Executing a Successful Local PPC Strategy

Ryan MootHart, PPC Architect

Local PPC is a topic seldom discussed in the digital marketing sphere, and that’s a problem. There are many businesses which depend on potential customers among the local population to physically enter a specific location and spend money; restaurants and service shops are two of the most prominent examples.

For many of these businesses investing in paid search ads, a typical B2C or B2B strategy just won’t do. Budgets might be extremely tight and every penny needs to count, especially for small businesses. So, how do you execute a winning local PPC strategy when there’s such little room for error?

Well, we’ve got an answer for you and it’s easier than you think. In this post, we’re going to cover the key elements to a successful local PPC strategy, provide a few tips on how to execute it, and show you what to expect after you execute these changes.

Radius Targets Are the Key

If you have a location in a large city, or if you have multiple locations which are in close proximity with one another, you may find that city location targeting isn’t practical. Furthermore, using more specific targets, like zip codes, may be more of a pain than they’re worth. The good news is that there is another option: radius targets.

The single most important element to winning with local PPC is the utilization of radius targets. Instead of a pre-defined location target built into AdWords already (i.e. country, city, zip code), radius targets are custom location targets defined by the advertiser, centered on a specific location.

Why are radius targets so awesome? There are two important reasons:

  1. Radius targets allow for greater flexibility in where exactly your ads will show up. If the borders of a specific town, neighborhood, or zip code aren’t sufficient, radius targets can often resolve any issues you’re having with regards to location targeting.
  2. The signals AdWords uses when determining if someone is within a custom radius target often rely on physical indicators such as WiFi hot spots and GPS. When using pre-defined location targets, AdWords also refers to a user’s current and historical location data, which can limit ad impression volume.

That 2nd point is a little known fact which many people don’t know about. We’ve tested this at Portent and, while we don’t have definitive proof from Google that this is how it works, we’ve consistently seen between 10%-15% more overall ad impressions when using radius targets versus using only pre-defined targets for a given physical area.

Other Elements of a Successful Local PPC Strategy

Radius targets are important, but they’re not the only factors which will make or break a local PPC strategy. Here are some more things to keep in mind:

  • Show ads to people in your targeted location only – The default setting in AdWords will show ads to users in–or searching for–your targeted location(s). When it comes to utilizing a budget most efficiently, it’s safest to switch that setting over to target only users physically in your targeted location(s).
  • Use bid modifiers on schedules and devices – Chances are your conversion metrics, such as conversion rate and average cost per conversion, will vary depending on the time of day, day of week, and what type of device a user is on. Use bid modifiers accordingly to bid down (or stop showing ads entirely) for poor conversion metrics and bid up for good conversion metrics.
  • Create a campaign template – For businesses with multiple locations, create a campaign template (or set of templates) so it can be used on a one-store-per-campaign basis. This way, you can keep your account organized, your campaigns consistent, and be able to devote specific amounts of budget toward any given location.

The Importance of Conversions

I cannot stress this next point enough, so I’m literally going to repeat it three times:

  • Have an on-site conversion that correlates with in-store success.
  • Have an on-site conversion that correlates with in-store success.
  • Have an on-site conversion that correlates with in-store success.

Did you get that? Because it’s really, really important.

There needs to be some action on your website a user can take which indicates they’re likely to actually visit your physical location. This could be somebody clicking a “Get Directions” button or clicking your phone number to call you directly. Just as important, you need to be able to track these conversions accurately using AdWords, an Analytics platform, or a combination of both.

How else will you know the money you’re investing in PPC is actually working to drive people physically to your place of business? Trick question: you won’t.

The Proof

Did you find these tips useful? Great! Now, here’s the proof this all actually works.

We have a couple of current, large-scale examples at Portent where we’ve proven out this strategy (on top of many small business accounts). The businesses behind these examples will be anonymous, but the data is real. Here’s how each example compared three months prior to executing this strategy versus the following three months:

Example 1

Example 2

In both cases, conversions went up, the average cost per conversion decreased, and conversion rates increased, all by noticeable margins. As a result, PPC influenced more people to physically go to these places and grow these businesses. And that, really, is the whole point to this entire post: utilize these tactics to make more money.

Local PPC is important and can be leveraged very successfully for brands of any size. You just need to make sure you’re utilizing the key elements which make it a success. Have you had a successful local PPC campaign? Let us know in the comments below what worked for you.

Ryan MootHart, PPC Architect
PPC Architect

Ryan is a PPC architect at Portent, with more than a decade of experience managing large-scale e-commerce, international B2B lead generation campaigns, and everything in between. He became a published author in 2016 with the release of his book, Towards Cascadia, which is a non-fiction exploration of Pacific Northwest identity, bioregionalism, and nationhood. Outside of work, Ryan and his husband, Paul, enjoy traveling and are avid followers of Sounders FC, Seattle’s Major League Soccer club.

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  1. Hi Ryan,
    Great article, I am struggling with my local PPC campaign and after reading this article have got lot of useful information. Agree with your point that key elements in the campaign play an important role. Overall fantastic article to read. Thanks for sharing.

  2. We help local service providers almost exclusively at WebVitality, and I can not stress enough that Owners and Managers should not be setting up AdWords Express accounts. The default settings are horrific, and many of the options including you are discussing are either missing or very hard to figure out. Do yourself a favor, if you are that headstrong that you are going to go toe-to-toe with Google without professional help, at least do in the full AdWords platform so you stand a fighting chance.

  3. We have found the same results with AdWords – radius targeting provides more impressions and clicks. If you think about the computations that need to be made to calculate whether a person’s latitude / longitude coordinates are inside a 1000-sided shape like a zip code, vs. a simple circle, you’ll see that it’s easier for Google AdWords to make the calculation with radius targeting.

  4. It’s also important to note that you can exclude specific locations from your radius targeting. For example, if you want to cover a radius centered on Philadephia, Pennsylvania, but you have no interest in New Jersey, you could still use a 20-mile radius and then simply tell AdWords to exclude all of New Jersey. This strategy saves a lot of time and hassle.
    Thanks for sharing your data. It’s great to see proof that this strategy works!

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