AdWords Tactics For Local Businesses
Estimated reading time: 18 minutes, 20 seconds
In the wake of Enhanced Campaigns, AdWords has been criticized for being too expensive for local businesses to use effectively. Tara West from Koozai presented at BrightonSEO on this very subject and in this post she shares some of her top tips and tricks to make AdWords more cost effective and improve account performance for local businesses, from account structure to Quality Score.
Keyword Strategy and Account Structure
Account structure and keyword strategy are fundamental for any AdWords account, but particularly for small and local businesses where account structure and keyword choices can make or break the cost effectiveness of an account.
Since Enhanced Campaigns, AdWords have told advertisers that they should bid on all locations within one campaign because they now have fancy bid adjustments for location targeting. Don’t buy this nonsense!
For each product or service area, have two types of campaigns:
A geographically targeted campaign, which targets users who are physically located within the location you are targeting. This campaign will contain keywords such as ‘furniture shop’ and ‘sofa shop’.
A campaign which targets the whole of the UK, but contains keywords which include location terms, for example ‘furniture shop Brighton’, and ‘sofa shop Brighton’.
This structure allows you to make sure you still capture visits from users who have inaccurate IP addresses. My IP address says I’m based in London, but I’m actually based in Southampton, so if an advertiser was only geographically targeting Southampton and not using a nationwide campaign, they would miss out on my visit and potential conversion.
Having this structure also allows you to control your ad spend between locations, which you can’t do with bid adjustments alone. If the geographically targeted Brighton campaign performs best, you can ensure it has the bulk of the spend and reduce spend on the other campaign.
To create this account structure, simply create the standard campaign, and then copy and paste it into a new campaign, then amend the targeting settings.
Bid on your Brand Name
This tip sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many advertisers don’t invest enough in bidding on their brand name.
Even if you rank first organically for your brand name, you will lose conversions if you don’t also bid on it in AdWords. This is simply because if you aren’t in the ad space above your organic listing, someone else will be and you may lose a click (and potential conversion) to the ad above your organic listing.
Bidding on your brand name will have a very low Cost per Click, and will generate a fantastic Click through Rate. This CTR combined with unprecedented relevance will create an awesomely strong Quality Score, which will boost the performance of the rest of the account. The result is lower CTRs and a more cost effective account.
Use Modified Broad Match
I’m sure most of you know what Modified Broad Match is, but for anyone who doesn’t;
Modified Broad Match is a way of controlling broad match keywords, by prefixing a plus symbol (+) to the front of any word within the keyword string which must be included in the triggering search query. For example, if my keyword is ‘+Inclusive +Mauritius Holidays’ my ad might be triggered by the search term ‘Mauritius all inclusive breaks’ because the only words which were mandatory within the keyword were ‘Inclusive’ and ‘Mauritius’.
AdWords have started making some keywords with low search demand ineligible for auction. Previously they would still be eligible, but would be rarely shown simply because they were rarely searched for. They have now stopped the eligibility of these keywords all together in some instances. In my humble opinion, it’s a nice little tactic for AdWords to force advertisers to bid only on keywords which are going to make AdWords decent revenue. Run a keyword diagnostics report in AdWords and if you have this issue with any of your keywords, change them to modified broad match. In many cases, this makes the keywords become eligible again because the search demand is heightened by the broadened match type.
Modified broad match is also a fantastic way to discover new search terms in your Search Query Report, which can be added as keywords in their own right.
When you first launch new ad groups, I would recommend adding a modified broad match version of the keyword to the ad group in order to build up your impressions initially, so your keywords can start building their own Quality Score, because if impressions are too low your Quality Score is based on industry average which isn’t always a reflection of your specific performance.
Your bids play a large part in determining what you’ll pay per click, so they are crucial for making your account more cost effective.
Bid adjustments are a percentage increase or decrease on your original bid. They allow advertisers to tailor their bidding strategy to the users context; location, time of day, and device.
