Location, Location, Location: Getting Store Visits with PPC Advertising

By Tad Miller | Jun 30, 2014
More Articles by Tad

Location Map PinThere are some stores that you just can’t walk out of with only the item or items you originally came to shop for.  For example, I don’t think it’s possible for me to walk out of Costco without spending $300.  I am physically compelled to buy something I didn’t even know I needed, like a huge canister of cashews.

Additionally, chances are if you find yourself going to a car dealership, you are either contemplating buying a new car or spending a lot of money getting your car fixed.

We have managed a lot of pay per click advertising (PPC) for companies that do most of the physical selling of products in the brick and mortar store.  So the emphasis on that advertising is driving online behaviors that compel searchers to come to the store and buy (and frequently they buy more than they came for).

We are pretty good at it.  In our 8 year history we’ve driven more than 7.5 million store locator searchers on client websites and over 18 million store inventory searches. 

How do we do it?

Keys to Driving Store Visits with PPC

1. First and foremost in driving store visits is advertising on the store or brand name.  While some would argue that this is paying for traffic that natural search was going to get anyway and is a waste of money, there are plenty of studies that prove otherwise.  Our own internal data also shows that there is absolutely an incremental lift provided by advertising on brand keywords.  We have a case study that proved that advertising on brand keywords provided a 360% increase in store locator searches and a 430% increase in inventory searches.

In addition to advertising on the base store or brand name, we also utilize search query logs to find all of the location-specific keyword variations for each individual store.  This can be exhaustive work, but getting all those location-specific keywords in exact match format significantly improves keyword quality score and reduces cost per click to extremely affordable levels.

2. Know that mobile searches that drive location searches are practically money in the bank for a PPC advertiser.  Google’s data indicates that 50% of consumers visit a store within a day of their local search and that 32% end up visiting a store and buying after a location-based search.

Local Mobile Searches lead to Store Visits


3. Landing page design makes a big difference for driving store locator searches.  Sometimes websites minimize the very conversion actions they are supposed to be driving.  Experimenting with different design options that can give store locator search buttons or interfaces more visibility on the page can incrementally increase performance.  This is especially the case for product pages not related to location-specific searches.

Poultry Feed at Southern States (1)

That big red button to search for stores with chicken feed really worked.


4. The future of location search is about to significantly change.  Google just released new features that allow advertisers to bid based on the proximity of searchers to a store’s locations.  Google will do this by utilizing the store’s Google Places account, which you should also be utilizing for AdWords Location Extensions to go with your ads.  You can choose different ranges of proximity to your store addresses and bid based on performance of each proximity band.

Location Extension Bids

If your success is based on driving searchers to the store, being able to bid differently based on distance is a benefit for stores in more densely populated areas.  It remains to be seen how well they will work in rural areas where people might drive farther than 20 miles to visit a store.  For example, the closest Walmart to my hometown in Kansas is more than 60 miles away, and that particular Walmart brings shoppers from more than an hour’s drive in all directions.

5. The Holy Grail of location search is connecting the ad click to the actual store visit.

Google is beta-testing a program that uses smartphone location data to determine when consumers visit stores, according to agency executives briefed on the program by Google employees. Google then connects these store visits to Google searches conducted on smartphones in an attempt to prove that its mobile ads do, in fact, work.

That’s right. Google will use mobile phone GPS location data to see if mobile searchers (and I’m assuming desktop searchers with mobile phones) exposed to ads influences getting location searchers to the store.  So eventually advertisers will definitively know their ads are effective at delivering customers to their door.

Brick and Mortar Isn’t Dead

E-commerce hasn’t replaced every shopping experience.  People still want to see products and touch them and evaluate them. They want a knowledgeable sales staff that they can ask about products or services.  Some products are also too large to really ship to your home (refrigerators) and some products can’t be purchased with a credit card (motor vehicles).  But it’s still extremely important to have a website that allows searchers to check to see if the inventory they want is available at their local store and making it easy to get directions to that store.  Greasing the wheels with PPC advertising to make that easier to do only provides incremental lifts in delivering those store visitors.


Make it easy for me to find your store to buy more of these.

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