Five Advanced Geo-Advertising Tips for Paid Search Marketers

globe2Google and Bing increasingly know where you are when you search, both on your desktop and on your mobile device. Geo-targeting accuracy has improved so much that it’s quickly evolving beyond its early form as a tool for businesses to target their service areas.

Couple this improved accuracy with a surge in mobile device use – particularly smartphone use – and it’s clear that 2014 will see even more growth in mobile use for search.

Even if you’ve opted out of buying smartphone traffic in Google and/or Bing thus far, it might be time to take a closer look at the intersection of mobile search and behavior. Let’s look at five areas you may not be thinking of when it comes to using geo-targeting and geographic variables within your paid search campaigns.

1. Use Mobile Geo-targeting to Refine Ad Messages Specifically for Those Searchers Who May Not Be Willing or Able to Transact on Their Device.

Research your consumer and their needs when using mobile devices. Those needs may differ and while the consumer may be identified as being early in the buying cycle (and therefore not ready to transact), other decisions the consumer makes while on a mobile device can make or break your revenue event. Remember: the ad copy that works to get people to become leads or create sales within the desktop and laptop environments may fail in a mobile context.

2. Use Custom Mobile Landing Pages that Include Geographic Context.

Consider what navigation and touch points to offer your consumer on a small, space-constrained mobile screen. Perhaps the mobile landing page is the perfect place to engage with your prospects and consumers socially. Likes, Twitter links, and Google+ are among the options that might work well for you. Should you merchandise video content on your mobile landing pages?

3. Use Geography as a Proxy for Audience Demographics to Bid More for the Audiences You Really Want.

My team and I have spent years looking at the extent to which geography can be used to sculpt the audience that sees an ad. Geo-targeting accuracy is far from perfect, but when it can change the odds of conversion, increase lead quality, increase shopping cart size, or lifetime customer value, then using the right geo-targeting strategy can empower you to bid into positions you could never otherwise afford.

4. Change Your KPIs and Success Metrics for Mobile Clicks and Traffic.

Commerce and transactions on mobile devices are higher than ever before, but many people still don’t transact on phones. This doesn’t mean that consumers aren’t telegraphing buying signals. Visits to the “contact us” page or phone calls are a great proxy for success. The key is valuing the proxy signals at approximately the right level.

5. Use Geography to Test Exactly How Much Your PPC Search, Display, Social and even Offline Marketing are Working.

This is perhaps the strongest in your geo-targeting bag of tricks. This kind of test is particularly instructive when you have a brick and mortar presence and are not a purely online business. Either way, this is one of the more fun tests you can do.

The idea is to do a geo-split test for all your paid media, including search. You can choose to use your own current customer data or third-party data sets (such as U.S. census data) to pick similar cities to test. The more types of media you want to test, the more similar cities you’ll need to find. The cities need to be large enough to have baseline data available before the test.

Plus, if you want to test more than a couple of media types, you’ll need to set up a matrix (fractional factorial design) to understand the interaction effects among media. This is particularly true for search and social media advertising. By choosing to dramatically amplify spending in one geographical area — while keeping it constant elsewhere — you’ll be able to look at not just the last-click value of the advertising you are buying, but the lagged impact as well.

2014 will be a huge year for mobile advertising growth, as well as a year when many CMOs start asking their teams to demonstrate the full value of marketing programs and channels. The ability to tune campaigns by geography can go a long way to not only maximize profit, but also to prove the full value that each form of advertising brings to the party.

Related reading

Screenshot shows a Google search for outdoor grills, the shopping ads shows images with “in store” showing the product is available nearby.