Investing in Google Ads for your client’s local business can increase local foot traffic, in-store sales, and qualified leads. But how do you do this at a low cost whilst tailoring your strategy to your client’s services and business goals? Powered by Search’s Director of Paid Media, Brandon Coward sheds light on the ever-changing features in search, and explains how to approach Google Ads locally.

With numerous changes to the search landscape over the last year, Google Ads continually creates more features that benefit local advertisers. There are also more changes that require improvements in strategy to get Google Ads to work effectively for local businesses. The biggest changes impacting your client’s local businesses have been:

  1. Close variant update to Google Ads
  2. Increasing use of voice search
  3. Ads on Google Maps and Google Map Packs

Let’s break them down…

1. Close Variant Update

For those who have spent time building keyword lists, long tail keywords and refining negative keywords to appear for the most relevant and top performing searches, Google threw a wrench into your plans.

Google Ads now include all close variants based on the intent of the user’s search, not simply misspellings and slight differences to phrases like they have in the past.

This means that your clients are likely going to see additional searches and volume in their accounts, but have no changes to attribute the volume to. The bottom line is that setting it and forgetting can no longer work, so it’s important to stay on top of your keywords and user search queries.

2. Increasing Use of Voice Search

This trend is not exclusive to Google Ads, but it does mean that the traditional method of keyword research has changed for paid advertising. The increasing use of voice search has seen longer tail keywords and inquiry-based searches continue to climb. For local advertisers, having “near me” as part of searches is a must-have, with this search increasing in volume continually.

Google Trends Near Me Last Five Years

5-year trend of searches including “near me”

3. Ads on Google Maps and Google Map Packs

As more and more platforms become ‘pay to play’, Google has introduced its fair share of changes based on this model. One of the biggest has been the introduction of and increase in ads on Google Maps and Google Map Packs.

Now, more than ever, it is important to have optimized listings, as well as promoting those listings through Google Ads.

Let’s now focus on how to make Google Ads work for local business, with three unique strategies (but first, if you haven’t linked your Google My Business listing to your Google Ads account, you should do so now).

Three Key Strategies to Get the Most out of Your Google Ads

1. Increase your local search volume

With Google’s update to include close variants of all types, you should see additional searches within your client’s account. However, there are a few methods to ensure you are increasing your local search volume even further.

If you’ve already expanded your keyword list with long-tail keywords, search terms with “near me”, and used broad match modified keywords to rank for all relevant searches, there are two options to expand your reach further.

a) Update Google location targeting settings to include “People in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations (recommended).”

This will bring in additional searches that do not contain local city/state keywords, so it’s imperative that you also add negative locations as well. As an example, if we’re looking to drive visits to a store in Portland, we can expand location settings to include users who are interested in Portland and ensure we exclude the surrounding states, and cities that are a distance away from the city of Portland.

We do this to increase searches for users who are travelling and have shown interest in the area, those who commute to and from our city location, and even those who visit frequently. This targeting will look something like the targeting below:

Google location targeting

b) Create broad location-based campaigns

These campaigns would also apply to users who commute to, visit or have shown interest in our specific city location. This includes creating campaigns that target an entire state, or a larger-than-normal radius, while bidding on location-specific keywords.

In this case, we would create a separate campaign and target Oregon as a whole. We would then only bid on keywords containing “Portland” in the search query.

Campaign 1 (Targeting Portland Only) – Keyword: “family lawyer near me

Campaign 2 (Targeting Oregon and Excluding Portland) – Keyword: “family lawyer Portland

This is how you can generate additional search volumes for your clients without simply expanding geographic targeting far and away from their physical business location.

2. Google Ads local campaigns – drive more local store visits

Google local campaigns are the simplest way for you to drive local store visits to your client’s business locations. By simply linking and filtering Google My Business locations to your Google Ads account, you can easily create an automated campaign that will promote your location across all Google channels: Search, Display, YouTube, and Maps.

When it comes to Google Maps, Google will automatically display your local ad based on customer searches in proximity to your location, and when a user hits ‘explore near me’. Display ads and YouTube ads will show when a user is most likely to click on your ad, so this heavily relies on Google’s algorithm to drive the best quality of clicks with the goal of that user making their way to your client’s business.

Google Map ads based on location

This is a perfect way to increase the number of physical store visits while leveraging automation and not having to focus on curating keyword lists and testing ad copy.

3. Local Inventory Ads – promote local store inventory (Google Merchant Center required)

UX in the digital age is becoming more and more of a priority for digital advertisers, as requiring multiple pageviews or clicks from the consumer will often just not cut it. Google’s feature updated for Local Inventory Ads provides a single-page, seamless shopping experience for users viewing your products locally.

If your client is a retailer and has a shopping feed, you can enable local inventory ads. This will allow you to show products your client has in stock at locations near to the searcher. Furthermore, users can view the product details, reviews and your location details all on the Google browser. So there’s no need to worry about mapping users from the correct product ad or even from your client’s homepage to a product.

Local inventory ads

If you’re looking to set your client’s business apart from their competitors, enabling Local Inventory Ads and allowing for a Google store front to showcase your products in real-time with stock and the exact distance to their location will certainly do so. This will help drive local store traffic and in-store sales. Google has a local inventory ad implementation guide to help take your client’s typical merchant center feed and turn it into an in-store sale ad.

Closing Thoughts

There are multiple ways to make Google Ads work for your client’s business in 2019. If you’re looking to drive qualified leads from a website, then look to enhance local search volume with location-based keywords and expanded geographic targeting, or test new location settings.

To increase local store traffic to your client’s business you must try Google local campaigns where the main objective is store visits. Leverage the automation Google has provided to drive low-cost store visits to your client’s business, especially with the cross-channel targeting on all Google platforms.

Finally, if your client is a retailer and has a shopping feed, or is putting one together, be sure to leverage local inventory ads. Today, users want a seamless experience, and if they can find your client’s product first, and don’t need to leave the browser to find it, bingo, you’re now driving local foot traffic and sales by adding local ads to your shopping campaigns.