Local PPC Strategy: Making AdWords Work for Your Business

Local PPC Strategy Google AdWords

Dialing-in a local PPC strategy is not an easy undertaking. Google AdWords can be very complicated. And creating campaigns that actually turn a sufficient ROI can be a challenge.

If you’ve tried your hand at local PPC with AdWords, then chances are you’ve experienced some struggle. To help you actualize a successful local PPC strategy, below we share several best practices to ensure you’re on the right path.

local ppc

1. Get Your Campaign Settings Dialed-in

One of the most critical yet overlooked settings that greatly impacts the success of your local PPC strategy is Networks. Here it’s crucial to use the proper Network that corresponds to your ad types.

If you’re only use text-based Google Search ads, then only use the Search Network. For any Display campaigns you which to create, use only the Display network. In short, never combine the two.

In the past, this used be very confusing, as the default campaign setting in AdWords was both Search & Display Network combined. Today, Google has made it a little less ambiguous. But even though Google is mostly accurate when it says you can “expand your reach” (under the Display Network option), using both together is massively inefficient and can be a big waste of your ad spend.

local ppc strategy adwords settings

The next setting to address is your Locations. Using either Radius or Location based targeting, you’ll want to clearly define the geographic scope in which your ads are being served. As you can see in the figure below, we meticulously used Radius targeting to capture the greater area of Atlanta and stretching north to the Georgia border. It might look a little sloppy, but whatever gets the job done.

local ppc strategy geographic settings

Keep in mind that settings are based on the Campaign level. In some cases, there maybe ad groups that you want to specify a unique geographic scope. However to do so, you’ll need to establish a dedicated Campaign to achieve this.

2. Create Granular Ad Groups

One of the biggest mistakes that we see when auditing AdWords accounts is the tendency to use too many unrelated keywords in one ad group. Conversely, any successful AdWords advertiser will tell you that it’s PPC best practice to create very focused, granular-level ad groups that targets highly-relevant keyword categories.

Refer to the figure below. Here we could have used keywords like “VHS to DVD” and “8mm to DVD” in the Video Transfer ad group (because they’re all somewhat related.) But this would limit our ability to write highly targeted ads, and thus diminish click-through rates and quality scores (all while jacking-up the cost per click.)

local ppc strategy keywords

For this local PPC strategy, we went as granular as possible with our ad groups; so much that we even made dedicated ad groups for “VHS” and “VHS-C” variations. And just look at those click-through rates!

3. Use The Right Keyword Match Types

Integral to any PPC strategy is being mindful of the keyword match types that you’re using. Another common mistake is implementing keywords blindly without any of the distinct characters that you see below. These characters define specific “keyword match types” and thus your overall bidding strategy. Without them, Google assumes the keyword is using broad match bidding, which is insanely broad and can chew-up your budget.

local ppc strategy search terms


For the experience AdWords advertiser, you’ll know precisely what the “+” symbols, quotes, and brackets mean. But for beginners and novices, it’s important to get a grasp on what each of these bid types define..

Read over this AdWords help page about keyword matching options for a thorough explanation of what each match type means. Also take note of negative keywords, which can also help improve the delivery and efficiency of your ads.

local ppc strategy negatives

You can include negative keywords on both the ad group and campaign level. Essentially these are words that you do not want triggering your ads. Common negatives in a local PPC strategy are competing big box retailers like “Walmart,” “Walgreens,” and “Costco” as well as words like “free,” “coupons,” “guides” and “how to.”

4. Leverage Ad Extensions

local ppc strategy ad extensions

In addition to writing unique and compelling ads, it’s important to use Ad Extensions to their fullest potential. These are basically free ways to improve the relevancy and visibility of your ads, all while expanding the real estate your business occupies in the search results.

For local PPC strategies, the top Ad Extensions to use include:

  • Location Extension
  • Sitelink Extension
  • Callout Extension
  • Call Extension
  • Review Extension
  • Promotion Extension

Just look at the different between these two local PPC ads. The first ad is using Callout Extension, Review Extension, and Sitelinks Extension, while the ad at the bottom is using none.

local ppc ads

Google will show certain Ad Extensions depending on which keyword queries are being searched, how much an advertiser is bidding, what extensions they have properly setup, and the competing ad landscape. So if you notice some of your extensions are not showing, don’t freak out. There’s a lot that goes into it. At the very most, make sure you’ve set them up correctly and that you’re bidding high enough.

