PPC Localisation: a new, more flexible Pay-Per-Click advertising model

Running a successful, cost effective PPC advertising campaign takes a lot more than picking some relevant keywords, writing a bit of clever ad copy then sitting back and watching the results come in. If you want to pull together a successful, competitor-proof campaign, it requires a bit of sound strategic thinking…

The importance of measuring pay-per-click campaigns

Back in the summer of 2011, we created a series of Pay-Per-Click campaigns for a well-known Pub and Restaurant brand, with a chain of over 130+ pubs. The main objective of our ads was to drive as much web traffic as possible at the lowest Cost Per Click. So we set about researching the most relevant search terms and cost effective keywords and wrote persuasive ad copy with messages relating to the most popular pub deals of the week, e.g. Sunday Roasts, Lunch and Evening Meal Deals.

To ensure the right pub ads reached the right people, all the ads were geo-targeted. This meant the ads only appeared to potential customers living within an eight mile radius of the pub. By using Google location targeting technology, we successfully raised the profile of the national pub brand at a very local level.

Of course, there are limitations to geo-targeting; because you’re tailoring your campaign to a specific group of people in a limited geographical area, it only attracts small volumes. So to boost click rates and get the most relevant exposure for our ads, we also used high volume search phrases and built national and pseudo UK targeted search and display campaigns. This drove substantial traffic at an incredibly low Cost Per Click – £0.04 to be precise.

In the first six months the results were very impressive. We achieved an average CPC of £0.28 and drove nearly 300,000 visits to the site. Every digital marketer will appreciate that hitting your objectives in the early stages of a campaign does give you a huge sense of achievement (and relief), knowing that your constant monitoring and hard work has attracted huge levels of new visitors to the site, within the clients’ business objectives and budget.

A change of tactic required…

Early in 2012, a new online booking system was launched for the pub chain. This meant that our paid searches would need to drive direct booking conversions for each pub. We began by testing the current keyword strategy as it had been very successful in driving large volumes of traffic to the site and altered existing ad copy Call To Actions to include a strong ‘book online’ message.

However, we soon realised that this wouldn’t be enough to drive a significant number of conversions, in actual fact the best performing keywords in terms of traffic generators were not the most cost effective to drive direct bookings. After an in depth review of the live campaigns, for example, monitoring the return on investment at a keyword level, we started to overhaul the current Pay Per Click strategy.

Local ads for local pubs

The new strategy contained three steps, the first, and arguably the most important of these, was research. Our new approach centred around localisation – statistics suggested that a third of all guests live within five minutes drive and 80% under 15 minutes. We focussed on a five mile radius around each pub, including elements such as the history and features of the pub, customer reviews, the history of the area, local attractions and amenities, and local competition. This extra information enabled us to further tailor the campaign to potential customers, complementing the organic and PPC campaigns to get more niche searches.

Once the research had been carried out, the second step was keyword selection and ad copy. By choosing “non standard” keywords for specific areas, a more tailored approach can be achieved. For example, if there’s a golf club in the catchment area or if the area or building is steeped in rich history.  Adding these local elements will help the ad to connect with the audience and hopefully increase Click Through Rates and bookings.

The third step is to build the campaigns, get them live and then monitor results. While results can be seen quickly with these campaigns, the inclusion of elements such as local amenities within the ad copy can have a detrimental effect on Google Quality Scores. A good way to combat this is to mention the amenities within the copy on the organic web page, this way the ads show more relevance to the destination URL. In doing so, not only will your ads achieve a higher Google Quality Score but if the landing page copy is as detailed and interesting as the ad copy, it’ll give the customer a further nudge to book their table.

Testing the approach

We tested our approach in two regional areas with a mixed balance of high and low booking pubs. After the first month, we began vigorous optimisation, which consisted of three main areas:

1. We reduced the location radius by one mile, as we were reaching daily budgets.

2. We noticed the campaigns converted better on certain days. For these days we increased the budget and dialled down spending for the poorer converting days.

3. And lastly, as you are limited to the number of characters you can use on ad copy, we developed a sitelink strategy. Pub by pub, we took the most interesting facts from an area and created a bank of “special sitelinks”. This allowed us the space to include all the pubs history within a single ad group, further helping conversion.

Drawing conclusions

One of the advantages of having a detailed localised approach is that each ad runs independently. This gives you the flexibility to switch off or amend campaigns as required. Also once built, the campaigns provide a strong platform to promote key events and deals throughout the year, for example Mother’s Day which further helped bookings. Instead of the ‘scatter gun’ approach favoured by lots of PPC campaigns, our ads were designed specifically to target the right people in the right areas. This ensured not only the success of the campaign but value for money with every pound our client spent with Google.

The next chapter of this journey will be to analyse the learnings’ and see how we can get more punters through the door of their local pubs throughout 2013.