Pay-per-click advertising is one of the most effective forms of local online marketing: in a recent survey from eConsulting, digital marketing companies ranked it as the #3 tactic in terms of return on investment. While digital marketing companies may say it has a good ROI for their business, the question is whether or not local businesses can use pay-per-click ads to drive business. My answer is a definite “yes.”

By focusing on local targets, small business PPC can be a great way to direct highly-qualified leads to a website or local business.

Research keywords that have a local focus before you write your ads

Google, the biggest and most-effective PPC ad platform, has a free keyword tool — the Google AdWords Keyword Planner — that you can use to see how many monthly searches a keyword receives. You can even set the keyword search results to target only local searches (within a specified distance of your business location).
pay per click tools like google keyword planner

Using location-specific targeting is an extremely important step when researching keywords because small differences in phrasing or spelling can make a big difference in whether your small business PPC ad is a success or a dud. By refining your keyword search to include only local results, you ensure that your ad will be seen by qualified buyers who are nearby. In addition, you’ll get clear direction about which keywords and targeting parameters resonate with that audience so you can continue incorporating those best practices into your strategy.

Include local-specific content in your ad extensions to stand out in the PPC crowd

The average small business PPC ad has a  title with a link and a short blurb underneath, as you can see in the example below:
regular search result

However, by using ad extensions, you can include content that is geared specifically toward local customers and make your small business PPC ads stand out from the crowd. Using ad extensions is free, so you have nothing to lose. Plus, it’s free, so what do you have to lose?

Below is an example of a PPC ad that makes full use of ad extensions:
small business pay per click results

Not only is the ad is much more attractive, but it also offers highly-relevant information for local customers, such as the local address, phone number and reviews. The extra information that ad extensions provides to local customers will help them discover and evaluate your business.

Ad extensions also allow you to include:

  • A “Get Directions” button or link: A way for local customers to quickly take action when they see your ad.
  • Social extensions: Direct clicks to your social media pages.
  • Click-to-call: Automatically calls your business when clicked on from a mobile device.

These are just a few ways that you can use the features of ad extensions. For more, check out Google’s AdWords extension page for a complete list of opportunities.

By using ad extensions, you can tailor visual content to target local customers and make your ad stand out. It’s a win-win.

Send clicks on your small business PPC ads to locally-focused landing pages

Sending clicks to your homepage is an easy mistake to make (it’s logical!). However, It’s much better to send local PPC readers to a landing page on your site that has customized content for your local audience.

There are several reasons to do this:

  • You’ll increase the “quality” score of your PPC ads: Search engines give preference to ads that have a landing page that reflects the content of the ad. The higher your quality score, the more competitive your ad becomes in a search engine’s bidding system.
  • You won’t overwhelm customers: If customers are routed to your homepage, much more likely that they will get overwhelmed and leave your site before they find the information they came to find in the first place (hint: the content you included in your PPC ad).
  • Convert qualified buyers into paying customers:  If a visitor is immediately brought to a landing page that promotes  a 20% off sale with a printable coupon, they are more likely to use the deal vs. if they had to search your site to locate.

Unbounce is a landing page builder that provides excellent resources to help you increase your conversion rates.. The program uses A/B testing, creating multiple versions of a landing page and optimizing each based on which resonates most with viewers.

Reach local customers with location targeting

Once you get your PPC ad campaign up and running, it’s time to use  location targeting tools so you can reach qualified buyers and local customers. Location targeting restricts who sees your PPC ad to only people who are within a set distance of your business’s physical location.

When you’re first starting out, 30 miles is a solid choice and 40-50 miles is generally the maximum for local businesses. As you learn more what works (and what doesn’t) in your PPC ads, you can adjust accordingly. By using the location targeting tool, you ensure that your PPC ad dollars are spent on qualified buyers who are most-likely to take an action and convert to paying customers.

Evaluate and optimize!

Once you have a week or two of a PPC ad campaign under your belt, it is time to evaluate and optimize so that you reach your local audience..

To make the most of your small business PPC ad campaigns, try these ideas:

  • Create multiple ads and keep refining to see what works best:If you have multiple ads, the PPC system you are using  will automatically serve the version that it thinks will do best with a user — based on his/her profile — and give you the results. This means you can continually tweak and refine, incorporating elements of successful ads until you have the perfect combination that reaches your local customers.
  • Eliminate  negative keywords: After a week, you’ll notice that your ad is being shown for keywords that are unrelated to your business. If you classify these as “negative keywords,” the PPC platform will no longer show your ad when a user searches for this word. Eliminating negative keywords gives the PPC platform more information about your ad and helps its algorithm use your budget more effectively, driving down the cost you pay-per-click.  Bing has a great guide on how to use negative keywords effectively. Adjust your mobile ads: See if consumer response time varies widely between the mobile and desktop version of your ads.
  • Test the time an ad runs: If you have a store or call center that’s only open during certain hours of the day, this will be especially important.

PPC advertising has a lot of potential for local businesses — and is likely to become even more powerful with the growth of mobile search. If you use the guidelines above, you will be well on your way to using your PPC dollars effectively and reaching the local customers you are looking to attract.