7 Ways to Use Google Ads for Local Businesses

Google search ads are a proven way to build awareness and drive traffic to a website. Local businesses know this. 63.7 percent of them say paid search is either “very important” or “somewhat important” to their businesses.

64 percent of small business owners say ppc is important to their business

But paid search – and specifically Google Ads – can do more than just drive traffic and sales. It’s also a way to test offers and ad copy. You can even use it to improve your website’s search engine optimization.

Tricks like this are more important now than ever. Clicks are expensive, and getting more expensive all the time. We need to maximize our PPC advertising investment as much as possible.

But while clicks are getting more expensive and competition is increasing, there is also more opportunity. Local searches, especially, are on the rise. Here’s how much “near me” queries have increased in the last few years.

how much "near me" searches have increased in the last few years

To help you maximize this opportunity, we’ve outlined seven ways to use Google Ads for local businesses. If you’re already getting some success from Google Ads and ready to try more things with it, these tips are worth a try.

1. Use Local Service Ads.

Local service ads are just what they sound like: a new ad format expressly designed for local businesses that offer specific services. They’re noteworthy because they stand out a bit more than regular Google Ads. And because they’re local and hyper-relevant to the searches they’re triggered by, Local Service ads tend to perform very well.

Here’s what they look like in the search results:

Local Service Ads are one way to use Google Ads for Local Businesses

And what the ads look like when you click on them:

what local service ads look like after you click on the ads

If your business offers any kind of service (even if you don’t think of yourself as primarily a service business) consider testing these new ads.

Local service ads have one other secret benefit. They’ll make your business more prominent on Google Maps. That’s because Google shows these ads for “near me” searches on both Google Maps and Google.com. This may be a powerful selling point for local businesses – 77 percent of them say it’s “very important” or “somewhat important” to rank well on Google Maps.

Local businesses want to appear higher in Google Maps listings

To use Local Service ads, your Google Ads account needs to have location extensions set up. And if you wanted to pair them with a call extension… sorry. For right now, Local Search ad formats don’t support call extensions.

2. Use the Local Features of Ad Extensions.

Ad Extensions are the links you see below the description area of some text ads. Here’s one ad with a location extension:

Example ad extension. This is an excellent way to use Google Ads for local businesses

Clearly, a location extension would help with local advertising. But that’s not the only type of ad extension you should test with your local ads. One of these extensions could also be helpful:

  • Call extensions
  • Affiliate Location extensions
  • Automated Location extensions

For more information about how to use ad extensions for your local business, see our recent blog post, The Complete Guide to Ad Extensions.

3. Use Google Product Listing Ads to Promote Specific Stock Items.

If you’re in retail, you’ve got inventory. And actually, even if you’re a service business you probably have several items in stock.

So let shoppers near you know you have those items in stock. Google Product listings can be location targeted. They can be a great way to attract people who are actively shopping for what you have into your store.

Bonus idea: Test Google’s Local Inventory ads (LIAs). LIAs are similar to shopping ads, and another easy, trackable way to let nearby shoppers know you have what they’re looking for.

4. Test Meta Title Tag and Title Description Copy.

Want more website traffic… free website traffic? One of the easiest ways to get it is to split-test the title tags and meta description tags of your website’s pages in your Google Ads account.

The two copy formats are remarkably similar once you look at them carefully. Title tags are the equivalent of Google Ads’ text headlines. Ad descriptions fit into meta description tags.

According to Moz, “Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag. If you keep your titles under 60 characters, our research suggests that you can expect about 90% of your titles to display properly.”

That just so happens to fit into the first two headline fields of a Google Ads text ad perfectly.

Also according to Moz, “Meta descriptions can be any length, but Google generally truncates snippets to ~155–160 characters. It’s best to keep meta descriptions long enough that they’re sufficiently descriptive, so we recommend descriptions between 50–160 characters.”

That also fits easily into a Google text ad’s description field.

