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Local-Speak: An Advertiser's Secret Weapon

  |  October 26, 2006   |  Comments

An everyday tactic that enables you to successfully compete against larger players with big budgets.

Local business marketers who engage in search advertising, or any type of online advertising for that matter, have a secret weapon, a hidden everyday tactic that can make a big difference in results and ROI (define). As a local marketer, you should embrace this advantage because it enables you to successfully compete against larger players with big ad budgets.

What is this best-kept secret?

Ad copy. That's right, ad copy.

There's a certain way local businesses act and talk that's completely different from the way large, national brands communicate. I like to refer to this style as "local-speak." By applying local-speak to your online advertising efforts, you can differentiate your business from large national players that aren't tapped into the local scene.

At the recent Search Engine Strategies Local conference in Denver, Brad Geddes of LocalLaunch suggested local businesses write ads that are both geographically and culturally relevant.

Geographically Relevant Ads

Just how specific should you be when it comes to describing the geographic area you serve, both in terms of ad copy and in terms of how you geotarget your ads?

Geddes urges advertisers to go to the lowest possible common denominator. Be as specific as you can be about the locations you serve. What's appropriate will vary based on your business and the audience you're trying to reach.

If you own a local diner, for example, it can be very effective to mention the town's name in your ad. If you manage a department store, ad copy should probably mention the region you serve. If you're a lawyer or professional licensed to serve an entire state, geotarget the state and say this in your copy.

Culturally Relevant Ads

Say you're searching for an Italian restaurant in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. The ad copy, "Olive Garden Italian restaurant located in Minneapolis, MN" certainly specifies a location, but it doesn't feel very local, does it? This is a generic statement into which any city name can be inserted.

Compare this ad copy: "Guido's Italian Eatery -- Serving Twin City foodies for 15 years." This is much more interesting, unique, and relevant.

More statements that truly localize an ad:

  • Serving the Mile-High City for 20 years

  • Located in the historic Mapleton district

  • Delivering across the tri-state area

If you're in Manhattan craving one of those famous New York City deli bagels, which ad would you find more compelling?

Bagel Bagel Café
Breakfast, Sandwiches and Catering
Franchises Available

Fresh NY Bagels
NYC bagels. 5 locations.
Baked daily. Open daily 6 - 2
New York, NY

The second ad is more appealing for a couple reasons. First, the fifth line of text indicates the ad is targeted to people located in New York City. Second, the copy mentions New York and New York City several times and provides locally relevant information, such as locations, hours, and product freshness.

Test Ad Copy by Location

What searchers find valuable and compelling varies by location. There's always more than one way to communicate your unique selling proposition. Say you have multiple locations in a single state and want to convey this benefit to searchers. Here are two lines of ad copy LocalLaunch recently tested for a client:

  • Convenient locations near you

  • Locations throughout the state

Which is better? It depends on where the searcher is located.

"Convenient locations near you" worked best in large metro areas where people don't want to travel far. For big city searchers, value equals close, fast, and convenient.

But "locations throughout the state" performed best in rural locations where people are accustomed to traveling longer distances. For rural searchers, value equals coverage and availability.

Just how important is this distinction? Very! Geddes reported a six-times improvement in searcher response (i.e., click-through rate) by testing both versions of copy and using the best-performing copy for each type of location, city and rural.

Talk to Me

By integrating granular geotargeting with relevant, localized ad copy, small businesses can differentiate themselves from large, national advertisers and do what they do best: be active members of the local scene and better serve their communities.

Combine this with other local ad features, such as ads that display on Google Maps and online couponing -- and you've got a winning recipe for unique, relevant, local online advertising.

Be local. Act local. Talk local.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.


Patricia Hursh

Patricia Hursh is president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing, a Boulder, CO, based SEM agency established in 1999. The company specializes in interactive solutions designed to generate leads, acquire customers, and build brands online.

A true pioneer of digital marketing, Patricia has been using technology to improve marketing and communications for over 13 years. She's worked with a variety of companies, including Qwest, Microsoft, and Time Warner Cable. As a recognized search marketing expert, Patricia regularly serves as a subject matter expert for industry publications and is a frequent speaker at such conferences as Search Engine Strategies, ad:tech, and DMA.

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