PPC for local businesses: different strategies than 4 affiliate marketing?

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[I have been doing PPC (Adwords, Bing, et al) for a few years now. But 98% of it was to promote my own websites. I now get several offline clients who want me to set up and optimize an Adwords PPC campaign to get them new leads. I was wondering whether there are differences in how to go about setting up and optimizing an Adwords campaign as objectives are a bit different – here is what I usually do for promoting my websites with PPC:

  • make sure to maintain CTR of every keyword above 1% where there are at least 100 impressions
  • weed out keywords with low CTR (under 1% – see above)
  • track every keyword down to conversion (?? for local biz: completed optin or specific 1-800 number?)
  • split test text ads and get them both displayed 50-50% to make stats relevant
  • after 2-3 weeks try to decrease the max CPC where to get it to 5 cents above average CPC
  • use 1 keyword per ad group (search network)
  • group keywords per theme in Ad groups for Display Network (alias Content Network)
  • create dynamic landing pages with PHP to insert keywords in title, meta, h1 and page content

As the cost-benefit of PPC is not as easy to track for a local biz, given that a prospect could call in but only become a client a couple of months down the road, or even the added visibility for his business has a value for which it is hard to count “conversions”, I am wondering whether weeding out keywords that don’t get good CTR is relevant or useful or if any of the outlined steps above makes sense in this context.]

I’m not sure why you would use this as a bidding strategy. Most local businesses try to be aggressive in marketing to their local market. Competition is often strong within the local market if you are near a large city.

I would suggest that you test different bid levels to find the optimum bid level to maximize total monthly profits. Local businesses usually cannot afford to feed off the crumbs leftover by their competitors, you must get in there and compete for every single lead that can be obtained profitably, else you may help the competitors run your client out of business.

By grabbing every lead, that can be obtained at break-even or profitably, you are denying your local competitors that business. Some well-financed businesses I get even more aggressive by denying their competition new business even if it means a small loss on their part. It all depends on the local market, your client’s financial position and how aggressive they want to be.

I have one local client that agreed to an aggressive strategy to take advantage of a slump in the market. We have chased several chains completely out of the local market and the 2 nearest locally based competitors are now out of business, while this client’s same-store sales are up 30% year over year.

I recommend that you work with your clients to obtain reports on their sales regardless of the source. Explain to them that part of your goal is to enhance their brand in the local market and you need to track their overall sales, regardless of where the leads came from, for that aspect of your campaign management.

Ask your client to track the lead source for each sale if possible. You may not get 100% cooperation on this but you can use what data you do get to extrapolate your best guess for overall effectiveness. Provide a report to your client that shows how you are using this data to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. Include your estimates for non-tracked data, this may inspire them to provide more accurate numbers.

As far as weeding out keywords with lower CTR. It’s important to keep in mind that CTR is relative to your competition’s CTR. Monitor your quality scores and let that help you make a decision about what is low or not for CTR. It varies a great deal for each keyword and what may seem like a low CTR could be quite good, or vice versa.

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