Near Me Searches: Why Local Traffic Always Wins

How searches with 'near me' can boost your PPC traffic.

You just got to a new city.

You're at the train station. You don't know where anything is. It's 11:00 and you can't check into your Airbnb until 2:00 pm.

So you have a few hours to kill.

What do you do?

Of course. Open your phone, type in coffee near me, and see where you can post up until then.

This 'near me' search formula is called local search.

And according to the latest statistics, about half of ALL SEARCH VOLUME is locally related.

Spontaneous. On-the-fly. With high-purchase intent.

If you aren't targeting this kind of search in your campaigns, you are missing out on a huge pool of hungry customers.

The 3 drivers behind near me searches

1. Mobile phones, on the go

The rise of local search is largely due to the boom in mobile usage. People expect to be able to quickly find out what’s around them, wherever they are. And mobile phones allow them to do so.

Generally this local search is synonymous with the phrase 'near me.'

'Near me' indicates that a user is deep down the marketing funnel. It means they want to find what they are searching for fast. They want it to be close. And they are willing to go there to spend cash.

Consumer searches for 'near me', open now 'near me' and best 'near me' are the highest they have ever been.

Between August 2014 and August 2019 they increased 17-fold to a total of 940 billion 'near me' searches in 2019.

To put that into context, there are 2 trillion searches on Google overall, which means that 46% of all search traffic on the internet is related to 'near me'.

This extraordinary rise coincides with the rise of mobile phones, which increasingly come with larger screens and make it more convenient to search for stores on your phone instead of desktop.

2. Increase in fragmentation

The second big driver pushing local search into the mainstream is a jump in fragmentation over the years.

Before, searching for things was a fairly simple process. You had a desktop and Google.

Now that desktop computer has been turned into several different devices and many different platforms.

There's Google Maps, Apple Maps, Here, Instagram, Facebook, Bing, TripAdvisor, FourSquare and a bunch of other platforms that show you business results near you.

Technology is also changing.

Voice search means that people are no longer typing in their phones to look for things but just asking Siri.

A total of 21% of consumers already use voice search at least once per week.

And it's not just fragmentation in platforms and technology, but also fragmentation in attention.

Consumers will not give you their undivided focus. Their attention span is shorter than ever.

A total of 51% of last-minute shoppers weren't certain they were going to buy an item before searching.

3. Dominance of social validation

A third, equally improtant driver of local search, is how important your reputation online is.

Reviews are the new currency in local search.

Customers will increasingly turn to brands who they trust.

This trust can come from a friend, but can also be reflected online in reviews.

Surveys show that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

And a total of 97% said that positive online reviews were a factor in making a purchasing decision.

What this all boils down to is that in the 'near me' era, it's not just your online presence that matters.

Human interaction is a key important of social validation.

The majority of good reviews for products and services are sprinkled with terminology such as 'friendly staff', 'great service' and so forth.

Which means SEO, PPC, landing pages are not enough. You need to offer top-notch customer support as well.

The new paradigm for brands

Traditionally, brands have relied on their top level marketing to promote themselves.

Not anymore in the age of 'near me.'

In this new age, brands face empowered consumers with all the information they need at their fingertips, wherever they are.

It is an age where consumers hold the power, and if the phrase 'the customer is always right' held true before, it is especially important now.

What to avoid when targeting local search traffic

1. Suboptimum budget allocation

If you throw away money at keywords that target the upper part of the marketing funnel, you are wasting your marketing dollars.

This is especially true for local businesses, with small budgets. You need to be careful with how you allocate your ad spend, to make sure it is targeting the traffic that will bring a customer into your door.

2. A subpar brand experience on a location level can destroy a brand's broader reputation

Reviews will play a huge role in deciding whether a customer visits your store or not.

If you give a customer a bad experience, you risk having them leave a bad review online. That review will stay there, and there is not much that you can do about it as a business.

So better play it safe than sorry when dealing with your customers. Try to offer the best customer experience possible, and turn one-time consumers into life-time brand advocates.

3. Brands miss out on in-store traffic and revenue

By not targeting near me searches and optimizing your business for local search results, your brand will miss out on in-store traffic and revenue.

What do 'near me' searches look like?

1. Unbranded local searches drive clients

Roughly 82% of local searches are unbranded.

A customer will search for 'gas station near me' vs 'BP station near me.'

But if a customer leaves with a good experience, they can quickly turn unbranded searches into branded searches. This means next time they will search for 'BP station near me' and may even go out of their way to go to your business because of a good experience.

2. Branded local searches convert almost instantly

Immediacy drives 80% of store visits.

One popular search term that has seen a 16-fold increase in the last five years is 'iPhone charger near me.'

When people search with the term near me, they want something fast. Your business should set itself up to be there.

