Florian Fuehren

Before digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) were a thing, a local services ad meant a beautifully calligraphed store sign or a newspaper ad. Online marketing platforms like Google Ads seemed to kick the doors to the world open, allowing everyone to advertise to everyone, no matter where they lived.

However, even in the digital age, local services ads still have their place. Only now, you need to know which platforms and formats to pick. Part of that has to do with consumers’ demand for locally sourced products, and part of it simply with the omnipresence of mobile devices in today’s world. 

Today, we investigate this gray area halfway between local SEO and PPC ads.

What Are Local Search Ads?

Some businesses depend on their local communities more than others, and these relationships translate into different paid search models for Google. 

A global restaurant chain may own an outlet in your neighborhood, but they’re rarely focused on tailoring their strategy to a local community because they operate in multiple locations. Now, if you think about the potential customers a local restaurant is trying to reach, the situation slightly changes. They may well want to build rapport with local customers, but you’ve certainly looked up “best restaurant in XYZ” to dig up listicles with inside recommendations as well.

However, you probably wouldn’t google “best flooring services in Denver” if you lived in New York, because certain local service providers rely on a tighter relationship with their community. These also tend to be businesses with a smaller reach and budget. Think general contractors, landscaping, pest control or plumbers.

While global companies can utilize programmatic ads and content marketing for broad audience reach, local businesses often work with a more limited geographic reach and budget. These are the businesses that benefit the most from Google Local Search Ads. In a nutshell, they’re designed to entice calls and store visits, mostly on mobile devices, which is why their format differs slightly from Google Ads.

You’ll encounter Local Search Ads, also referred to as Local Services Ads, at the top of your Google search results or in your Google Maps app. Depending on the user’s location, they can even pop up within auto-suggestions to save time. When someone’s looking for a pharmacy, you don’t want to keep them waiting, and Google is aware of that.

If you’re running a business that might benefit from Local Search Ads, you can check your eligibility online by typing in your location and service category. Keep in mind that the services and ads offered may differ by country, region or industry, and that you should ideally complement this strategy with other online marketing tactics to reach your customer base. 

A well-rounded local SEO strategy can span anything from curating and responding to online reviews and social media posts for reputation management to managing entries in local service directories.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Local Services Ads?

Even before you look at the technicalities and cost, Local Services Ads offer tremendous benefits, assuming they fit your business and you’re eligible. Once you examine some examples, the limited formatting may seem like a disadvantage at first glance, but you have to keep in mind what goes on behind the curtains.

First, there’s the obvious competitive advantage of advertising to a highly targeted audience. Local Services Ads are kept on the short side because their audience is already actively searching for your service, meaning they’re more likely to convert. You don’t necessarily get the creative freedom to target your messaging or reference any local events or inside jokes, because the ads just show your most essential information.

That said, you benefit from the trust people put in Google, and you can leverage that by linking to your customer reviews or, depending on your industry, performing Google’s own background check. In certain industries, such as financial services or real estate, you can earn a “Google Guaranteed” badge by verifying your license is up to date.

Whether you fall into these categories or not, the trusted environment of Google’s apps at just the right time can give you a competitive edge, provided you deliver the right messages once customers call or click on your website.

  • Emphasize eco-friendly sourcing: Many clients choose local businesses because they want to do their part in saving the environment. Let them know you share their values, for example by mentioning in your welcome message that you only source local materials.
  • Leverage the local calendar and community: Is there a festival in one part of town? Offer a local discount. Are you partnering with another local business? Share the love. Just finished a neighborhood project? Call it out on your website.
  • Use your location to niche down: Whether you’re sharing your knowledge about local electrical codes or a nasty garden weed – demonstrate your expertise early on. That tells clients why they should pick you over a national service provider. 

Many business owners shy away from owning their local niche and culture. Don’t. Be aware that little references and detailed local knowledge are business assets, even if you drop them in a short welcome message.

General Search Ads vs. Local Ads: Which Works Best?

Besides local references and Google ad formats, there’s another difference that might make you choose one local service ad over the other. If you advertise through traditional Google Ads, you pay per click. This often makes the billing model unprofitable for smaller or seasonal businesses, even if they do want to invest in their local SEO.

With Local Search Ads, you pay per lead. But how does that work if people still click on your link or phone number? Simple. Google lets you determine your marketing budget, and you can also directly manage your leads through a dashboard or dedicated mobile apps for iOS and Android. If you’ve been charged for a lead that didn’t translate to any business, you can simply request a refund. In the PPC world, that money would’ve been gone.

You also don’t need to worry about a customer not finding you because your business name doesn’t include all your service offerings. In that same dashboard, you can enlist every service you offer, making sure customers don’t reach out for something you can’t deliver.

Let’s walk through an example to see when Local Services Ads are a better fit than Search Ads and vice versa.

Business A is an HVAC consultant; business B installs HVAC equipment. Even though it can’t hurt the consultant to be aware of local legislation, general search ads would probably serve him best. His business isn’t tied to a local community, and he can serve clients over the phone nationwide. Business B, however, probably only serves customers within the same town or district, meaning that their clients would benefit from the additional context Local Services Ads could provide.

Costs of Local Search Ads

The payment model likely makes the biggest difference for many service providers because it allows them to enter the marketing realm in the first place. Even with somewhat predictable CPC rates, PPC advertising always requires specific know-how and tailored strategies.

With Local Search ads, you can pretty much set your budget based on your region, industry and the number of leads you’re hoping for — and that’s it. You’ll be charged a flat fee for each lead.

No matter whether you choose local search or Google Ads, paid or organic strategies, it’s important to always treat it as part of your overall marketing efforts. You’ll still need professional copywriting, design and local SEO services to make sure customers convert.

How To Get Started With Local Search Ads and Measure Results

Local advertising is a world of its own, but just like with any other marketing strategy, it’s important to consider your objectives and budget before you jump in. Think of your business model and target audience, and also take into account whether that plan might change later.

Define traceable campaign objectives to make sure you see actual value. If the search ad format or linked resources like websites allow it, adjust your content for geographic targeting, such as through dedicated landing pages for separate locations. Observe what your competitors are doing and test your results over time so you can adjust if trends or customer preferences change.

But most importantly, don’t treat one platform like the Holy Grail of marketing, whether that’s Google Local Ads or Facebook Ads. Treat each asset and strategy as part of your company culture and messaging. There’s no shame in misstepping now and then, but it’s crucial to have check-in points so you can correct the course along the way.