AdWords Strategy for Local Businesses

This guide is intended for anyone that is relatively new to Google AdWords or has less than a few years experience.  It will focus mainly on how you should structure your campaigns, ad groups and keywords to help improve quality scoreclick-through-rate, and most importantly increase the chances that you will get a healthy return on your advertising spend by reducing cost per lead while also improving conversion rate.  I will show you how to do this within the AdWords interface but advanced users will likely be able to do it faster using AdWords Editor which is a desktop app for editing accounts offline.

I’m a great believer that the simplest way of doing something can often be the best way and the account structure strategy that I outline in this blog post is not only easy to implement, it is one of the most effective ways to generate leads online.

I will use the example of a local Italian restaurant for the purposes of this tutorial, but the strategy I show you will work for just about any local business. I have used similar strategies for accounts with a yearly spend of between £5,000 to £1m spend per year and I always get consistently good results.

Let’s pick our keywords

This blog post isn’t really about keyword research, I want to focus on campaign structure and keep the post short and sweet so that it is actionable. My article on how to reverse-engineer your competitor’s strategies is worth reading if you are interested in keyword/competitor research.

Below is an example of the keywords that I have chosen to target for our imaginary Italian Restaurant campaign, these are just an example and the volume of keywords in a real account would usually be much bigger.

Location Keywords
These keywords are self-explanatory as they are basically keywords that contain a location(or a geo-modifier as PPC folk like to call them) – ignore match type for now as the below examples should be seen as seed keywords.

Italian Restaurant Manchester
Italian Food Manchester
Italian Restaurants Deansgate Manchester

Non-Location Keywords
These are keywords that do not contain a location but we will only use these to target people within the Manchester area.

Italian Restaurant
Italian Food
Italian Restaurant Near Me

SKAGS (Single Keyword Ad Groups)

Although I arrived at this strategy independently through years of testing, within the PPC community the way in which I am suggesting structuring ad groups is known as creating SKAGS, or single keyword ad groups.  The reason this is such a great technique is because it allows you to build extremely tight ad groups with ads that are very relevant to the keywords that you are targeting.

Although the name implies that only one keyword will be used per ad group it’s not actually the case as multiple variations of each keyword will be used.

Let’s build the campaigns

Again, I’m not going to go into too much detail about the steps setting up a campaign as I’m assuming a certain level of knowledge and there is also a ton of information out there on how to do that. However, if you get stuck message me on Twitter or LinkedIn and I’ll be happy to offer some advice.

The one piece of advice that I will offer is to make sure that you select Search Network Only if you’re new to Google AdWords. If you go with Google’s default settings of Search Network with Display you can wave buy-buy to a decent return on advertising spend. I repeat, do not choose Search Network with Display Campaign.

Next what you want to do is create a campaign that will house the keywords that contain a location specific keywords.   I called this campaign ‘Italian Manchester’.

Now what you want to do is create an Ad Group for your first keyword which is ‘Italian Restaurant Manchester’ and create the following keywords

[italian restaurant manchester]  – keywords within brackets are known as exact match keywords which means your ads will target people searching for that exact keyword or a very close variant of the keyword.  Example, ads will target people searching ‘italian restaurant manchester’ but may also show for people searching for ‘italian restaurants manchester’   
“italian restaurant manchester” – as above but also your ads could show when people add an extra word before or after the phrase such as book ‘italian restaurant manchester’ – these are known as phrase match keywords
+italian +restaurant +manchester  Keywords in this format are known as broad match modifier keywords. Broad match modifiers ensure that your ads will only show when someone’s search is an exact match or close variant of your keyword in any order. So, if someone searches for ‘restaurants italian in Manchester’ then your ad should also trigger.

I would suggest that you stick with the above format especially if you’re new to AdWords.  The other match type that is available to you is called broad match, not to be confused by broad match modified, but I would suggest staying away from broad match for now as they keywords that you show for can be extremely unpredictable.

Now, after you have created the above Ad Group all you have to do is the same for the other keywords that you are targeting so now you should have an Ad Group for each keyword group you are targetting.

