The strategies and tactics for how small, local businesses can build an online presence and reach prospective customers on Google has changed dramatically over the past decade. Today, roughly 82% of people search online to find local businesses, whether in an immediate need (such as looking for a roofing contractor to replace their leaky roof) or wanting to better their livelihood (such as looking for an optometrist to test out contacts or a remodeling contractor to upgrade their kitchen). While all aspects of marketing is critical to building an expansive, trustworthy online reputation, search advertising can be one of the most effective strategies for generating new (and local) customers because ads occupy a majority of “real estate” at the top of local search results, regardless if you’re browsing using a laptop or phone.
And when it comes to advertising, Google Ads has become one of the easiest and most effective ways for local business owners to reach new customers and grow their businesses profitably—but only if they know how to leverage the platform correctly.
If you’re trying to figure out how to use Google Ads, the process can seem a little overwhelming at first, but don’t fret. We’ve compiled some tips to help you maximize the return on investment from your advertising spend while simultaneously avoiding some costly pitfalls.
Why Are Google Ads Important?
It’s more important than ever before to catch consumers’ attention because the competition has never been greater. At the same time, standing out from the crowd is becoming increasingly more difficult. Did you know that, on average, consumers see branded advertisements every 17 seconds? It’s true! This is one of the reasons it can be tough for local business owners who are just starting out to distinguish themselves in an ever-crowded online marketplace. To help, it’s important to first understand the latest trends so that you can identify patterns and take advantage of new emerging trends before your competition catches on.
How People Search Today
Google Ads helps put your business in front of the people who are most likely to pay attention to your messages at the times when they’re primed to make purchases. Of course, there’s been a rapid shift in connected device use in recent years; in 2017, there were around 8.4 billion connected devices being used globally. Fast forward to 2020, and that number has soared to 20.4 billion. Among the leading trends in the search world, people are increasingly using “where to buy” and “near me” phrases in their searches; these phrases have bolstered 200% in the past two years. Mobile searches containing “best” and “right now” have also grown exponentially, topping out at more than 125% increases in the past two years.
The Emergence of Voice Search
As a local business owner, one thing you really should be aware of is the increasing trend in voice-enabled searches. Voice is increasingly fueling the ecosystem, showcasing a 27% growth with people who are using voice search on mobile. Voice search is changing the way people interact with search engines. This change, in turn, could change the ways in which Google ads are distributed and viewed. As you embark on your journey to learn how to use Google Ads, it’s important to keep the idea of optimizing for voice searches in mind when you’re writing copy for online ads.
Voice search queries are longer than traditional typed queries because they rely on natural conversation. This means your customers are more likely to use long-tail keywords (keywords that are longer and more specific keyword phrases that people are more likely to use when they’re talking to another person).
“Roofing contractor” vs. “Who is the best roofing contractor near me with a star-rating greater than 4.0?”
Research & Insights Into Google Searches
COVID-19 has had some interesting impacts on the ways consumers and businesses interact. According to Google, three out of four homeowners made home improvements during the COVID outbreak, and searches for auto parts and service have grown more than 16% year over year in quarter three alone. Searches for “financial advisor near me” have grown by more than 70% year offer year, while searches for “unemployment lawyer near me” is up 250% year over year.
What are these insights telling you? On the surface, you might not really notice any similarities, but if you pay attention to the trends, you’ll notice this data can fuel the way you create ads and attract attention from your customers. If you operate a local hardware store, wouldn’t you want to know that 75% of homeowners are currently making DIY repairs and upgrades on their homes right now? And if you’re an unemployment attorney, you might be more inclined to buy some pay-per-click (PPC) ad space right now, given that people are looking for your services at record-breaking rates.
When users plug inquiries into Google’s search engine, that data is captured and can be used to help you create ads and bid on keywords that will bring in the most qualified leads.
Benefits of Using Google Ads
Think about the last time you searched for something. At the top of the page, there were probably a few companies that have mastered Local SEO, thereby ranking high on the search engine results page (SERP). More than likely, that’s not all you saw, though; some of the businesses that appear in prime positions were probably the result of a Google Ads campaign underway. When you use Google Ads, you pay the search engine to display your advertisement to customers who search for relevant terms on Google Search and Maps.
