The prospect of managing paid search marketing can oftentimes feel overwhelming, particularly for local business owners who have a multitude of other responsibilities to worry about. Keeping up with rapidly shifting industry requirements through a pandemic alongside the demanding day-to-day can leave many entrepreneurs too exhausted or stretched thin to start learning how to fully navigate these platforms all by themselves.

google ads for local business local google ad

In this post, I will provide some tips on how to build a paid search strategy on Google that will cater to your local business needs. I will cover:

Pro tips for your Google Ads account structure, ad extensions, and landing pages.
Tools for the most effective conversion tracking, keyword research, and targeting.
Additional methods of ensuring the highest return on your Google Ads investment.

Whether you’ve tried running Google Ads before, are considering running a campaign for the first time, or are an agency looking to serve a local client, you’ll come away from this post equipped with the knowledge, tools, and best practices to achieve sucess.

10 secrets to successful Google Ads for local businesses

When executed properly, local advertising on Google can be a highly effective means of attracting nearby customers and driving your local business goals. So let’s get into the tips to help you do just that.

1. Try a SKAG-based account structure

It’s important for any advertiser to fully understand in their mind the “why” when it comes to investing in paid marketing channels. It may seem like common sense to many on the surface, but it is very often that I come across businesses who feel like they have to run ads or should without any clearly defined result. The answer to this question, whether it is for one campaign or many, is critical when it comes to how you go about structuring your account.

For many local businesses, the concept of driving more foot traffic or online orders may be the primary driving force to getting started, but those goals need to be refined even further. If you are willing to invest in targeted keywords, you should have specific goals tied to those ad groups. I prefer to structure accounts based on the single keyword Ad Group strategy or “SKAG”. This allows me to create highly specified campaigns and keyword ad groups that can be refined by match type. Here is a visualization of what this would look like:

google ads for local business campaign structure

When running a paid search campaign for locally-driven queries, this account structure works well because it can allow you to be very specific with the terms you are targeting and the ads that are being served to those groups. As with any business running PPC ads, relevance is key. For example, if you operate a local pizza shop, you could have a campaign structure that looks like this:

Campaign: Pizza

Ad Group: Pizza Near Me

Keywords: “pizza near me”

[pizza near me]

+pizza +near +me

2. Use Google Tag Manager to track your conversions

One of the more difficult (but most important) aspects of paid advertising relies on your ability to track conversions. For those who are new to the beautiful world of digital marketing, conversions are the desired actions that you want people to take after they click through on your ad. For example, if I have an ad that directs a user to a web page with a sign-up form on it, and they submit their information, that would count as a conversion. For businesses like restaurants or flower shops, this would be the completion of an order or reservation.

For those with limited web development experience, the process of setting these up can be rather troublesome. The easiest way to create conversion events is to install Google Tag Manager throughout your business’s website. Tag Manager will allow you to quickly create the events you want in the places you want.

google ads for local business tag setup

For example, if you want to drive orders for food, you will want to create a conversion action on the order confirmation page. Some advanced options for a business like this would be to assign conversion values for purchases. So for example, you can pass back the cart value to Google so when someone places an order you can ascertain the return on investment from your advertising. This added layer of complexity will allow you to understand over time what your most profitable campaigns are; and you can have confidence in where you allocate budget over time based on average conversion rates.

3. Set up call extensions

It’s safe to assume that the vast majority of local businesses would want to provide a number to call, particularly in paid ads. It’s quite easy to set up call extensions within your ads. Select the campaign you want to add the call extension to and then select “Ads and Extensions” on the left-hand menu:

google ads for local business call extensions

Select “Extensions” then the plus sign on the right.

From there you’ll want to select “Call Extension”

google ads for local business call extension selection

From there you will be able to add your business phone number to your ads. This acts as an “extension” to your ads, so a secondary option for individuals to click through on if they wish to call vs visiting your website:

 google ads for local business add call extension

You also have the ability to set a schedule for the call extension that reflects your business’s hours. If your business is closed, then you can choose to have the extension be hidden during that time.

