3 Ways Local Small Businesses Can Use PPC

This article by Howie originally appeared on Search Engine Watch.

Local small businesses rarely use Google’s AdWords program to its full potential. Want to learn three cool ways to use AdWords, even if the local business doesn’t have the world’s most robust online presence? If you help local businesses with their online marketing, these strategies will be very useful arrows in your quiver.

1. Straight-up AdWords for Traffic and Leads

First, there’s the obvious reason for setting up an AdWords account for a local client: nearly instant traffic. AdWords is now more important than SEO for local searches, since between ads, maps, and local listings (the “7-pack”), the top organic listing is often below the fold, as this screenshot below demonstrates:


A compelling ad can start generating traffic right away. Notice the uninspiring headlines in the above screenshot? “Dentist.” “General Dentistry.” Dental Care Provider.” “Find a Local Dentist.” Wow, talk about “Mad Men”. If you’re advertising a dental practice, use the headline to differentiate your ad:

  • Big Benefit: Gentle Dentist for Cowards
  • Social Proof/Story: “I Woke With a Toothache”
  • Great Offer: Get $300 Whitening Coupon

In conjunction with a prominent Google Places listing and lots of favorable reviews, AdWords can produce a prominent presence on the search results page.

Unlike national campaigns where keyword selection is a complex job, local markets don’t require hundreds or thousands of medium- to long-tail keywords. Instead, if you geographically limit the campaign to a city or metro area, you can successfully bid on broad match short-tail words like “dentist” or “oral surgeon.”

As a bonus, Google rewards this sloppy bidding strategy by letting you know the exact search phrases that triggered your ads. You can add those keywords to you AdWords account, optimize just those phrases for organic SEO, and make sure the pages that receive this most targeted traffic contain specific, relevant, and compelling content.

2. Test Messaging For Other Media

Even if the local search volume is so low that the number of new leads is negligible, AdWords has another trick up its sleeve. By split testing different ad copy, businesses can find the best copy for their print ads, radio and TV scripts, and yellow pages listings.

It’s not unusual for one ad to perform 2-5 times better than another. Imagine leveraging that improvement across all advertising platforms – especially the ones where testing is unwieldy, expensive, or just plain impossible.

Since most offline media is of the “interruption” variety (print ads, radio and TV commercials, billboards, etc.), you can take advantage of the interruption arm of AdWords, the Display Network. Not only does the Display Network generate about 10 times the traffic of search, the clicks are also cheaper (typically half the price of clicks from search). So the Display Network is the perfect place to find the messages, offers, and calls to action in offline media.

3. Remarketing for Lead Gen and Branding

Remarketing is one of the most powerful AdWords features – and one of Google’s best kept secrets. You’ve experienced remarketing if you’ve ever seen an ad “follow” you around the web. Here’s what happened: you visited a website and Google planted a remarketing cookie on your computer. Now whenever you visit a page in the AdSense network, Google checks for cookies and often shows you ads based on sites where you’ve already demonstrated interest.

Remarketing done well can make you seem ubiquitous, like a giant billion-dollar brand, even if your ad budget is a couple of hundred bucks a month. Because you’re only ubiquitous for the very targeted and highly qualified people who have already visited your site, and didn’t convert on their initial visit.

Imagine sending your local business client a screenshot of their ad on the New York Times or Washington Post – while keeping their advertising budget under $300 per month.

Here’s a powerful local twist to remarketing: when you get an inbound call, try to take the prospect to a page on your website where you have a demo, a price list, a feature list; whatever can help educate your prospect and further the sale.

Stick the Google remarketing code on that page, so that your ads now follow the prospect around the web. Instead of being one more forgettable contender for the prospect’s business, you soon become the dominant player; the obvious choice.

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