Google Ads works like this: you set the audience who’s seeing your ad to be within your specific local market. Then, you’ll create compelling copy using images or a few short sentences to tell Google what makes your business special. Finally, you set a budget, which Google will use to forecast your Google Ads campaign’s success and your ad will be launched to the world (or, rather, your specified target audience). The people who fall into your ideal demographic and display relevant search behaviors will see your ad rank high and appear towards the top of their searches, and as more people click on your ads, the closer you’ll come to hitting your preset budget.
Now that you know how Google Ads works, let’s talk about why you should consider using it for your local business in your digital marketing strategy.
1. It Increases Leads and Customers
Google Ads is an excellent tool when it comes to local lead generation. If your campaigns are set up correctly, Google Ads has the potential to send extremely targeted leads directly to your website, landing pages, or opt-in forms. It allows you to focus on the people who are actively searching for the types of products and services your business provides.
2. It Offers Flexibility
Google Ads is a very flexible marketing platform that’s suitable for businesses of all sizes and types. It’s compatible with a wide range of other marketing platforms and software systems, too, enabling you to literally turn internet traffic on or off with a few clicks of your mouse.
Google Ads gives you the ability to customize your campaigns in ways that reach specific searchers. For example, you can choose to target users by location, the type of device they’re using to do their searching, and which Google-owned product (Google Search, Maps, or YouTube) they’re accessing this information through.
Another great example of flexibility is the fact that you can set your own budget for various aspects of your campaigns. As an example, you have the ability to set daily budgets and limits on the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for clicks on specific keywords so you’re in total control of your budget.
3. It Provides a High Return on Investment
Since you’re only paying for your Google Ads when people actually click them, you can achieve a high ROI if you optimize your Google Ads campaigns. Be mindful, however, that this takes time, and you may need to test several campaigns before you find the approach that suits you best. This is why you must continually analyze the data that comes in from your campaigns so you can see what’s working and where you’re achieving the best ROI. Fortunately, Google Ads is a very transparent marketing platform, and you’ll have all the information you need available at your fingertips.
When you find aspects of your campaigns that are achieving positive ROI, turn your focus and budget toward those areas. At the same time, if you notice parts or entire campaigns where you’re spending money but not realizing any benefit, get rid of them.You can invest those savings into successful campaigns.
4. You Can Achieve Fast Results
Google Ads has a reputation for delivering quick, straightforward results and reports. Since it’s easy to analyze, you’ll be able to track the progress of your efforts from your dashboard, such as:
- Ads clicked
- Keywords visitors entered to find your ad
- Cost of clicks
5. It Gives You Access to Huge, High-Quality Traffic Sources
It’s no secret that Google itself is massive and dominates much of the search landscape. This also means the search giant can send your business a massive amount of traffic every day, assuming you have the right budget for it and have optimized your Google Ads campaigns accordingly.
Google is known for showcasing relevant content and ads, and it’s constantly evolving its algorithms to improve the experience for both consumers and businesses that advertise on the platform. Because of this, the leads it sends your way are more likely to be well-qualified than audiences you might attract from other forms of marketing.
6. It Offers You Insights Into Your Market
In order to truly operate a successful marketing campaign, you need to be able to get inside the minds of your customers. Understanding what they’re thinking about and why they behave the way they do will make it a lot easier to create ads and content that speak to their pain points and desires.
Obviously, mind-reading isn’t a skill most of us have, but if you’re using Google Ads, you do have a way to gain market insights that can transform the way you interact with your audiences. The platform can yield results about consumer habits and requirements that you would have only been able to dream of a generation ago. The more information you glean from the platform, the more capable you’ll be to improve your products and services—as well as refine your marketing efforts—so you’re providing relevant, valuable ads without wasting your money or energy along the way.
