Targeting Local Search for Nationwide Pay-Per-Click Domination

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Finding a competitive advantage in pay-per-click marketing is becoming a challenge. Scaling the learning curve to maneuver through new search engine quality scores and leveraging new functionality is one approach.  However, within the strongest competitive markets, this approach only offers a short-term advantage.  The greater advantage lies in segmenting your customer market and concentrating on reaching them in the most relevant and motivating of ways.

I often hear businesses classify their products as global, national, or local and depending on their self-selected classification, they build their paid search strategies to accommodate it.  If a business sells nationally, they structure their Google AdWords campaign to target the United States (or whatever nation they are located in) and start attracting nationwide visitors.  Because of this common practice, these businesses place themselves in the midst of a competitive “mosh pit” with rivals for ad copy, keywords, and offers.  What they are overlooking is an opportunity to segment their visitors by geography and deep dive into specific markets on a local level.

All business is local.  But instead of leveraging this fact across pay-per-click marketing campaigns, many businesses tend to seek nationwide or global ad distribution.  Rather than targeting their customers’ local presence, they are tantalized by the world-wide web. This opens a tremendous competitive advantage for local pay-per-click marketing across a nationwide distribution network.

Have you ever looked at your analytics program (e.g., Google Analytics) to assess whether your sales conversions are concentrated within certain geographic locations?  If you are using Google Analytics and have your goal tracking integrated correctly across your website, geographic sales data is readily available for your assessment.

Simply browse to your “Goals” link in Google Analytics and select the specific goal type you want to analyze.  If you are an e-commerce company, you should choose your shopping cart sales goal or a similar sales-oriented goal, depending on how you defined them.  If you haven’t defined your goals, then I highly recommend you do so sooner rather than later.

After selecting the specific goal, find and click the “Map Overlay” link under the mid-right section labeled “Analyze This Goal.”  Once the map overlay loads, scroll below the map (just above the data table) and select the geo-location you want to analyze by including city, country, and sub-continent or continent.

The resulting report will provide the top cities (if that was your selection) that generate the most search volume and the highest conversion rate (note: you may need to sort the report).  With this geo-targeting data in hand, you can set up a number of geo-targeted AdWords (and other PPC search engine) campaigns.

A local pay-per-click marketing strategy offers four distinct competitive advantages that enable you to:

(1)   Test and build greater relevancy with a local market that has a higher probability of buying your products or services.

(2)   Compete more effectively with nationwide advertisers because a local ad may attract greater attention, for example, due to regional indicators added by Google underneath the paid search ad.

(3)   Slide under the radar and avoid the feeding frenzy of nationwide competitive pressures. Depending on where your competitors are located, they may not even be aware you are competing with them, since only local ads are seen by searchers within the targeted geographic area.

(4)   Concentrate your limited budget on geographic areas with the greatest concentration of optimal buyers.

Another local pay-per-click strategy to help you dominate nationwide markets is to use Google Trends (www.google.com/trends) to search on your top-performing keywords and identify which geographic areas (e.g., regions, cities) generate the most search volume.  By finding these highly concentrated keyword markets, you can focus your limited resources on optimizing your ads to sell hard into areas with a greater probability of buying.

Using Google Trends is easy.  Simply search on your top-performing keywords (as identified by analyzing your goal conversion by keyword in your analytics program). Google Trends allows you to select a region, sub-region (e.g., state if you selected the United States region), city, and language.

You can also select a specific date range.  The date range provides some insight into year-to-date search volume for planning campaigns around upcoming holidays or seasonal events. Even within the Google AdWords keyword tool, similar trend data is available for analysis.

Recently, one of my e-commerce clients found themselves operating in an increasingly competitive pay-per-click market.  Their larger-budget competitors were working the nationwide markets with great force, making it difficult for my client to remain within their profit margin targets.

After researching on Google Trends and analyzing the regional and city-specific search volumes for their historically top-converting keywords, I “paused” a number of the top-converting keywords on the client’s nationwide Google AdWords campaign. Instead, I set up a locally targeted campaign using only the top-converting keywords.

The local campaign focused on a number of cities where the highest volume of searches occurred for the strongest converting keywords.  In some cases, multiple surrounding cities had to be included to effectively span the geographic area based on classification differences between Google Trends data and the geo-targeting options within Google AdWords.

The results were amazing.  Due to a combination of increasing relevance, and allocating a greater budget to a smaller number of keywords but in higher performing local markets, the client’s conversion rates increased steadily. More importantly, sales from their pay-per-click marketing campaigns rose 36%. The client was thus able to maximize his budget to generate greater returns from advertising expenses.

It’s important for businesses to focus on how to target their key demographic areas most accurately with the highest probability for buying. Rather than focusing nationwide or worldwide, identify opportunities to geo-target locally and concentrate your budget in areas of high buyer concentrations.

Of course, some business models may not have the framework to take advantage of the opportunity to target locally.  Other businesses may not care to invest the time needed to focus their campaigns so narrowly. But I recommend going where the competitive advantage is the greatest and reaping the rewards.  Let your competitors remain battered and bruised in the mosh pit of nationwide (or global) pay-per-click markets while you relax backstage with the locals.

About the Author

Kevin Gold is Director of Internet Marketing at iNET Interactive, a social media company operating prominent online communities for technology professionals and technology enthusiasts. Kevin is a frequent contributing author to multiple publications including Search Marketing Standard, Practical eCommerce, DIRECT, Entrepreneur.com, ConversionChronicles.com, About.com, and On Target (Yahoo! Search Marketing newsletter).

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