Posted by Jenna Sheeran, Account Director
As searchers increasingly seek out local content, all advertisers with brick-and-mortar locations should be utilizing local search strategies to help drive traffic to their physical stores. 97% of people use local online media (BIA/Kelsey Group, March 2010), geo-modified search queries are common, and smartphone sales will surpass PC sales in three years (Gartner, Jan. 2010). 1 in 5 desktop users include location in their search queries, and 1 in 3 mobile users include location in their search queries. In addition, 60,000 Android-equipped phones are sold per day. In response to these trends, Google offers local advertisers many opportunities. We will explore some of these opportunities and highlight best practices for optimizing your local search presence.
Google offers advertisers the ability to target based on country/territory, region/city, or custom area. Custom targeting allows an advertiser to pick a location on a map and target a certain radius or area around that location. Advertisers also have the ability to exclude locations, thus not showing ads in regions where they may not sell their products/services.
Google uses a searcher’s location—based on the searcher’s IP address and Google domain (i.e. Google.ca or Google.fr)—to determine which local ads to show. The searcher’s location can be overridden in cases when the searcher uses a geo-modifier. For instance, if a searcher is located in Chicago but searches for “New York hotels,” he will see local results for New York hotels. On mobile devices, a searcher’s location is determined by satellite or the searcher’s use of a geo-modifier. Google currently cannot locate a searcher if they are on a Wi-Fi or similar network.
At Performics, we geo-target tightly-defined areas in order to discriminate paid search bid and copy strategies based on how close a searcher is located to a retailer’s physical store. Google has seen that searchers are more likely to click on an ad if they are in close proximity to the store location. Because consumers who live closer to a store are more likely to visit that store, we bid more aggressively in these areas to better engage those searchers. Geotargeting allows us to focus paid search budget on the searchers who are most likely to buy, thus driving the highest ROI. Paid search copy can also be segmented based on a searcher’s proximity to a store. For instance, in-store specials can be promoted to consumers located near a retail location, while “free shipping” copy makes more sense for searchers located more than 50 miles from a store. The most aggressive offers could be targeted at searchers who are located far from your store, but close to a competitor.
For advertisers running both national and local campaigns for the same keywords, Google’s ad serving rules dictate that the local ad trumps the national ad. This is to prevent an advertiser from serving multiple ads for the same keyword. Google applies a geo-boost to geo-targeted ads to serve local ads instead of national ads when the ads are competing.
Google Places (Local Business Center)
Google Local Business Center is now called Google Places. Google Places enables business owners to claim their business listings on Google, which often appear at the top of the natural search results for searches for the local business or geo-modified search queries like “Chicago hotels.”
All advertisers should claim their local business listings (it’s free!) to ensure that their correct phone numbers and addresses appear in the search results. Google Places also enables advertisers to include hours of operation, photos, videos, special promotions, and product offerings in their listing for each of their physical locations. Customer reviews also appear within the listing. The Google Tags feature of Google Places enables advertisers to include a yellow marker on their Places text listing or map that promotes a certain aspect of their business (i.e. an event or open house). Google Tags cost $25 per month per location.
Features of Google Places include syncs with Google AdWords, which allow advertisers to schedule the posting of local events or coupons, and reporting on volume metrics. Other new Google Places features include the ability to include which geographic areas your business serves, as well as QR codes (on marketing materials or business cards) that take your customers to your mobile Google Places page when the customer scans the code with their smartphone.
Location extensions enable advertisers to add location, phone number, and sitelinks to paid search ads appearing on Google.com, Google’s search partners, and the Content Network. For instance, if you are running an in-store promotion, searchers are more likely to visit your store if they see the promotion in your paid search ad copy and the location of your store directly under the copy via a location extension. Location extensions can be added by linking your Google Places account to AdWords or by entering your locations directly in AdWords. Advertisers will also soon be able to take advantage of Placement Listings—now in beta—which include map extensions within paid search ads. Location Plus Box is another new feature that allows advertisers to take up more valuable search engine results page (SERP) real estate for top position keywords.
Google has also provided a new process to delete Google Maps listings that may be incorrect—just identify the incorrect listing and select the “report as issue” button. Google will delete the listing in 2 to 4 weeks.
As search becomes more local and mobile, all advertisers should test Google’s suite of local solutions. Local search is one of the best ways to engage customers who are looking to visit your store and make a purchase. Google is continually focused on changing the look of local ads in both paid search and mobile to deliver the best searcher experience. Please contact your Performics account team for help in implementing and optimizing these local opportunities.