National Brands Wrestle with Local Online Advertising Pitfalls

A new study from Sterling Market Intelligence shows that while big brand advertisers are interested in local online advertising, they are struggling with how to go about it.

Nearly half of national advertisers reported that at least 25 percent of their online marketing budget goes to local targeting. Yet national brands remain confused about how to accurately measure ROI for their local online ad efforts.

That confusion is driving companies to test a hodgepodge of measurement techniques in an effort to find out if in-store sales are being driven by online ads, said Greg Sterling, principal of Sterling Market Intelligence.

“There was a surprisingly large percentage that were doing some sort of geo-targeting, and they were using lots of different traffic sources, different ways of measuring success and different tracking terminologies,” said Sterling. “I interpret that to mean they’re struggling.”

The study shows local online marketing is more difficult in some regards than national advertising. “Ideally, you’d want to tailor your message for every market you are in and that makes everything more labor-intensive,” he said.

The study, conducted by Sterling Market Intelligence, was commissioned by Marchex, a local search and advertising company. It included 67 national and 33 regional marketers.

“The Internet allows you to track keywords, in a search campaign, to a shopping cart,” said Sterling. “But if you are talking about conversions that happen off-line, that’s harder to track. There are different methods being used, including coupons, phone tracking and map views that people are using as proxies.”

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