What are the top 'near me' searches?

According to a survey by Uberall which looked at 1,000 smartphone owners, 82% of them had conducted a 'near me' search within the last few days.

And Think With Google says that 76% of local mobile searches for something nearby result in a same-day in-store visit, with 26% of those visits resulting in a purchase.

The categories that people search for break down like this:

  • Food 84%
  • Entertainment 56%
  • Banking 50%
  • Apparel 41%
  • Personal Care 38%

For retail-specific lookups, smartphone shoppers do the following:

  • Product research 63%
  • Price comparisons 62%
  • Search for coupons/deals 56%
  • Store hours 54%
  • Store locations 52%

And in terms of the retail search category, mobile consumers were looking for:

  • Specific store/retailer 48%
  • Product category nearby 29%
  • Specific brand nearby 23%

How to do PPC for near me local searches: 5 key points.

1. Get hyper local with your campaign trafficking

If your business relies on local foot traffic, then getting hyper local with your geographic targeting will ensure your ads only appear for customers that are nearby and likely to convert.

Google Ads offers an array of smart geo-targeting options for local PPC campaigns.

For example, you can limit display ads to customers in only locations you approve.

You can set your location based on zip code, neighborhood, town and city boundaries, or draw a custom-sized radius centered around a store's address.

Most importantly, negative geographic areas are important. You can set negative geographic targets to ensure that people in a specific geographic area are not shown your ads.

Unfortunately, Google still doesn't allow you to set a negative geographic targeting custom radius yourself. So you are limited to only excluding by city or zip code.

You should also make sure to double-check your ad delivery settings so that they are set specifically to users in your targeted locations. This will cut down on erroneous clicks, increasing ad relevanc while preserving your budget.

2. Add Location Extensions

Location extensions are specifically designed to traffic foot traffic.

To use them, you need to create a Google My Business listing that displays your location on Google Maps directly on the SERP.

Location extensions are eligable to show whenever your text ad generations an impression.

To create a Google My Business listing, you need to link your GMB account with your Google Ads account.

But don't just rely on Google. You can also create location extensions for Microsoft Ads and import them directly from Google Ads.

3. Add Call Extensions

Call extensions display your phone number directly below your text ad on the SERP.

If someone is looking for quick information, this is a great way to get their business to you.

For example, if somebody wants to check whether there will be tables free for a reservation, they can quickly call your business using call extensions.

Google Ads offers the ability to use a forwarding number to track conversions and how many phone calls your business has received through your ads.

This is a good way to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns.

For example, you can set that any call that lasts over 1 minute is a conversion.

Microsoft Ads offers the same functionality.

4. Launch Google Local Campaigns

Google launched local campaigns in 2018 within the Google Maps interface. Although they function a lot like Google Ads with local extensions, the difference is that here they are an ad unit in and of themselves.

They can appear in Google Maps, in Google search as a Google My Business listing, as well as on YouTube or Google's display network. Google then shows your ad across these platforms and can track store visits as conversions.

5 Use Google Local Service Ads

Google local service ads cater to businesses that are inherently local in natures, such as plumbers, roofers, landscape architects and so forth.

To better serve these local businesses, Google has launched service-based business ads.

These ads drive leads and bookings directly from the SERP. And although they are only available for a specific set of service industries within North America, they can boost PPC traffic significantly.

Local Service Ads show up at the top of the SERP. They offer the opportunity for customers to interact with your business directly.

The Local Services app, in the meantime, let's you reply to customer messages, track bookings and manage leads.

If you prompt for local service ads, you need to be ready to reply to leads in a timely manner, for Google lowers the ranking potential of your ads if there are significant delays in replies.

It's also a bit more difficult to get approved to run these kind of ads, because businesses are required to submit a background check and verify their business entity, as well as give proof of insurance for locations that you choose to display the ads.

However, if you can qualify for these ads, they will significantly increase your local leads.

How can SKAGs help with local search?

Single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) can be an effective way to target local search traffic.

To break it down in its simplest forms, SKAGs are a way of organizing your Google Ads campaigns where your keywords become your ad groups.

Instead of having several keywords per ad group, as Google recommends, you want to have only one keyword per ad group, and then craft highly specific ad copy related to that keyword.

This remains one of the only ways to isolate traffic and make sure your ads appear only on search queries you want your to appear for.

SKAGs can work especially well if you are trying to target local traffic, because they offer the ability to not only isolate the location your ad appears for, but also the search query.

You can read more about how SKAGs here.

But overall, whatever strategy you choose to use to target local traffic, it's clear that ignoring the phrase 'near me' at a time when half all searches in Google contain this term is a foolish endeavor.

Instead, make sure that the campaigns you run are optimized for near me searches, and watch our PPC traffic blossom as a result.

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