Google Search Advertising Strategy
When you think of Google, you probably think of the search engine that’s fueled so many users’ quests for information that it’s literally become its own verb. While that’s certainly one property that Google owns, the company actually enables ads across eight different properties that have more than 1 billion users. You can display your company’s ad on any or all of these platforms:
- Google Search
- Google Maps
- Google Assistant
- Google Chrome
- Google Play
When you create a Google Ads campaign, your listing has a better chance of appearing at the top of searchers’ results when the keywords and phrases they’re searching for match your business’s offerings. Google Ads are intentionally designed to appear visibly native to the search results pages because all of the results shown to users—whether organic or paid—should show up based on the user’s intent for that specific query. The platform’s algorithms take in millions of signals, such as time of day and location into account so the most relevant results surface for the searchers.
Local Service Ads
Paid local search ads appear at the top of Google’s SERPs, highlighting local businesses first to users who are intentionally searching for those types of companies. This is important for local business leaders to understand because it makes it easy for local providers to connect with people in their area who are ripe to become new customers. Advertisers can get qualified leads and stay in control of bookings and sales within the global Google platform.
The next area is the Google Ads paid search area. These can appear in a variety of places on the page, including the right hand side, the bottom of the page, or directly beneath the local ads section. Google matches the ads to a person’s search based on how closely the user’s search inquiry matches the keywords you’ve chosen for your ads within your campaign settings.
Google My Business
Google My Business is another section you and your customers might see in the search results. If your a local business owner and haven’t yet set up your Google My Business account, you should make this a priority as you’re learning how to use Google Ads. This is because Google uses its knowledge of searchers’ locations and intents to showcase the most relevant listing to those users at the right time. Unlike paid searches, Google My Business is free to use and complements paid search efforts very well. You need to claim, set up, and maintain your Google My Business account to ensure it’s working its hardest for you. With this platform, you can also upload photos and easily adjust any pertinent business information, such as changed hours or a new location.
The final set of search results you’ll see on a Google SERP are the organic search results. While it certainly is possible to rank high organically, the process is significantly slower than paid efforts, and it takes time to gain visibility and traction. Additionally, because it’s a free product, it’s very competitive, meaning you might find that it’s hard to even be seen with your organic efforts.
Successful Search Campaign Best Practices
For many local business owners, the idea of search advertising can be quite intimidating. If you can relate, stay tuned. Local search advertising is Surefire Local’s passion, and we love helping our customers attain maximum reach and exposure online. We go beyond simply setting up campaigns and incorporating a few keywords in target cities; we find ways to use technology to analyze the data that comes back to us so we can provide you with actionable insights and new ways that you can optimize your campaigns.
Before you begin any sort of campaign, you need to set goals and determine what success looks like. Keywords and campaign strategy alone can’t help you determine if you’re on the right track or not. You need to have a baseline in place and measurable (attainable) metrics so you can truly understand when you’re hitting your goals.
It’s important to set your campaigns up for success from the very beginning, which is often why it’s helpful to work with a local marketing partner who knows how to use Google Ads optimally. A higher quality score and rank can mean more ad exposure, clicks, and links, but you need to understand how to set everything up first before you can achieve success. Your ad rank (position on the page) = max bid x quality score. Your ad rank can be influenced by a number of factors including:
- Ad quality
- Landing page quality
- Context of the person’s search
- Expected impact of the ad extension
It’s important to integrate ad groups into your campaigns so you can insert appropriate keywords and relevant ad copy that ties back to the various groupings. This allows you to get the best possible quality score so you can ultimately get the best ad rank. Targeting is also essential, and it’s not just about keywords. Setting up your targeting strategies appropriately will save you time and money in the long run. Google also offers a lot of other settings that can help you target and hone in on your ideal customer, including:
- Audience demographics
- Negatives (the things we block, such as keywords that don’t make sense)
- Exclusions (blocking audiences you don’t want to show your ads to)
Of course, keywords will always be important in your marketing strategies. Although there’s a lot that goes into search optimization, keywords are really the foundation of a great plan. They’re the basis for any search campaign. At Surefire Local, we use keywords to ensure we can attract the right customers to our clients’ brands. There are several different types of keywords:
- Broad match keywords are those that capture the upper funnel or utilize long-tail queries to gain the attention of people looking for generalized searches. The keywords can be very similar to other keyword phrases or synonyms for competitors’ phrases. This is why it’s important to include negative keywords into your settings.
