Google Local: For More Than Just Local Businesses

Google has done more to facilitate local online advertising than anyone could easily quantify. Paid search allows regional marketers and small businesses to level the playing field between themselves and national competitors with local footprints and sizeable marketing budgets. Meanwhile, services like Google Maps and Google Coupons help businesses increase exposure and sales among the millions of consumers searching Google Maps for goods and services, all free of charge.

The latter placements in particular are ideally suited to small businesses executing their own, often-limited online marketing campaigns. But don’t think for a minute agency buyers and planners should dismiss such offerings as immaterial to larger clients. Restaurant franchises, retail chains, and automotive dealerships — virtually every sort of business with multiple storefronts — can benefit from Google’s local offerings.

This is especially true of local business ads, a format that, although introduced a year ago, isn’t yet enjoying the mass awareness it deserves. You may have noticed a link to this product in Google’s AdWords platform or right in its Local Business Center. Local business ads are designed to help advertisers promote specific business locations through a combination of Google Maps and AdWords paid search advertising.

When an advertiser creates a free local business center listing (which consists of the business name, address, phone number, hours of operation, payments accepted, relevant business categories, and the like), he becomes eligible to promote his services through a special location-targeted Sponsored Link. The ad, which looks a lot like the AdWords ads he may already be running for his client, features expanded business information and the client’s URL. It also displays a photo or logo, which assists in branding and advertiser recall.

To make things easy, Google allows businesses to create and manage these ads in its AdWords platform. As with AdWords, they’re targeted by keyword and sold on a CPC (define) basis.

As consumers search a map by category and location, or by business name, they’re exposed to the ad in a bubble tied to a map location marker. The ads are also served immediately under related free local listing results and can appear on Google.com, where they’re delivered to users within 20 miles of the business location (as determined by the user’s IP address).

Why pay for an ad when you can have a listing on the same page free of charge? Prominence and logo aside, local business ads provide businesses with the chance to relay a carefully crafted message to potential customers. Instead of being limited to address and contact information, advertisers can encapsulate their differentiating features within a couple of lines of copy, deliver a call to action, and incite a step toward a purchase by providing a link to their business sites.

Although its Local Business Center products clearly cater to small businesses, Google certainly doesn’t overlook larger clients. Those with more than 10 locations can send Google a data feed and complete a bulk upload of their location and ad information.

Lack of budget can be a powerful motivator. I sometimes think small businesses fare better uncovering creative and inexpensive marketing opportunities. Google’s free Maps local business listings and online coupons and its related paid search ads are no exception.

To omit these placements from campaigns for clients with a local presence because they have a do-it-yourself reputation would be an oversight. They may appear designed for small business, but they have just as much to offer your clients in the way of targeted local advertising.

Meet Tessa at Search Engine Strategies April 10-13 at the Hilton New York in New York City.

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