4. Refine your targeting

Targeting is one of three core considerations when coming up with any paid strategy. For local businesses especially, targeting is key as you will want to reach an audience as close to the location(s) of your business as possible. To make changes to location settings, select the campaign you wish to edit, then on the left-hand menu select “Locations:”

google ads for local business targeting option

Under “Targeted” you can select specific regions you would like to target, or radiuses:

google ads for local business targeting location or radius

You have the option to target a region directly or target by radius. So if you have multiple brick & mortar locations, you can establish a specified mile radius around these locations in order to drive search traffic within an operable distance. One thing to take note of when setting up the locations for your campaign is that there is an option that Google isn’t necessarily up-front about. If you select your campaign and then select the campaign settings, you will see the target locations:

google ads for local business target locations

Expand “Locations” so you can see the targeting details:

google ads for local business targeting details

From there you will want to expand “Location Options” and select “People in or regularly in your targeted locations.” This will ensure that you are only targeting individuals who are physically searching within the radius you specify.

5. Align your offer with targeted queries and core advertising goals

Many marketers struggle with the decision as to which promotion they want to run their paid advertising against. Luckily for local businesses, the search queries you choose to target can guide your promotional decision. For example, if you are targeting the keyword “pizza near me” you are obviously going to want to drive the traffic to a page where users can order pizza. If you are targeting “flower shops near me,” you will most likely want to drive traffic to your homepage where there is a plethora of supporting information and social proof. However, that same business could target “roses for sale near me” and direct traffic to a page specifically for ordering roses.

When it comes to deciding which promotions to use or keywords to bid on, my suggestion would be to circle back to your central goal for running ads—to generate revenue. There are a couple of ways to determine how you’re going to maximize revenue with search ads:

Which product or service do you generate the most revenue from organically?
What does the monthly search volume look like for the search terms related to the products or services you sell? Additionally, what does the competition and average cost per click look like for these terms?

6. Use keyword research tools

There are a variety of keyword research tools out there that you can pay for, but you also have the option to use free keyword tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner. This tool allows you to get a general sense of what the search volume looks like for your desired search terms as well as some other insightful information. To access the Keyword Planner, select the “Tools and Settings” icon in the upper right-hand corner of your Google Ads interface. Then select “Keyword Planner” from the menu:

google ads for local business keyword planner

There you can enter the keyword you would like to forecast:

google ads for local business keyword planner search volume and forecasts

Once you enter, you will be brought to a page where you can edit the location(s) that you’d like to see the keyword volume for:

google ads for local business keyword planner location

7. Leverage Google Trends

You also have the ability to view Google search trends to understand how the current conditions of the pandemic are affecting the volume and frequency of certain search queries. To do that, simply go to https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US

Once there, you can type in the query you’re looking for data on as well as the location:

google ads for local business google trends for keyword planning

Given the search terms and location I have used in the example above, you can see that outdoor dining search queries peaked in July and have begun to tail off as we approach winter in Massachusetts.

8. Make sure your website is properly organized and optimized

These qualities make paid search for local businesses particularly efficient if their website is organized properly. The key here is the website itself. Many local businesses may have put minimal effort into their digital site in the past but with the current pandemic, there is no better time to upgrade the quality of it. A large majority of users are searching for local businesses via their smartphones. A massive advantage in the paid search realm is having mobile-optimized landing pages —whether they are a part of your site or separate, unlinked pages. The mobile navigation is key not only from a conversion aspect but also from a Quality Score aspect. If your landing page is clean and easy to navigate, Google will give you an added edge in relation to your competitors bidding on the same keywords.

9. Deliver exceptional service

Attracting new customers is one thing, but attracting new, repeat customers is another, and can be achieved from properly optimized Google Ads campaigns. With a fully optimized campaign, you will net greater profit over time from single conversions if your business is great at what it does. Regardless of your approach, there is always a plethora of opportunities awaiting your business as a result of local search queries.

10. Consider outsourcing

It may seem overwhelming to start managing paid search ads on Google, particularly if you haven’t done so in the past. Depending on your financial situation, there is always the option to outsource this management. This option may be fruitful in the long run, especially if you just need assistance getting everything set up. You can always learn paid search over time without getting bogged down in the moment to try to drive revenue. There are many agencies and individuals out there who would be willing to aid in the setting up or optimizing of your account. Once an optimal campaign structure, conversion tracking, and promotional strategy is established, you have the ability to scale your ads’ profitably and provide extra revenue outside of your standard word-of-mouth foot traffic or organic online orders.

Try these Google Ads optimizations for local businesses

To get the best results and the biggest return on your investment with Google Ads for your local business, follow these 10 tips:

Try a SKAG-based account structure
Use Google Tag Manager to track your conversions
Set up call extensions
Refine your targeting
Align your offer with targeted queries and core advertising goals
Use keyword research tools
Leverage Google Trends
Make sure your website is properly organized and mobile-optimized
Deliver exceptional service
Consider outsourcing

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