Google encourage you to use bid adjustments to increase your bids when a click may be of more value to you, but you can use them in much more resourceful ways which will allow you to combat any holes in your account which might be costing you unnecessarily.
Location Bid Adjustments
Google encourage local businesses to use location bid adjustments to increase bids where a click is most likely to be profitable for the advertiser. For example if an estate agent has offices in Southampton, Winchester and Basingstoke, bid adjustments could be used to increase bids in those areas on a campaign that targets the whole of Hampshire, or even down to a specific radius around the offices. This is one way to layer location bid adjustments, but it can also be used to reduce costs and combat dips in Quality Score.
An advertiser’s geographic performance is one factor which contributes to Quality Score at campaign level. This means that if your account performs badly in any particular location in any campaign, you may pay more per click in that location in all other campaigns. Bid adjustments can be used to combat this.
Using the data within the dimensions tab for your geographical performance at campaign level, identify any areas with particularly low CTRs. Create bid adjustments for these locations, so that your bids are slightly higher to increase your average position and boost your CTR and Quality Score for that area. If it isn’t profitable to bid up in that area because it doesn’t convert well, or it is simply too expensive, you should exclude that area from the campaign. This ensures the poor performance in that location doesn’t damage the Quality Score of the rest of the account.
Scheduling Bid Adjustments
Scheduling bid adjustments can be used in the same way as location bid adjustments, based on the time-of-day performance data you can find within the dimensions tab.
As with the location bid adjustments, if particular times of day, or days or the week consistently perform badly, adjust your ad schedule so that your ads don’t show during these times and your Quality Score isn’t damaged.
If you were a recruitment consultant, you might find that CTR and enquiries are particularly poor on a Friday afternoon, so you can amend your ad schedule so your ads don’t run at this time.
Device Bid Adjustments
Google have brainwashed local businesses into thinking they must target users on mobiles. This is not the case! How many times have you clicked an ad on your mobile and been taken to a site which isn’t mobile optimised? Frustrating isn’t it? So why would you waste money on sending people to a guaranteed shoddy user experience?
It’s not enough to simply say that your site works on mobiles because you can zoom in, it needs to be optimised for mobiles and ensure the user journey is smooth and a conversion can be easily completed online.
If your site is mobile optimised, set your mobile bid adjustments at ad group level to ensure you have more granular control over them. Base your bid adjustments on your current mobile performance. If you currently achieve an average position of two or above on mobile devices, then you can leave your bid adjustments as they are, or reduce them slightly if your average position is particularly high constantly. If you don’t have any data to base your mobile bid adjustment on, I’d recommend starting at -30% from my experience and then monitoring your average position and tweaking as necessary. As a general rule, your mobile bid should always be less than your desktop bid.
Weather Bid Adjustments
Weather bid adjustments is one use for AdWords Scripts, which is a tip all of its own! If you haven’t looked into AdWords Scripts yet, check out this blog (http://www.freeadwordsscripts.com/). AdWords scripts can help automate monotonous and time consuming optimisation activities.
In this particular script example, you can set your account so that your bids increase or decrease dependant on the weather forecast.
If you’re a local business who finds that things are busier during days when the sun has got his hat on, then increase your bids and visibility during these times without even having to log in and make the changes!
It works by using a free weather API and a Google Doc. It’s really straight forward to set up, and even though I don’t have a particularly strong knowledge of code I implemented it in ten minutes!
With a little bit of customisation, you can even create a script which changes which ads show in your account dependant on the forecast, so if you were a restaurant you could entice searchers with your ice cold summer smoothies in the summer and your creamy hot chocolate in the winter.
A link to the code can be found in the Resources slide at the end of the presentation.
