Here’s the deal – you want PPC to power your business, but you offer a product or service that can only cater to the local community. What options does that leave you? There are really two things I want to focus on – the first is making sure your PPC is as awesome as it can be, and this comes from taking advantage of all the tools and tricks available to you as a local business. The second is ensuring you get enough traffic to make your business viable, which can be tricky, particularly in smaller towns.

Be More Targeted

The main thing you have going for you over your huge corporate conglomerate competitors as a local business is that you can afford to be much more targeted with your paid search efforts. Below is a quick table I pulled in Excel from one of my clients’ campaigns. We are currently running a test to see if ads that feature their location in the headline perform better or worse than their current top ad. As you can see including the location has so far resulted in double the conversion rate and a much lower cost per conversion. Although there is a lack of statistical significance here, these results are reflected across the board in the other campaigns we are testing – in only one out of nine campaigns are the original ads generating more conversions. This tells us that there is something to be gained from emphasizing your locality to your customers.

Alongside making sure your ads are targeted, make sure your website and landing pages also play upon your location and how you serve the local area. If your ads mention your location don’t allow there to be a potential disconnect where you customers are wondering if they are in the right place.

Make sure you make good use of the excellent array of location targeting available to you. Google recently started allowing you to target down to the ZIP code in the US. This gives you an excellent opportunity to gather some data about which neighborhoods generate the strongest returns for you by putting different ZIP locations in their own campaigns. It’s also really useful if you deliver only within certain areas – you don’t want to be showing your ‘Free Pizza Delivery’ ads to people outside of your delivery area or you are just going to annoy people.


Getting the Traffic

One of the biggest issues you are likely to face advertising only within your locality is a lack of traffic. I recently spent a day setting up the most perfectly targeted, segmented and quality score optimized campaign for a client, who turned out to only get 49 impressions in a week. Sometimes with all the best intentions in the world, you just simply can’t get enough search traffic to sustain your business. In this case we suggest taking a wide approach to PPC. Rather than focusing on making everything in your account as granular and quality score optimized as possible, you need to cast a wide net. This doesn’t mean you can’t still be targeted, but it does mean you want to start early with branching into different PPC channels.

A few good starting points will be:

  • Bing – this is the easiest win for extra traffic. You can pretty much copy + paste your Google AdWords campaigns if you don’t have time to manage it separately.
  • Facebook – Can be a real driver of interest and traffic for local businesses. Make use of a combination of location targeting and interests here. For example, someone in Bloomington, IN with ‘pizza’ as an interest could be targeted with a ‘Bloomington Pizza Lovers’ ad that offers a 10% online discount.
  • LinkedIn – Expensive, but can be great if you know your customers’ demographic well. Good for local businesses that offer corporate services.
  • Twitter – Use promoted tweets to push events or information to people in your area. Be aware, Twitter’s location targeting still has trouble with some smaller locations. Having just checked, it was unable to target Bloomington, IN (home of PPC Hero), but was able to target Indianapolis.

Google Display Network and Remarketing are also going to be potential areas of traffic generation that should outperform your local searches. I don’t know about you, but I tend to notice the AdSense ads that mention my hometown a lot more than the generic ones that I tend to have partial blindness towards. I’ve seen above average display CTRs for many of the display campaigns I’ve set up for local businesses. If you are in an expensive and competitive industry such as insurance or law, display also offers you a chance to buy in clicks for much cheaper than you would be able to afford in Search – $2 vs $30 in one extreme case I found.

If you can afford it, I’d also recommend setting up call tracking for your local PPC efforts. Locals are more likely to call up, whether to check for restaurant reservations, order a pizza, schedule a visit to your legal offices etc. It is important you start this early as in a low click environment you’ll want to nail down the types of keywords that are leading to phone calls and driving interest in your business. You can go with Google’s phone call extensions as a good starting point, or if you have a bit more money available think about using an option like Mongoose Metrics who will set up something a bit more advanced for you.

Being local

As we spend most of our time, fellow PPC Hero Sean Quadlin and I were discussing the latest season of ESPN’s 30 for 30 show in the office yesterday, particularly There’s No Place Like Home – a documentary about trying to return the original rules of basketball to their rightful home with the Kansas Jayhawks. Sean happens to have a friend in Kansas who knew the director wasn’t a true Kansan because he endorsed the phrase ‘There’s no place like home” – a phrase people from Kansas refuse to use due to rampant overuse. Whether or not people in Kansas do in fact despise the phrase or not, it did raise an interesting point – as a local business you should have one strong advantage over national companies – namely that you are aware of ideas, phrases or terminology that will and won’t go over well with your local audience and that will make locals believe you are genuine. If you really want to get ahead, make sure you think carefully about the different ways locals might react to your ads and website compared to the norm.

“There’s No Place Like PPC Hero, Toto”

Location extensions are a great tool your local business should be making use of for two main reasons:

  1. You gain additional points for both trust and ease of use if someone is searching for a product or service you offer and sees on Google Maps that you are located nearby.
  2. If I’m driving and suddenly decide I want to buy lunch (see below)/clothes/insurance, a quick search on Google Maps (having pulled over safely) for a nearby location will probably be my main source of information. A good ad with location extension will help convince people like me to come to your store thanks to the convenience of the GPS.

You can tell I’m getting hungry

Finally try and get your customers to leave feedback for you – positive Google review extensions on your ads will help increase your CTRs. I’ve also seen good success with Google Plus extensions – particularly if you have a lot of followers. If you can attract followers by updating your menu specials or giving out coupons on Google Plus, it will be a benefit to you in the long run.

Hopefully this should get you thinking about how you can up your game in the local PPC world! If any of you have found success with local PPC advertising, let us know what you did in the comments below.