other parts of GMB Insights, it doesn’t display a graph that clarifies what date ranges it’s pulling from. This issue seems like it will be fixed with the update to the new search queries report that we discuss in this article, 2021 GMB Insights Update.

GMB Insights

Does Insights Data Include Data From Google Ads?

Yes. If a business has an Google Ads account that has Location Extensions added, the users will be taken to to the Google My Business listing when they click on the extension.

When a user clicks on the ad in the 3-pack the person would get taken to the GMB listing (not the website).  Clicking on the listing would count as a search in Google My Business Insights. If the listing shows up as an ad and then also as a listing organically in the 3-pack, it would count as 2 searches (impressions) in GMB Insights.

There is currently no way to track Google Ads data separately from regular organic data in the GMB Insights section so my recommendation would be to add a call tracking number in the Google Ads Location Extension field in the Google My Business dashboard so you can accurately track the calls from ads.

Does Google My Business Insights Data Include Voice Searches?

If someone searches for a plumber near them on their Google Home or using the Google Assistant, is this counted in Google My Business Insights?  The current answer is no.  The data only includes visual searches.

Contact Our Google My Business SEO Experts At Sterling Sky Inc.

If you’re a local business that needs help with their Google My Business listing or their business’s online presence on Google and other search engines, at Sterling Sky we can help. We offer SEO auditsconsulting, or monthly local SEO services. Contact our office today for more information.


And See These Other Articles By SEO Expert Nikki Brown:

Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 80 Comments

  1. I don’t understand why Google has such a hard time delivering a simple and useful dashboard for GMB. It could so easily be a crude simple version of Google Analytics but instead they seem make it more complex and difficult to get to meaningful information. I liked the Insight as they were a week ago in terms of stats. I have accepted that they will never give use search terms again, but I wish they would give us beck the clicks for directions, call and to website.

    1. Michael, I think the more confusing they make it for SEO they feel more people will pay for Google Ads. Also I discovered a tool that adds search terms your website was found for back again like in the old days.
      Keyword Hero is the tool, it bolts onto Google Analytics and search console. Free for sites with lower traffic volume.

    1. Hi! Can someone explain this? I post more photos on my Google page than other businesses and keep the photos current and relevant. However, I get 50% less photo views than other businesses like me? Google says: post more photos for more views. I do, but consistently get usually 40-50% less views than other businesses. My quantity of photos is 4 times what other businesses post. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

        1. On local photos my clients are getting 888% more than “businesses like you”. That’s 18.6k a month for a local lawyer. What I have found to work is something I discovered during Covid-19…if people in the office take photos of other staff, reception area, meeting rooms, in a real environment, using a smartphone with location settings on, and then you tag these pics, “Boyd Butler probate solicitor in the office at Smiths Solicitors” then I have a feeling that Google likes this. It’s real, it’s a non-spam photo without text, it relates to the location, and if the photos are not great, you an edit them in Google’s editor (SnapSeed) on a mobile phone to make them look better. Do feel free to try this. It seems to work in the UK for me but I can’t guarantee it otherwise I would be rich beyond my wildest imagination 😉
          PS Thanks for the great post Joy, I have been reading your words for about 8 years now and have never said thank you for your insights…so THANK YOU

          1. Thanks for your comment. We’ve been testing various photo tactics to see what impacts ranking and haven’t found anything yet that seems to make any noticeable difference.

  2. The change gnomes are at it again. I hope they continue to support we G+ faithful. I still post on the top 3 but I consider the other 2 social and G+ tied to Google Search. Google hash-tags are the only ones I feel are viable.

  3. Can you please explain how the impressions of “How Customers Search for your Business” are different that the total views of “Where Customers View your Business on Google”? How are there more views (624) than impressions (324)? In this case it that implying that there were 324 keyword phrases searched, and most people flipped between search and maps? A similar concept to sessions and pageviews on a website?

    What about when there are more ‘Impressions” (direct/discovery) than total views? How is it possible that someone viewed a business that gets counted in direct/discovery metric, but not in search/maps. Why would it not also be in the data set for search/maps?

    thanks for breaking this down!