- Phrase match and +BMM keywords are matched to people with more intent and offer control for reach. For example, if you’re a bathroom remodeling company, you might seek phrase matches on something like “bathroom remodel in [city name]” or “best “bathroom remodeling company”. This is a great approach when you’re trying to target local customers who are seeking geographically relevant companies.
- Exact match keywords often incorporate “near me” terms. This is where your marketing partner will go after high-value keywords so you get exact hits from the people who are looking for the products and services your customers are searching for.
When it comes to creating content for your ad campaigns, it’s vital to create clear, concise messaging. To help yourself with ad rank, you need to include your brand, relevant keywords, calls-to-action, trust signals, and offer messages.
Every business’s goals are different, and you can even have different goals for different stages of your business cycle. The following are some common goals you might be seeking for your own brand:
- Growing website traffic
- Increasing sales
- Boosting qualified leads
- Encouraging product and brand consideration
- Improving brand awareness and reach
Surefire Local combines our expertise, proprietary intelligence, best practices, and smart technology to achieve our customers’ goals.
Target to Find the Right Customers
Targeting requires a mix of science and creativity. You need to know your audience’s demographics, affinities, and intentions so you can create campaigns that hit on their pain points. This means you need the tools in place to help you understand who your customers are and what they’re really looking for.
Compelling Messages that Drive Results
Yes, you need keywords, but that’s not the whole puzzle. You also need to ensure that you’re including calls-to-action so you can usher your viewers from searchers to customers easily. Tell them what you have to offer, why it’s important that they found you, and where they can go to complete the purchase process. From there, make sure your landing pages and web pages are easy to navigate and provide the information that resonates with the keywords those searchers were inquiring about.
Track, Measure, and Optimize Campaigns
Setting up tracking is really important if you want to ensure that you’re learning how to use Google Ads correctly. Call tracking is a great metric that isn’t used as much as it should be. When incorporated into your ads, you can easily see who called you from an ad, versus customers who might have found you a bit more randomly by searching online. When you know how customers are finding and connecting with you, you can make the most of your marketing efforts. You don’t have to ask people how they found you when you have tracking in place.
Additionally, web form tracking and web chats are great ways to keep tabs on how people are finding you and what they want to know about your brand.
How Surefire Local Can Help
Working with a partner like Surefire Local can help you optimize your performance, campaign strategy, and overall reach to your audiences. Surefire Local understands your pain points. Do any of these situations sound familiar to you? (Hint: if so, you’re not alone, and we can help!)
- Advertising platforms like Google make it sound simple, but it’s also easy to make costly mistakes without even knowing.
- I don’t have time to learn how to create and manage digital advertising campaigns while focusing on my business.
- It’s rare to find an “in-house”, affordable marketer who has an expertise in digital advertising; plus, it might be too much for one person to manage.
When you hire Surefire Local, you’ll be granted a team of people who are in-depth experts at what they do. Our team understands project management, creativity, and scalability unlike any other team you could hire. And, because, when you partner with us, you’ll enjoy lower costs than you would if you hired an in-house team of pros to manage your local marketing efforts for your business.
Surefire Local can help you get more leads with enhanced digital marketing advertising campaigns that are built from our platform and intended to serve the universe of your community. Our team can help you create campaigns that are designed to deliver leads and increase local awareness, utilize technology to gain insights, and incorporate best practices into your marketing efforts. We create ads that stand out, using personalization and the characteristics search engines are looking for when they’re trying to figure out which businesses to put at the top of search results.
We’re here to support you via phone, email, and online chat, and we’re proud to offer you an all-in-one local marketing platform where you can enjoy the visibility of your results in one single place, across browsers and devices. We can’t wait to help you get started! Schedule a demo with our team today!