Example Screenshot

For clarity, I have included a screenshot of how an individual ad group would look using this structure and also broken down how a full campaign would look.

AdWords Campaign Strategy Screenshot

Above is a screenshot of how your ad group may look to provide some clarity. 

Assuming you have chosen to create 3 ad groups, the resulting structure will look like this:

  • Campaign Name: Italian Manchester
    • Ad Group1: Italian Restaurant Manchester
      • Keyword1: [italian restaurant manchester]
      • Keyword2: “italian restaurant manchester”
      • Keyword3: +italian +restaurant +manchester
    • Ad Group2: Italian Food
      • Keyword1: [italian food manchester]
      • Keyword2: “italian food manchester”
      • Keyword3: +italian +food +manchester]
    • Ad Group3: Italian Restaurant Deansgate Manchester
      • Keyword1: [italian restaurant deansgate manchester]
      • Keyword2: “italian restaurant deansgate manchester”
      • Keyword3: +italian +restaurant +deansgate +manchester

Example Screenshot

The above campaign structure is excellent for a lot of local businesses and there is a high chance that if your website is up to scratch that you will generate leads at a decent cost-per-lead.

However, it’s worth remembering that the way people are searching is evolving and often searchers will not include a location in their search query because they know that Google can tell where they are based.

To capture these searchers I suggest that you create separate campaigns and configure them so that only trigger an ad if people are searching within a specific geographical area.

Geo-Targetted PPC Campaigns

Similar to before, you need to create a campaign but during the setup, you select a ‘let me choose‘ in the Locations section.  For the purposes of this blog, I have simply chosen ‘Manchester’ however the Advanced Search option gives you far more flexibility including allowing you to select specific postcodes,  use radius targeting and see your selection on a map.

Once the campaign is created, which I will call ‘Italian Geo’ you just need to create your ad groups like before and your new campaign will be structured like this:

  • Campaign Name: Italian Geo
    • Ad Group1: Italian Restaurant
      • Keyword1: [italian restaurant]
      • Keyword2: “italian restaurant”
      • Keyword3: +italian +restaurant
    • Ad Group2: Italian Food
      • Keyword1: [italian food]
      • Keyword2: “italian food”
      • Keyword3: +italian +food
    • Ad Group1: Italian Restaurant Near Me
      • Keyword1: [italian restaurants near me]
      • Keyword2: “italian restaurants near me”
      • Keyword3: +italian +restaurants +near +me

Although geo-targeted campaigns can work extremely well, in my experience they don’t convert as well as targeting keywords that include a location as it shows more commercial intent so your geo-targeted campaigns may require a bit more TLC.

Creating your Ads

The great thing about this strategy is that you are able to create ads that are extremely relevant to user’s search query.  This will normally improve key metrics that contribute to quality score which will lead to more quality traffic potentially at a lower cost-per-click.

Questions

Is this strategy scaleable and can it be used for businesses with a large number of services over a large volume of locations?

Yes! A lot of people would be put off by using this technique across large accounts because it is will take much more work compared to doing it on a small scale.  However, by using a mixture of Excel and AdWords Editor(future blog post maybe) you can implement this strategy on a huge scale. 

The thing worth remembering is if YOU think it’s too difficult then your COMPETITORS will probably think that it is too. This means that if you decide to do it then it could potentially give you a huge competitive advantage.  

I already have a PPC account that is performing well that doesn’t use this strategy, how can I test if this will work for me?

I would suggest analysing which search queries are generating the best return for you and create a few new ad groups in the way I have suggested above and then compare performance that to your historical performance. 

Why do you have a separate campaign for targeting specific geographical areas?  Can you not just lump everything into the one campaign?

The reason for this is because when people search using a location in their search query it usually implies more commercial intent, that’s one of the reasons I like to separate it out into individual campaigns as it gives you more granular control of budget and features such as ad scheduling which can only be done at a campaign level.  

Conclusion

I have used the above account structure to help a huge volume of local businesses improve their AdWords account structure and drastically improve their return on advertising spend.

I hope that you found this article useful and that you use it to improve AdWords performance.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

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