Web Marketing Today

Generating Local Business Beyond the Click

Most of my articles address how to succeed with pay-per-click advertising. I’ve written about numerous ways to drive traffic to your website and to convert that traffic into sales or leads.

But what if you’re a local business that depends on foot traffic? What if you close most of your sales over the phone? Should you abandon pay-per-click advertising altogether?

Not at all.

There are several ways you can use PPC to generate business beyond the click.

Ad Extensions

Before we get into specific tactics, let’s talk about ad extensions. Ad extensions are additional lines of copy or promotional icons that can be added to your AdWords ads. There are many types of extensions available. I’ll focus on three extensions that will help drive business beyond the click.

  • Sitelink extensions are a way to show additional links besides your destination URL. Common uses of sitelinks include related landing pages, special promotions, and calls to action like “Sign Up Today!”
  • Call extensions allow you to add a phone number to your ad.
  • Location extensions display your business address and phone number. You’ll need a Google Places listing to use these.

Now, let’s talk about some common situations for local businesses.

When Phone Calls Drive your Business

Does your local business depend on phone calls for most of your sales? This is the case for many businesses. Website traffic isn’t important to you; you need your phone to ring.

You might find that sales spikes are driven by unexpected events. Back in December, we had a devastating ice storm here in Michigan. Other parts of the country are having ice storms now. Power outages and power surges often lead to a spike in demand for electricians. Here’s a screen shot of a typical search.

Typical electrician search results

Typical electrician search results

The first ad, circled, is clearly designed to drive phone calls. The call to action is “Call and Schedule an Appointment!”

They’re also taking advantage of call extensions. Every element of this ad encourages you to call. Even the landing page for this electrician is all about phone calls.

Electrician landing page pushing for phone calls

Electrician landing page pushing for phone calls.

I’ve numbered the “call us” calls to action. There are three of them, one in each prime area of the site. Even those that do click on the ad will be strongly encouraged to call!

The second ad in the image above has taken advantage of location extensions, with the added bonus of listing a local phone number. Toll-free numbers can be a double-edged sword for local businesses. It helps that people don’t have to call long distance, but a lot of people think “offsite call center” when they see a toll-free number. Using a local number reassures callers that your business is truly local. As with all things PPC, test it. Try one ad with a local number and one with a toll-free and see which drives more calls.

PPC ads have taken the place of Yellow Pages ads for many users. Instead of digging through a phone book, people perform a search. The beauty of PPC ads is that you only pay when someone clicks, and often searchers will find what they wanted without needing to click.

When Customers Are Looking for Deals

If you’re selling consumables, such as dry cleaning, groceries, or dining, you’ll often find that your customers are searching online for coupons and deals. While couponing is a marketing strategy that isn’t right for everyone, it can be a way to acquire new customers. For consumables, acquisition is important – ideally, those new customers will become repeat customers.

You might have to drive site traffic in this instance. People will need to visit your site to get the coupons. A lot of businesses offer printable coupons that people can print at home, or download to their mobile device.

Printable coupons are good, but building your marketing database is better. If you’re going to use PPC ads to drive visitors to your website, get your money’s worth by asking them to sign up for email, like Olive Garden does here:

Olive Garden using a PPC ad to drive email sign ups

Olive Garden using a PPC ad to drive email sign ups

Olive Garden has covered all the bases with this good PPC ad. It is using location extensions to include their address and phone number. Some people might not even click – they’ll just show up or call for a reservation.

Olive Garden is using sitelink extensions to promote specials: $10 Weeknight Classics and 2 for $25.

They’ve also included a call to action in the body of the ad: “Sign up for our newsletter to get a coupon on your birthday each year!”

Think about that for a moment. The people who do click on the ad see an interstitial ad on the landing page encouraging email signups:

Olive Garden in-site ad for email sign ups

Olive Garden in-site ad for email sign ups

This is a win-win for the customer and for Olive Garden. The customer gets a coupon, and Olive Garden gets an email address for their marketing database.

Smart restaurants will send non-coupon emails in addition to emails with coupons. For example, Maggiano’s sends weekly emails, but only about one in ten includes a coupon. Most are promotional, like this one.

Promotional email from Maggiano's

Promotional email from Maggiano’s

When done right, your restaurant can pay for one click and do the rest of your marketing via email.

When Customers Are on the Go

You may have noticed that the Maggiano’s example above is a mobile screen shot. According to published reports, over 50 percent of unique email opens take place on a mobile device. Even if you’re not doing email marketing, mobile is a crucial consideration for businesses looking to drive phone or foot traffic.

Olive Garden comes through again with a great use case of mobile call extensions.

Olive Garden using a mobile call extension

Olive Garden using a mobile call extension

While they’re promoting email signup in the ad copy, using call extensions means the “Call” button is prominently featured. Olive Garden is offering potential customers a one-click opportunity to call them.

Advertisers using mobile click-to-call do get charged for the click, but it’s worth it when you consider that the majority of callers in this example are probably interested in dining at Olive Garden and are likely to end up making a purchase.

To learn more about click to call, check out this interview.

A Note about Tracking Phone Calls

If you do list your business phone number in your ads, either via location extensions or call extensions, be sure to have a way to track the calls. If you’re using click-to-call, Google will provide reporting on the number of calls. But that’s only callers who clicked from a mobile device (unless you’re using Google forwarding numbers, in which case any call to that number will be tracked).

Resist the temptation to use your regular business phone number in your ads. If you have another number available, use that. Or use Google forwarding numbers.

If you absolutely must use your regular business number, train your phone reps to ask for the call source. Simply asking callers “How did you get our phone number?” can yield valuable information. But it’s often inaccurate, or imprecise (“On the internet” is a common response). To truly measure the impact of your PPC ads, use a number that’s dedicated to PPC.

Best Buy takes an integrated approach to mobile.

Best Buy using an integrated mobile appraoch

Best Buy using an integrated mobile appraoch.

The entire visible screen is filled with Best Buy! Its PPC ad at the top of the screen features sales and promotions, while their organic local listing fills the rest of the visible area. Notice how their mobile ad is brief, and the sitelinks answer the most common questions a mobile user would have: where are you (Store Locator), and what sales are you running (Weekly Deals, Deal of the Day, Major Appliance Sale). The organic listing fills in the rest of the blanks, listing the nearest store, along with hours and the phone number.

To learn how to optimize your site for organic local search, check out this article.

Pitfalls to Avoid

Make sure you’re advertising to the proper geographic area. If you have one shop in Springfield, Illinois, don’t advertise in California. Be sure to use geotargeting to make sure you don’t waste money on clicks from customers you can’t help.

It’s also important to understand the competition. Contractors like plumbers and electricians tend to be local shops rather than franchises, so it’s easy for them. But if you’re going up against chain restaurants or retailers, check to see what they’re doing before you begin.

The coupon space is particularly competitive. Here’s a search for grocery coupons:

Competitive coupon space for grocery coupons

Competitive coupon space for grocery coupons

The only ad on the page with any obvious nearby location is languishing at position 6. Even though Meijer is a regional chain, they’re being out-bid by national coupon sites.

One good way to avoid competing is to be very specific with your keywords. Bid on “Springfield grocery coupons” instead of just “grocery coupons.” Or include your brand: “Springfield Market grocery coupons.” You might still compete with deep-pocketed coupon sites, but you have a better shot at a good ad position.

Now you know some of the ways you can use PPC to generate business beyond the click.

Melissa Mackey
Melissa Mackey
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