Keeping ads relevant and local

For advertising, local is relevant.

That is no small statement either. We know it’s true not just because it makes sense, which it does if you take but a moment to consider it, but because Google went ahead and did a research study on it. In their May 6th Inside AdWords article titled New Research: Location Extends the Relevance of Search Ads one of their key statistics is that 80% of those involved in the study wanted advertisements to be customized to their rough location.

Some of us are hesitant to give away our geolocational information freely to apps, devices, websites and search engines because it can be considered as private information open to abuse. Various steps have been taken to keep this trust transfer visible and reversible. For example specialised websites have to issue a request to use your location data which you can revoke. On your smartphone disabling geo-tracking is as easy as disabling your gps. Other means of tracking users’ locations however remain unavoidable, such as IP address logging and cellphone tower ids. This might sound a touch 1984 for anyone paranoid with Big Brother, but the tradeoff is quite benign, if not quite beneficial.

By including the user’s location in context Google offers search results relevant to where they are or where they might go. Searches for “hardware store” shouldn’t produce results of the world’s most popular hardware retailers but instead any and all hardware retailers that are at least within the user’s country. Ideally the results should be so granular as to suggest the very closest hardware store to the user.

We have grown accustomed to search results made relevant by having them go through a “local” filter. Searching for “bank” in South Africa does not feature “Bank of America” very prominently, and it shouldn’t because we are most likely not interested in it. That said one part of the search results page that Google has significantly less control over is the advertising space. Google wishes to keep all its content relevant and goes through great effort to ensure that that is the case, so when Google suggests some advertising best practices then it’s recommended to listen. Here the message is, try to keep it local.

For new online marketers how to keep ads local and relevant might not be entirely clear. There are primarily two methods of ensuring geographical relevance: Advertising to users close to your business and advertising to users interested in the area of your business. These two audiences require two distinct strategies.

We know whether users are close to a location by various tracking information that is collected during a search and according to what device it originates from. This is especially relevant to mobile devices. You can designate an area you wish to advertise to, ideally with your business in it, by district, city or radius. The granularity depends on the local infrastructure and you may find that sometimes you are limited by how local you can focus an ad, and it might be better to broaden slightly to keep traffic optimal. This targeting method ensures that users will only see your ad if they are within the designated area. This is good for retailers and certain services.

The other method designates an area of interest. This means that there is no restriction to who may see your ad, provided that they included some kind of qualifying search term that indicates interest in that area, such as a street or suburb name. Google figures out what qualifies as a local interest in these cases, so it might be better to restrict your audience location first, and then manually adding qualifying search terms that you trust yourself. The type of users’ that are captured with this targeting might not be within the area of interest itself, but may be in the near future. This is especially important for real estate and hotels, whose clientele are not necessarily close by when they are doing searches.

By going through the effort of qualifying your audience by location before showing your ads to them will serve both Google, who always wants more relevant ad offerings, and yourself by ensuring better click-through rates and better qualified clicks.

Yuri Shatalov
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Yuri Shatalov
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