Local search has become a major area of focus for many SEM professionals, and for good reason.  Over the past two years, local search growth has quickly surpassed the growth of overall web searches, and by wide margins.  In a post by Triangle Local Search Solutions, a study done by TMP Directional Marketing found that "Internet search engines and print directories are the primary sources for finding local business information and account for 31% and 28%, respectively, of all local searches conducted in the US".  The growing use of local search is undeniable – which makes sense.  People want to find what they are looking for in the city or town where they live.  Rather than enter "running shoes" into a search engine and sift through the results, hoping to find a local retailer, searchers have become more adept at pinpointing their search queries in order to narrow down results and make it easier to find what they are looking for.  Searchers are now much more likely to type in "running shoes in los angeles" in order to get results from local businesses.

This is an important fact for local business owners and search marketers to take into account.  Positioning yourself toward the top of local search results should be toward the forefront of your online marketing campaign.  From a PPC perspective, local targeting is fairly easy to set-up and can yield some great results.  Outlined below are the two ways that businesses can target local searches using Google Adwords.

Tactic 1 – Geo-targeting a Specific Area

This tactic refers to targeting searchers in a specific geographic area (i.e. the city of Dallas, the state of California, etc.).  Adwords’ geo-targeting tool allows advertisers to narrow their target areas all the way down to the street level, meaning you can target specific areas with extreme accuracy.  Using geo-targeting also enables advertisers to bid on more generic keyword terms, without having to compete on a nation-wide scale.  For example, an advertiser selling t-shirts could bid on the term "Blue T-Shirts" and be geo-targeting the city of San Francisco.  By having their ads limited to San Francisco only, the advertiser can avoid having to compete with all other advertisers across the U.S. who are also bidding for "Blue T-Shirts".  For local businesses, this type of targeting can significantly decrease the amount of competition they face in terms of PPC, helping them save money and drive more "buyers" to their site.

EXAMPLE: Geo-targeting area: Chicago, IL. (keywords: "pizza shops", "pizza delivery", etc.)


Tactic 2 – Geo-targeting Using Keywords

When geo-targeting at the keyword level, advertisers add geographic modifiers to their keywords that will display nationwide (i.e. "Fishing gear in San Diego", "Omaha bicycles", etc.).  The main goal of this local search tactic is to target searchers who may be outside of an advertisers specific geographic area, but are still looking for services there.  Employing this tactic allows advertisers to reach a much wider audience than geo-targeting a specific area, while the geographic modification of target keywords helps to maintain the accuracy of the marketing as well.

EXAMPLE: Geo-targeting keywords: "pizza shops in Chicago", "Chicago pizza delivery", etc.


So, which PPC local search tactic should you be using?  The answer is both.  Each tactic allows you to pinpoint a specific type of local searcher, so both are an important part of establishing a successful local PPC marketing effort.  By geo-targeting a specific area, as well as by keyword, you are effectively capturing a large majority of potential searches for your product or service in your area.  Implementing both also allows you test which tactic performs best for your area of business so that you can adjust your PPC budgets accordingly.




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