Here’s what those character lengths would look like as you set up the ad in your account:

meta title and description tags fit nicely into the format of Google text ads.

Bonus idea/s: You could also use Google Ads to test advertising copy for almost any other type of ad. Or even for email subject lines, blog post titles, and print ads. You could use the Google Ads Display Network to test images.

5. Test Which Customer Reviews Get the Most Clicks.

You are asking your customers to leave reviews for your business, right? But are you using those reviews on your website?

If you aren’t, you should start. Positive reviews, put in just the right places, can increase website conversion rates. Some of those “right places” would include checkout pages and contact pages.

However… some reviews may get more conversions than others. Way more. And the only way to know which review will convert best is to test.

Ideally, you’d run an a/b split test of the actual page with, say, either Review A or Review B on the live page. But a test like that can be complex and somewhat expensive. Many local business owners are already stretched thin, and they need simple, fast tactics that don’t require a lot of work to execute.

So instead of setting up a fancy test, use a simple Google Ads copy test to find out which review drives the most clicks. Then use that review on your site. Check the conversion rate before and after you add the review and see if it’s actually converting better.

You may have to test several reviews to find the right one, but once you’ve found it, it should convert significantly better. That means you’ll get more business from the same amount of traffic, all from a few simple copy tests that took 20 minutes or less to set up.

One last bit of advice: Make sure to let your ad copy tests run long enough to achieve statistical significance. Perry Marshall’s split-testing tool makes figuring that out easy.

6. Test which keywords convert into customers at the highest rate.

Not all keywords are created equal. Some keywords have a vastly higher purchase intent than others, for example. Our blog post, How to Use Search Intent to Convert More Users Into Leads and Customers, outlines this in detail.

Some keywords are also easier to rank for. That’s why search engine optimization pros track “keyword competitiveness” so closely. Some keywords are intensely competitive (think “buy insurance”) while others don’t require much work at all to rank for (like “homemade vegan goldfish food”).

If you’re willing to do some research, it’s possible to find keywords that have both low competition and high conversion rates. There aren’t a lot of keywords like this, but they do exist.

Trouble is, the only way to really know if a keyword will convert for you is to test it yourself. If you test it via organic search optimization, it can take a long time and a lot of work to find out if it converts well.

There is a simpler way. If you use Google Ads to test which keywords convert best, it costs a little money, but it takes way less time. Google Ads ends up actually being the best way to test which SEO terms you should be optimizing for.

To do this, run ads for different keywords to see which keywords convert well, then take that learning and go apply it to your SEO work. Only optimize for those high-converting keywords. Let your competitors go after the higher volume, lower converting, and much more competitive search terms.

7. Use Local Terms for Your Keywords, and Mention Local Landmarks in Your Marketing.

Leverage some community pride in your PPC advertising and in your SEO efforts.

Why? Because consumers like small, local businesses. That’s what Gallup has found in several years’ worth of surveys.

Consumers have a soft spot for local businesses.

How can you do this? Here are two ways:

  • Include variations of your city or town in the keywords you bid on. Also include them on your website.
  • Mention your neighborhood, and possibly local sports teams, major local events, or local landmarks in both your advertising and your marketing.


Google Ads has plenty of features to help local businesses target customers near them. This gives them a powerful advantage over businesses that aren’t nearby. In the age of Big Box Stores and Amazon, that’s important: Local businesses need all the help they can get.

But local businesses can also use some of Google Ads’ testing capabilities to optimize their websites and even their offline marketing. Just because a business is “small” doesn’t mean it can’t use some of the optimization tricks larger ecommerce and SAAS companies have been leveraging for years.



  1. Unsplash, Scott Webb.

2,6. Higher Visibility.

3-5. Screenshots by the author, August 2019.

  1. Gallup.
Pam Neely

Pam Neely

Pam Neely has been in digital marketing for 20 years. She's a serial entrepreneur and content marketing enthusiast with a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award and a Hermes Creative Award for blogging. She has a Master's Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University. Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.

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