Bid Adjustments Stack on Top of each Other
Chose the level of all bid adjustments with caution, as they all stack on top of each other. If location of the user is more important than the time of day at which they are searching, ensure your location bid adjustment creates a higher bid than that of your scheduling. For example, if your standard desktop bid is £1, and you bid +10% for Brighton, and then +10% between 1 and 2pm, your total bid would be £1.21. Personally, I’d stick with percentages like 4% or 5% rather than large increases like 10%.
Google Analytics Bid Adjustments Report
As a local business, a contact form submission might not be as valuable as other metrics such as time on site or pages per visit. This report allows you to see this data alongside your bid adjustments with greater ease than within the AdWords interface, and you can also see ecommerce values alongside it if that’s applicable to your business.
In the example used in my slide, you can actually see that the bid adjustment for the area of Chelsea performs poorly, with a low time on site compared to other locations. As a result I would remove that bid adjustment, or exclude the area completely if it just doesn’t seem to convert as it’s not cost effective and may be having a negative effect on my overall Quality Score and Quality Score of other campaigns.
Tips and Tricks
The next section of the presentation focuses on little tips and tricks to make your account more cost effective to improve your Quality Score or make the management of the account easier in general.
Sustaining Your Average Position
The average position which is reported within your AdWords account, is not the actual average position which is used to calculate your Quality Score.
The average position in your account, is only the average position of the times when your ads have gone to auction and been eligible to show. If there are instances when your ads haven’t been eligible due to low relevancy or bids, this will still negatively affect your Quality Score, but you won’t be aware of it within your AdWords account.
To combat this, add the column into your keyword table to view Search Lost Impression Share Due to Rank. If your keywords are losing impression share due to rank, it means they aren’t eligible to run every time there is an auction because their relevance of bid is too low.
Review any keywords which are losing more than 5% of impression share due to rank, to ensure they are as relevant as possible to their ad text and landing page. If the impressions share still doesn’t increase, try increasing your bids on those keywords. Do this at keyword level so you are only increasing bids on those keywords which actually need it.
This will help ensure your keywords are eligible more often, and increase your Quality Score, resulting in lower CPCs and a more cost effective account.
Controlling your Ad Spend
Adjusting your ad schedule often, and tweaking your bids, can mean that you are changing your daily budgets all the time too.
If you pay by monthly invoice, you can set a monthly cap on your AdWords account, so that it will never spend over that amount in any monthly period, regardless of the daily budget.
The only downside is that Google don’t give you any warning when your ads stop showing because of this, so keep an eye on this limit, or set up an AdWords script to alert you when impressions drop to zero. That’s a handy script to have even if you aren’t using monthly billing caps!
Bespoke Location Landing Pages
Bespoke landing pages can increase your conversion rate, as well as your landing page relevance and Quality Score. As a result, CPCs will decrease and your account will become more cost effective, as well as delivering more conversions!
Create a location landing page for each of the main locations you offer your product or service in. The page should have content which is bespoke to that location, and service or product.
Follow UX and CRO best practice with compelling content and a clear call-to-action.
If you are using these landing pages purely for PPC, remember to exclude them from being indexed using your robots.txt file or a noindex tag.
Who’s Watching You?
We all get ideas from looking at what our competitors are doing, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you want to keep your ideas to yourself, you can block your competitors IP addresses so they can’t see your ads.
Use a tool such as WhoIs (http://whois.net/) to find out your competitors IP address. They might not work from the same IP address as they host their site on, so you can also get their IP address from their email. Learn how to do this at http://aruljohn.com/info/howtofindipaddress/.
You can then block up to 20 IP addresses per PPC campaign, which means they won’t be served your PPC ads.
Google for Non Profits
If you work for a non profit organisation or charity, you can get an AdWords grant from Google which provides you with £10,000 per month in ad spend. The main limitation with the grant is that your maximum CPC bids will be capped at £2, but it’s free money so it’s worth giving it a go!
Please note that Google Grants are only available in the UK and US, and are not applicable to government projects.