    1. Meghan,

      I asked Google about this and they replied back with: My thought here is that it’s total views (someone pulls up Maps, sees the local businesses along the side, even though they were searching for something else, scrolls through their local area and sees multiple listings, etc) versus actual searches where users are searching for your business name or the category and they pull up your business. This would explain the pretty large discrepancy as well.

      1. Hi Joy, I understand if views are higher, but what about the opposite. I have some clients that have much higher searches than views and I have clients with much higher views than searches. Do you know how this could happen and what the numbers really mean then? Any help appreciated

          1. This is addressed in the article under “Why don’t the Total Views match the Total Searches in the pie graph under “How Customers Search for your Business”?”

  4. Thanks for such a great info.
    What is the minimum duration of a call which google shows as a call in insight? Also what if someone just clicked on the call button and abort from dialer ? Does google count this action as a call?

    1. Google has no way to track the duration of the call or if the person even initiated a call. All they can track is if someone clicked on the “call” button. The numbers you see in GMB equate to the number of click-to-calls. It definitely isn’t a good reflection of the actual number of calls your business got from Google My Business. I did a test on this back in October for my Local SEO training and found that GMB Insights only track about 30-50% of the real number of calls a business gets (

  5. Regarding GMB pages connected to AdWords: “Clicking on the listing would count as a search in Google My Business Insights. If the listing shows up as an ad and then also as a listing organically in the 3-pack, it would count as 2 searches (impressions) in GMB Insights. ”

    Do you know if GMB Insights will properly associate these impressions with Direct vs. Discovery?

    1. If the listing shows up twice (ad and organic), I’m pretty sure it would count as 2 impressions but I’m not 100% sure on that. They would be direct if the search was something branded that returned their knowledge graph and would be discovery if it was something that triggered a 3-pack.

  6. As always an outstanding post, I never moan about the GMB data, what’s the point? Just as long as we know how to explain it to our clients that’s all that counts…and that clients understand what the hell we are talking about ;O)

    Thank you Joy!

    1. Hello mam, I’m new using business my google. Before my insights is increase 3k plus after 2weeks my business google insights drop to 2k? i always posting and update but I don’t know why decreasing and i pay also for ads. Please help me I don’t know how to fix. Thank in advance

      1. Hey Victor,

        I’d probably suggest having someone do an audit on your business if you want a comprehensive plan on how to increase activity from Google. Ads have no impact on ranking.

  7. Love reading you Joy. I noticed in AdWords today that you can segment you location extension to see “local actions” such as directions, website clicks, orders, menu views, and other engagements. Businesses could eventually take GMB Insights and deduct AdWords data if they want to measure real organic/local traffic.

  8. Can I change the date range for the google my business insights or is it only what they give me? I can’t see anywhere to change it.

    1. Carley,

      In the GMB dashboard you can only use the pre-selected date ranges. You can download a custom date range by using Bulk Insights or use a 3rd party tool to get that ability.

  9. Hi Joy,

    My GMB went crazy last month (june) and I can’t find an explanation. I’ll let ou know the average stats for 2018 (jan – may) and then I’ll show you the numbers for june:

    Average searches (jan – may): about 250
    Searches in June: over 3.000

    Average views (jan – may): around 900
    Views in June: over 4.000

    Average customer’s actions (jan – may): 18
    Customer’s actions in June: 49

    I have noticed that, on photo views chart, “companies like yours” had a lot more views and a bunch of new photos from clients. Could that be the explanation? If it is, how can those numbers, which refer to business like mine, boost my own results?

    Thank you so much in advance!

    1. Hey Catarina,

      It’s likely that your listing started showing for some new queries or the ranking increased. Google should be rolling out keywords to Insights soon so hopefully that will give you some ideas.

  10. Hi Joy,

    Do you happen to know of the way that Google collects the clicks and impressions for Google Posts? I would like to clarify for a client: (1) are impressions any time the Posts appear in the general search results, or is it when the user scrolls to see the Posts and (2) are clicks any time the user clicks on the Posts itself, or when the user clicks on the action button? Any insight you can provide would be very helpful.


