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"In a nutshell, Jason created our marketing analytics capability. He was able to figure out what data we collect, where it is, what was missing, and hook it all up so we canget meaningful, actionable data. Our marketing efforts have improved leads and conversions in some cases by an order of magnitude. He knows his stuff."
Chris Foleen, Marketing Project Coordinator, TransCore, Inc.


Monday, February 08, 2010

The Value of Adwords Local Paid Search

I have consulted with many small businesses about their local search needs.  These are businesses who live off the local market--attorneys, tradesmen and other service providers that cannot sell their services nationally.  They want to use the internet to help them.  They are building or upgrading their websites.  They are interested in some local advertising and they are thinking about local paid search.  We talk.  I find out about their business, where they want to go, how they want to use search, and then I get back to them with some estimates and some hard realities.

The truth is that I have not found a local, small business that would get any real value out of Adwords local.  Depending on their industry other services might work--CitySearch, Angie's List, etc.  But because Google is synonymous with search, Adwords is invariably what they are looking for.  After using the Google tools, we may set up a test account with a reasonable budget for a reasonable time.   At the end we review the results.  90% of the time the answer is the same:  "You can use Adwords Local if you want.  It won't cost you much.  But it won't deliver the volume of business you are looking for either."  In the end, it becomes a question of do they want to put the time into managing it when they may only get a handful of leads every month.  It almost never makes financial sense for me to manage it for them, and I tell them that right up front.  The low volume keeps click costs down, but management time and energy are costs that need to be considered too.

We also have a conversation about bridging the online-offline gap for lead tracking.  Local businesses almost always do better when someone calls them, rather than fill out a form on their website.  How do you measure this?  They may have anecdotal information about the number of calls they get that come from their website, but that is not really good enough for ROI calculations.  When we get into topics like unique phone numbers and call tracking (most of which a small business does not have in place already), then the burden becomes greater.

There is a lot of promise in local search and many people forecasting it to be the future of search.  This also means it may be the future of search marketing dollars.  However, I can't in good conscious sit down with a 2 person law office and sell them the benefits of local paid search without also being realistic about the insignificant impact it will most likely have on their business.

Like I said, other services like CitySearch or SuperPages may be a better fit for them.  Unfortunately, half the time these businesses have already tried this and been turned off by the costs and poor results.

So, when is paid local search a good value?

1.  Get the tracking in place to measure it correctly.
2.  Have almost no expectations around the volume of business it will produce.
3.  Be willing to try some short term testing campaigns with a reasonable budget.
4.  Be willing to learn to manage it for yourself.

If this sounds okay, then Adwords Local may be just right for you!

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