Local PPC is near and dear to my heart: helping members of the community profit by contributing to their communities is both satisfying and scalable. From SMBs driving leads to their owner-operated shop to a national brand channeling the trends of an individual location, and everything in between, there are decidedly right and wrong ways to leverage a PPC budget. Here are my top 10 ways to win at local PPC.
1. Claim Your Local Listings!Google My Business (GMB) has evolved a lot over the years. Leaving your brand’s local listing open for a malcontent to wreak havoc on your brand is not only is bad branding, but it also deprives you of a powerful SEO/PPC marketing channel. GMB allows you to:
- Monitor and respond to reviews about your business.
- Share promotions.
- Unlock placements on the search engine result page (SERP).
2. Set Campaigns Up by Location vs. ServiceThere are pros and cons to each, but the structural choice ultimately boils down to the following:
- Are all of your service areas the same?
- Are there distinct market indicators that require more budget allocation control?
3. Include Local Insider Knowledge in CreativeThis one may seem obvious, but it’s painful how few businesses take advantage of their authentic local relationships and knowledge. Which of these two ads do you think performed better: While the second ad has “personality”, it doesn’t clearly own local intent. Additionally, the location extension creates discrepancies (Boston vs. Lynn). The first ad might be “boring” but it clearly spells out it’s a “Boston” business. By seeding true “local” knowledge into the ad, a business can disarm a weary browser and turn them into an excited prospect. Here are some examples we’ve used to great success:
- Orient the user with local landmarks and highways.
- Subtleties of local commutes (particularly important to layer device and schedule adjustments here).
- Local lingo (great fodder for headlines and extensions).
- Local seasonal activities (for example, if most apartment leases end around August 31, include references to that in creative).
4. Location Targeting by Profit CenterNot every location is worth the same. Conflating true value with perceived value is a dangerous path to waste. Every location has different auction prices. While it’s true not every location will have drastic differences, many will be as much as $2-$3 more/less per click based on WordStream’s latest Google Ads Benchmark report. (Disclosure: I work for WordStream.) While a few fluctuating prices won’t hurt the campaign, large differences in auction price at scale (think across hundreds/thousands of clicks) will begin to add up to both you and Google/Microsoft/Facebook. Budgets want a single job, which means combining one location representing high value (and higher average CPC) and another location representing volume but lower quality leads (and likely lower average CPC) will likely lead to impression share loss. Not every location deserves access to budget (either because it already has a steady flow of customers and can’t support anymore, or because the price for leads doesn’t work with conversion rates/profit centers). Sometimes it makes more sense to combine locations that are physically close and have a single strong campaign. There’s also value in consolidating locations into profit tiers (high, average, and low) so you can budget for each market’s value. Taking this path means you can’t guarantee budget makes its way to a given location, but it does mean you’ll have stronger campaign performance.
5. Localize Landing PagesThere’s a degree of implied trust prospects are willing to give to local SMBs that national brands have to work (and spend aggressively) to achieve. Don’t lose it on the landing page! At the end of the day, landing pages/websites are essentially virtual stores, and prospects want to feel just as at home in your virtual store as they do when they visit your business in person. Landing pages always need to have the following boxes checked:
- Easy to convert. (A phone number is easy to see and clickable on mobile devices.)
- If using a form-fill, it’s above the fold.
- Honor that most people will read your site from top left to bottom right.
- Local awards that highlight community love.
- Local images that either show the business/team or real local customers.
- Copy that shows local knowledge to back up the local creative in your ads.
- One local number per page.
- Domain equity on the SEO side. (Many little URLs will have a tougher time ranking than one potent URL).
- Simple conversion tracking.
- Ease of landing page tests. (Only one domain allowed per ad group.)
- Localized URL
- Easy attribution of leads
6. Include Search PartnersWay back when there was a right-side of the SERP, exact meant exact, and ads were 70-character haikus, Search partners got purged from accounts. Who would want their ad serving on in-site search results? Today Search Partners are a little more interesting:
- Sponsored placements on Google Maps.
- YouTube spots.
- Ecommerce sites that used Google’s in-site search tool.
7. Audit Capacity by Location for New BusinessGoogle and Microsoft Ads need data to fuel their algorithms – which means campaigns need to be on most of the time (even if the budget is low/there’s a schedule in place). When deciding to leverage PPC for your local business, a big consideration needs to be “how many new customers are you currently getting and where can that number grow to?” Different locations are going to have different capacities for growth and it’s important to be honest with yourself on the true potential vs. the desired outcome. Assessing capacity starts with whether you’re a contractor business vs. a local shop with a fixed number of folks you can serve (due to physical space and staff).
8. Pick Your Competitors CarefullyDepending on your industry and location there may be more competitors than is worth actively focusing on. When you choose a competitor to include in a competitor campaign/keep track of in auction insights, it’s important to consider the following:
- Are they priced at your level or they over/under?
- Objectively, do they win on service, or are they lacking?
- Are they going after the exact same people as you are, or is your audience tangential to them?
- Are they a commonly searched business?
- Is the competitor named something that could be considered a general keyword (Boston Locksmith, LA Fitness, etc.)
9. Create Social Moments by Inviting Your Community to Share Your SpaceThis may seem like more of a “social” tip, but a big part of PPC success is bidding on transactional intent. While some businesses will have infinite money to throw at creating demand and brand affinity, there’s a lot of value in getting folks to talk about your brand organically. By being a community hub for more than just the services you offer (industry knowledge, hosting events, etc), you create:
- Email lists (great for nurture campaigns).
- Creative for your ads.
- Clout with your prospects.