    1. Hey Heather,

      I heard back from Google. Here are the answers.

      A post impression is generally counted when the post appears on the screen. For example, in the posts tab on the listing, we don’t automatically count a view for all posts ever created because the post tab is opened. Rather, we count a view on that post when it scrolls into view.

      We report clicks on the action button.

  11. Hi,
    My insights queries are showing incorrect and damaging keyword phrases. This has really upset me. I’m a registered massage therapist. I have been in the listing for ten years and now my business is failing. My ranking in GMB listing dropped in the Summer and I started making weekly posts with short articles and it boosted my ranking back up again. Then a month ago I lost my ranking again and had my web designer make several updates to my website. My ranking did improve but my business had not improved. Please help. Thank you.

  12. When a local business search is made, and a GMB three pack snippet appears, would the businesses listed in that three pack have an impression listed in there Google Search Console? What would the rank value be? Could it be counted as position 1 for all three businesses? (if there are no other organic listings above it) could it be position 1,2 & 3 of organic search? Is it counted as an impression at all? Where in Google data and tools can we determine how well our efforts to get the client listed in the three pack are working?

    1. Hey Clay,

      The impressions are definitely counted in Search Console. The rank value would be the order you see it on the page so if they are first in the 3pack with no organic listings above them, that would count as 1. If it’s a Knowledge Panel (off to the right), it usually counts as 11. I suggest using UTM codes in Google My Business if you want to break up the traffic.

  13. Can the insights for the business change after few months for same interval of time, because my post view for last year campaign in higher than total searches now.

    1. Saleema,

      So views and searches are different. The article kind of digs into this quite a bit but they never match due to the nature in which they are calculated. Views are usually higher (much higher) than searches.

  14. What does ‘A customer found your business via Google Maps’ mean? Does it mean that a customer clicked on your listing in google maps or just the impressions? And if it’s just the impression then until which number is the impression counted because a total of 20 results appear? Are all 20 considered or top 3?

  15. Why does the ‘total views’ in the ‘Where customers view your business on Google’ section differ from ‘total searches’ in the ‘How customers search for your business’ section?

    1. Views can be something like a person simply loading Google Maps on their phone and seeing an icon on the map for the business (or not seeing it, it’s simply visible). They are like impressions on a display campaign.

  16. Hi,

    There is a graph of showing ‘Total Searches’ under ‘How customers search for your business’
    Where does these total searches come from ? Does a visitor searches on or on

    1. Hey John,

      It includes searches done on visual Google properties (so both Google search and Google Maps). It doesn’t include voice searches from the Google Assistant.

  17. Hey Joy, I’m not sure if this paragraph is correct:

    “Views in Google My Business Insights are like impressions. They are not clicks on your listing. They are also not unique, so one user looking through 50 of your photos would count as 50 views.”

    I spoke to Brad from GMB Twitter support and he told me this:

    “The Views graph shows the number of people who viewed the business on Search and Maps. This is calculated per user, so if a user saw the listing on Search and then clicked to Maps, it would be only one view.”

    1. Hey Lachlan,

      I’ve reached out to Google to get clarification on this. I’ll let you know when I hear back.

    2. Lachlan,

      I heard back from Google and what you were told is correct. I updated the article. I’m still asking for clarification on how this impacts photo views.

      1. Lachlan,

        Another update on this. Turns out the help article is wrong. I’m waiting on Google to correct it and once they do, I’ll update the article again.

    3. Google has now updated their help article (it was wrong before). I’ve updated the article again to reflect the new wording which matches what we had originally.

  18. Google has now updated their help article (it was wrong before). I’ve updated the article again to reflect the new wording which matches what we had originally.

  19. When you download Insights (excel file) a new column appears (Column E) labeled “Overall rating of this listing as of the date the report was generated” In my case, 10 locations in this report and Overall Rating for each location varies from 4.1 to 4.5. Any idea what this is, researched but havent found anything about this yet. Thanks!

  20. Perhaps I missed it, but what is the difference between “Direct” and “Branded” searches? Also, I still don’t understand the difference between views on Search and on Maps. Do people really go to to search for businesses? Or do they get to the map view via a Google search and then click through to the map results, such as driving directions? Thank you!