Now that your account has a strong Quality Score, and your ads are in a strong average position, you can enhance your ads further using ad extensions.
Ad extensions can increase CTR by up to 20% in some instances, and they are a great way to get more engagement from users, for the same price as a click. The very nature of ad extensions means you are getting more ad space for your money – a bobby bargain if you ask me!
I’d recommend setting up all different kinds of ad extensions available, as some will be more successful than others on different campaigns and in different verticals. Google will chose which kind of extension to show based on the search query semantics and historic ad extension performance.
This presentation covers just a few new extensions or extensions which are particularly relevant to local businesses.
Review extensions are a way for non-ecommerce advertisers to embellish their ads with customer reviews. Previously only ecommerce advertisers who sold products via Google shopping could show customer testimonials by using Seller Ratings, but now local businesses and non-ecommerce sites can do this too!
The review must be featured on a website which Google deems to be reputable, and can only be 67 characters long. If a user clicks the review extension on an ad, they will be taken to the review website, however you will not pay for the click.
Email extensions (or communication extensions), work best on branded campaigns, as the user is more likely to submit their details to you in exchange for offers and news if they are aware of and trust your brand.
They are a great for integrating your AdWords advertising into the rest of your digital strategy using email marketing.
Contact your AdWords Rep to get them set up for your account.
Image extensions are a great way for local businesses and non-ecommerce services to enhance their ads with images. Product Listing Ads have bought this to ecommerce advertisers for a while now, and Image Extensions mean that local businesses and non-ecommerce advertisers can now do the same. They are particularly good for visual products or services such as holidays or property.
Image Extensions are implemented at ad group level, so they need to be relevant to all keywords in the ad group.
Google are quite picky on what they deem as suitable images, so be careful not to use too much white space, text within the image or logos. Contact your AdWords Rep to get these for your account.
Call extensions are nothing new, but now you can make them more cost effective by scheduling them so they only run when you are in the office to take a call. This means you aren’t paying for click-to-calls when it’s not going to result in a conversion because you aren’t there to pick up the phone.
You can also now set a minimum call time to be counted as a conversion. For example if someone calls an estate agent to request a viewing for a property, but they are told the property is already sold, the call might end pretty swiftly. If they agree to view another property instead or provide their details to be contacted in the future the call would probably last at least one minute, which indicates it is of more value to the advertiser. In this example I would set my minimum call duration as 60 seconds to be counted as a conversion.
As a local business, you might think you don’t have anything which qualifies as an offer that can be used with offer extensions, but you’d be surprised.
Offer extensions aren’t just for discounts or sales, but can also be used for any of the following:
- Free downloads
- Free delivery
- Free consultation
- Free site review
- Free whitepapers or resource downloads
- Free call-outs
A client of mine offers plumbing services, which naturally means that the first call out they do is just to assess the issue and provide a quote. This can be considered a free call-out, which can be used in an offer extension.
It’s important to keep in mind that Google designed Offer extensions to encourage footfall into physical stores, so it may be that in the future they clamp down on offers which relate to online redemptions such as free downloads, but for now pretty much anything can be turned into an offer!
So Much More than Search…
AdWords is the most established form of PPC advertising, so it is naturally the most expensive because it’s been around longer and has more people using it and driving up ad costs. There are also lots of other ad formats which can also provide really cost effective results alongside, or instead of PPC.
Remarketing is fantastic as a brand awareness activity, but also provides a strong level of conversions in my experience. This blog post talks you through tips and tricks for remarketing.
YouTube advertising can be really cost effective with the new TrueView ad format, because you only pay when a decent proportion of your ad is viewed or someone clicks though to your website. CPCs on YouTube are substantially lower than on standard PPC ads. If you’re an ecommerce site you could also try Product Listing Ads which can convert really well if optimised properly.
I hope that this presentation has given you some tips and tricks on how to improve the cost effectiveness and performance of your AdWords account as a local business, and if you have any questions please leave a comment below.