5. Ongoing PPC Improvement Strategies

When it comes to making AdWords a profitable endeavor, setting up your local PPC campaigns is just the beginning. Success often hinges on continuous improvement and implementing the right ongoing PPC optimization strategies. Below we share a few of those strategies and how you can consistently fine-tune your account for greater efficiency.

Search Terms

The Search Terms feature used to buried in AdWords, making it very difficult to find for inexperienced advertisers. Fortunately, Google has made it a more prominent in its interface. It can be found when looking at the Keywords view in a particular campaign or ad group.

local ppc strategy search terms

The data shown under Search Terms reflects the historical keyword queries that have been used to trigger your ads. In other words, it tells you exactly what keyword phrases individuals are using to interact with your ads and how well they engage (with respect to CTR and Conversions.)

Search Terms is a valuable feature that enables you to pinpoint potential negative keywords. For instance, if you notice obvious queries that are not relevant to what you offer, you can add them as negatives to prevent future occurrences.  

Conversely, Search Terms also allows you to hone particular queries that are being triggered via broad or phrase match. For instance, popular long-tail queries (like “vhs to dvd near me”) may be triggered with modified broad match (+vhs +to +dvd). To hone your bidding strategy, here you can add the complete long-tail query in exact match form [vhs to dvd near me].  This can often times improve keyword quality score, which in turn can reduce the cost per click while maintaining the same ad positioning.

Ad Split-Testing

Especially important for local campaigns that see a lot of activity, ad split-testing is PPC strategy best practices. With this approach, create 3-4 different ads with distinct variations. After you’ve accumulated enough statistical relevance to make a valid assessment (often 1,000 impressions as general benchmark), you can choose a winner and continue fine-tuning what’s working.

There are a few things to keep in mind to properly split-test your PPC ads.

  • Under “Ad rotation” in the campaign settings, choose to rotate your ads evenly. This will ensure each ad gets equal amount of impressions.
  • Make clear distinctions in your ads. In other words, make sure you understand the differences that you’re testing. Start by testing different Headlines. Once you’ve found a great Headline that performs best, then try new ad text.  
  • Be aware of the average ad positioning of each ad. This shouldn’t be an issue if you choose to rotate your ads equally. However, if you do notice one ads is performing exceptionally well, but it’s average ad position is 1.2 versus the other ads at 3.2, then this could be disrupting the validity of the test.  
  • Determine a form of measurement to assess your ads. CTR and conversions are the most common.

In addition to ads, you can also split-test the use of Ad Extensions. For instance, if you notice that certain Sitelinks and Callouts are resulting in a weaker CTR, then perhaps try testing to new ones.

Bid Adjustmentslocal ppc strategy search terms

Whether it’s through AdWords or other third-party software, there’s a lot of automation that can be done to ensure your bids in the right place. But if you want manually take control of your keyword bids, then be sure to modify your columns to show the estimated first page bid, top of page bid, and first position bid.  

In the AdWords PPC accounts that I manage here at Captivate Local, I seek to find a sweet spot between the estimated top of page bid and first position bid. My goal is to ensure ads show up at the top of the search results, but it’s not necessarily critical that they’re in the #1 spot. See the figure below for a few examples. Take note of the Max. CPC (my bids) versus the estimate top of page bid and first position bid. Each keyword is somewhere in the middle. This is standard best practice that I mention time and time again over at my Google Ads online course.

local ppc strategy bids


Again, there are automation rules you can set of this that can make it easier to manage. But in some cases of competitive search landscapes where CPC’s can start to climb quickly, it can be nice to have full control.

Local PPC Strategy Audit

In actualizing a successful local PPC strategy, keep in mind that the first several months of managing your account are critical to dial things in. Of course this will hinge on how large and extensive your account is. But ultimately, it’s wise to closely monitor Search Terms and metrics like CTR, CPC, quality score, and conversion rate. Depending on the nature of your advertising campaign, you may want to play with features like mobile bid adjustments, dynamic search ads, and remarketing.

Interested in a local PPC audit? Connect with me and the team at Captivate Local to schedule a free, no obligation consultation. We can talk about why your AdWords account sucks so bad and what we can do about it. But hopefully by now you found some valuable insights from this article.