    1. Hi Kathleen,

      Direct searches are searches for your specific location that return a single Knowledge Panel. Most of these impressions would be people that have already heard about you via other forms of marketing or existing customers. This section also includes impressions from search results that only list a single business listing (a one-box).Branded searches are searches for brands you sell (even if it’s a part of your business name) that returns a list of results (multiple listings).

      Maps views only happen when someone is already within Google maps. However, searches that take place in the Local Finder get lumped in with Search, not Maps. Confusing, eh?

  21. Hi Joy,
    Do you maybe know how is possible that under ˝Queries used to find your business˝ for 1 month view is larger number of users than the 1 quarter for the same query?

    Is it 1 quarter for last 3 months?

  22. I am totally confused about Search views and maps views. After See your blog, I cleared my all doubts. Nice Blog Thanks for explaining about Insights. It’s really helpful to me.

  23. Joy, this is incredible. Thanks for such a great resource. It’s always been confusing, and of course challenging to explain to clients. After 13 years of working with Google listings – I learned a few things today from this post! Thank you!

  24. I’ve noticed some discrepancies in dates when comparing daily stats in GMB interface and those fetched through API – may be related to different time zone? When get stats by API it’s always in UTC time zone as for the interface it depends on client location timezone or what? For German locations there is always a one day delay between the results from API and from GUI. Do you know? I can’t find any explanation from their support.

    1. Iliyana,

      We found the same thing yesterday when comparing Data Studio’s numbers (which uses a connector that uses the API) and the dashboard. I can check with Google and see if I can get any clarification.

          1. About data discrepancy between daily values shown in the interface and via API. Locations which have positive offset against UTC, in the interface are presented with 1-day delay (01.01 in the daily API stats corresponds to 02.01 in the interface).

  25. looking foreward to an upgraded insights dashboard hopefully this year. The move of queries to a new page is weird. I hope they put a little more effort into this. And the monthly reports they send out now serve little purpose other than to tease GMBs to log in to their dashboard.

  26. Hi Joy

    Thanks you for explaining the difference between Direct/Branded/Discovery. Finally it makes sense. 1 results vs many.

    With Views / Impressions they are still not tying up.

    We are using Google Ads Local Campaigns along with the various site extensions. You said that Google could not separate this. Not sure if this has any effect?

    I am wanting to create a report within Data Studio, so I am using Supermetrics.

    I have a client that has a few locations.

    Total Search Impressions: 112,140
    Total Views 130,538
    Views on Search 63,926

    This does not make sense to me, can you please explain?

    Other data;
    Direct, 17,897
    Branded 17,914
    Discovery 76,439.

    Views on Maps 66,612

    1. Hey Goran,

      Yes, you should be able to use Supermetrics to get this data within Data Studio. I’m not really able to explain or troubleshoot specifics without actually looking at the account.

  27. Does the below have any effect on my previous question.

    I did this in order to try and determine what was Organic / Paid.

    I would love your guidance on this. I am trying to make sense of it, along with the effects on GMB.

    I used the click type Driving Directions & Get Location details within the Google Ads API.

    Not sure which one is the same as GMB. With my data I get a lot more with Get location details.

    There is also Show nearby locations as another Metric but there is no data.

    I filtered the campaigns to show Brand Only and the total is 304 All Conversions and 335 Clicks (based on these Metrics). The assumption is this would be mostly Branded results as they have multiple locations. (Dont think it would be Direct?)

    Then I looked at the Advertising channel type being Local, Campaign Type, Search Network with Display Select.

    Using Click Type Dimention, Clicks on Driving Directions 1,4k and Clicks on Get location directions 3.3k. The All conv. was 14 & 283.

    The clicks are more than that of the GMB report data as a whole

    Also what effect does the Display Select have on GMB?

  28. Is it possible that you know how there are more users listed under the “Queries used to find your business” section for a one-month view compared to a one-quarter view for the same query?

    1. Hi Uzma, I’d have to look at the specific example but it sounds like that might be a bug with the data.

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