Local Search Advertising, Part 2: Targeting Recommendations

Wow, there’s lots going on in local search! In just the past few weeks, several announcements have been made that affect search marketers:

These events have a potentially significant impact on local marketers, and I’ll likely cover them in future columns. This week, let’s stay the course and complete our two-part discussion on local targeting of search ad campaigns.

In part one, I reviewed the various search targeting methods currently available: geotargeted campaigns, local keywords, campaigns on local search sites, and ads on maps. Today, I’ll cover recommended campaign strategies and the best ways to combine and capitalize on these targeting methods.

Geotargeting Recommendations

Geotargeted campaigns rely on IP-targeting technology and are offered by Google, MSN, and Yahoo (post-Panama release). Ads are served based on a searcher’s physical location.

These campaigns work well for local marketers who need to reach people in a state, town, city, or metro area or people located within a certain distance of the business. Geo-targeted campaigns are also effective for national or regional companies wanting to present locally relevant ads. For example, a national chain of automobile quick-lube shops might advertise across the country but serve ads and offers that vary by location or dealership.

There are several advantages associated with these campaigns. For example, geotargeted ads on Google compete with all other ads for relative position on a keyword, but Google views targeted ads as highly relevant on a local search. This means geotargeted ads usually have an inherent Quality Score advantage over non-targeted ads for a local search.

Another advantage is Google’s fifth line of ad text specifying the targeted location. Searchers often view an ad that explicitly states location as more relevant than a message with no location information. This increases response rate and, hence, Quality Score.

Yet despite all these advantages, geotargeted campaigns don’t work well for marketers trying to reach people who are traveling, visiting, or moving into a certain area. And targeted campaigns are limited because ad networks can’t always determine IP address or map it to a location. If this is the case, geotargeted ads aren’t eligible to be shown.

Local Keyword Recommendations

Within any PPC (define) campaign, marketers can include local keywords. This is actually the original method of local search advertising. It doesn’t rely on targeting technology and isn’t focused on where the searcher is physically located. Instead, the searcher must specify location as part of her query. For example, if a searcher enters “Orlando Florida hotel,” Disney would likely want to show an ad, regardless of the searcher’s physical location.

The challenge here is to include all variations of location-specific keywords in a campaign. Even when using broad match, a marketer must specify location in many different ways. State name, state abbreviations, city names, nicknames, neighborhood names, and Zip and area codes should all be tested as elements of keyword phrases.

This type of campaign is absolutely required for businesses trying to reach travelers, visitors, and movers. The best example is a real estate agent. There’s a good chance a person searching for “san diego custom home” isn’t located in San Diego when she conducts this search.

Local Search Site Recommendations

Ad opportunities also exist on local search sites and maps. Google Maps, Yahoo Local , and MSN Live Local are all examples of local search sites.

Ads on local search sites work particularly well for marketers trying to drive people into brick-and-mortar stores or get prospects to call. This is primarily because local sites focus on maps, driving directions, contact information, basic business facts, and now the ability to connect via phone and print coupons. Restaurants, local service providers, and retail shops have embraced this form of local search advertising.

The key to success with this approach is writing ads that are geographically and culturally relevant and providing a specific, compelling call-to-action to local customers.

Integrate Multiple Methods

Each of these targeting methods offers unique advantages and challenges. Test them all, measure the results, and allocate budget as appropriate to improve ROI (define). In most cases, an integrated approach is required for maximum results.

Use geo-targeting to reach a local audience in a highly relevant way. Use local keywords to supplement geo-targeted campaigns and to reach movers, travelers, and visitors. And implement ads on local sites and maps to drive foot traffic and phone calls.

Bottom line: there’s more than one way to reach the local searcher.

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

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