How To: Adwords For Local Businesses & Agencies

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What if I told you that there was a vending machine that inputs $1 bills, you pull a lever, and—like magic—two $1 bills were spit out for your spending or investing pleasure? What about three $1 bills? Or five or twenty?!

If you read the title of this article, you’ve likely already guessed that I’m talking about Google Adwords. It brought in approximately 85% of Google’s revenue in 2015 to the tune of $64 billion (Investopedia).

It’s kind of a big deal.

Some statistics, if I may:

  • Google searches per second: 2.3 million
  • Percent of mobile searches with local intent: 56% (Search Engine Land)
  • Percent of local mobile searches that resulted in a purchase within one week: 78% (Search Engine Land)

Be it resolved that being found on Google is good for local businesses. Who knew? But Google Adwords is one of the most mature platforms for online paid advertising. Is it too late to be competitive? Too expensive? Maybe if you want to target the keyword “insurance,” which is currently running advertisers about $55 USD per click (Wordstream). What if we try the keyphrase “best insurance agent in Dayton”? Suddenly, our cost per click (or other action) is $3.50. It’s definitely not too late, but you have to play hyper local unless you’ve got lots of $$ to burn.

Let’s look at an insurance agent in Dayton Ohio as a client case study. They’ve asked us to spend $350 per month on Adwords for them over the next three months. After talking to the business manager, we find out that the easiest way for them to turn leads into sales is if customers call them, so we set up a campaign that drives calls from local Daytonians on their smartphones using an Adwords Call-Only campaign.

After the first month, we’ve been able to drive 100 phone calls to the insurance business for $3.50 a piece by using long tail local keywords, enticing ad copy and taking advantage of advanced programmatic bidding.

The business manager was diligent about asking callers where they were calling from, and it turns out that five of the calls from Adwords turned into sales of the agency’s main package, which goes for $2,000. Total revenue for the insurance agency was $10,000, resulting from a $350 ad spend. That’s a 2,857% return on ad spend.

Not bad.

Adwords For Local Businesses Works

So be the agency that offers Adwords services.

With Adwords being such a mature PPC platform, many agencies already offer it, but surprisingly few know how to master Adwords for local businesses.

Adwords for Local Advertising: Pro Tips

1. Use location targeting to only advertise in areas that the business services

This might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often this is missed. If you offer services in Queens and the Bronx, target those areas, not New York.

A step further: Specifically excluding nearby areas that the business doesn’t service can reduce costs.

2. Use Call Only Campaigns

It’s one thing to be able to tell a business that your agency has raised local brand awareness by reaching 10,000 people with 16,000 impressions, with a click through rate of 3.2%. These big numbers sound impressive, until the advertiser starts to think “what result is this really driving for my business?” If marketers can tie their advertising efforts to driving meaningful and trackable business results, they’ll end up with much less client churn.

Phone calls are an integral part of many small business’s funnel, and at the point of a phone call, consumers are typically close to converting. A phone call is also something that is bringing visible value to the business manager or owner.

Call Only Campaigns are a new feature introduced to Google Adwords in the Spring of 2016.

This campaign type eliminates budget waste in several ways:

  • No budget wasted on unwanted desktop clicks
  • No funnel leakage by making people navigate to a landing page to find a phone number and then call

3. Use Location and Call Extensions

If a business wants a more balanced approach that doesn’t exclude web traffic in favor of only phone calls, then creating a Search Network Campaign that utilizes Location and Call Extensions is the next best option.

Think of ad extensions as just that: they increase the size and functionality of a typical text ad from this:


To this:


Extensions are free, give your ad significantly more real estate on the SERP and provide many more ways for searchers to interact with the ad and travel down the funnel by calling, getting directions, finding hours of operation and learning more about the business. tweet

The bottom line: using Ad Extensions is not optional. Location and Call Extensions help drive offline conversions for local businesses.

4. Use Location Search Ads and Promoted Pins

When you are looking for businesses in your area, or looking for directions, who do you ask? My guess is Google. As local advertisers, we know that directional searches with local intent are often highly correlated with a local purchase in the near future. Well…

Source: funnyjunk, Futurama

Google has recently announced a variety of powerful features for their Location Search Ads, also known as Google Maps Ads. If you are unfamiliar with this ad format, you’re not alone. They’re an underutilized tool for local advertising in many markets.


Source: WordStream

One search result is featured above organic results in the list, as well as highlighted with a purple pin on the map results.

Source: WordStream

A similar result can be seen on desktop.

Advertisers are charged the same way as normal ads, for clicks. However, in Location Search Ads, the “call,” “directions,” or “more location information” buttons are the chargeable clicks, which are arguably more valuable for many local businesses than a click to a landing page.

A step further: Google recently announced a variety of new features that will be introduced to Location Search Ads. The foremost addition is called “Promoted Pins.” This feature is currently in beta, and helps the advertised location stand out with the addition of an on-map logo, and extensions that can give consumers even more information about the business such as featured sales.

Here’s an example of a Walgreens promoted pin.


Keep an eye out for these features to become available in your Adwords account.

5. Focus on Search Network Campaigns over the Display Network

Display network campaigns can be great for brand awareness, ecommerce conversions and retargeting, but Search Network campaigns often convert much better for local businesses.

Getting in front of people who are searching for the business’s products and services locally right now will get you a more qualified lead than someone who is browsing their favorite blog or news site.

If an advertiser is set on trying the display network, try these two tips to increase local effectiveness

  • Select local websites related to the business to appear on
  • Separate search network and display network campaigns to test

6. Bid on the business name

Why bid on the business name? Here’s why:

  • Good click through ratio and conversion rate—people are finding exactly what they’re searching for
  • The business might be at the top of organic search results, but many other results are also shown on the SERP. The more real estate at the top of the page that can be claimed for the business the better.
  • It’s cheap!

7. Use Dayparting to only advertise when the business can actually take calls

This is another point that just makes sense, but can be easily forgotten when setting up a campaign. This is especially important when creating Call-Only campaigns or Search Network campaigns utilizing call extensions. Ensure that you are not spending budget to send calls to a business that is closed.

Go Forth and Promote Local!

Adwords still works, especially for local. Leave us a comment below to let us know what kind of results you are seeing from these tactics, and what tests you are running to take your results even further. Have any more tips and tactics on Adwords for local businesses you use to spice up your advertising? Let us know!

Evan Knight

Evan is a Digital Advertising Specialist in Vendasta's Digital Agency. When he's not crafting stellar ads, you can find him at the coffee shop optimizing his PPC campaigns, planning his next hike and upvoting cat videos on Reddit.