Ads in the Local Pack – Six Things Big Brands Need to Know

For national brands, their SEO agencies, and their local partners, being displayed in the local pack has resulted in more foot traffic on the local level.  However, depending on the market and competition level, it has typically taken significant resources to pull off, .  Unless you’re the market leader, you’ve had to stay closely attuned to your NAP (name, address, phone) integrity, build SEO landing pages for each location, and keep your business listings up to date to consistently display in the local pack .

And what does all that hard work get you? Well, in 2016 or 2017, it will get you around ⅓ less than you bargained for, because Google has announced that ads will soon be up for auction in the local pack, replacing 1 of 3 organic spots.  So, that top spot you worked hard for is now up for grabs in the marketplace.  We think it will look something like this to the consumer:


But all is not lost – big brands and their agencies will now have a new opportunity to use all of those quality signals they’ve built to fold a new output into the mix and dominate even more of the local-mobile SERP.  

You need to prepare. If you have 50+ locations, execution won’t be a piece of cake.

  1. What’s the good news?

For starters, your ad will be partnered up with the local map. This visual will provide a level of geographic context that you simply can’t get in a text ad, even with location extensions enabled. With context comes relevance, and with relevance comes qualified clicks.

  1. And the bad news?

Google may continue to pull all data for the local pack directly from Google My Business (GMB) listings, paid or not.  If you’re a brand that has used its own custom data feed to power search campaigns, and has updated GMB listings infrequently, you might be shuttering at the thought of optimizing hundreds or thousands of GMB listings in the same way to power ads.  

  1. How will local pack ads perform?

There’s a lot of speculation about the performance levels.  However, in general, consumers trust the results in the local pack more than the set of paid ads at the top, as proven by heatmap studies from companies such as MOZ.  This is why SEOs are in such high demand.  So, at least until consumer perception catches up to reality, we believe these ads will perform at a high level, but will not take much, if any, traffic away from standard AdWords ads.

  1. Who will suffer with the launch of ads in the local pack?

Brands and agencies that rely heavily on SEO to power local-digital, and who aren’t prepared to shift some SEO budget over to local paid search may see KPIs diminish over time, as the shared organic pie will now be smaller.  Both areas are important (SEO and paid search), both areas require money, but Google is making it clear that it’s moving towards a pay-to-play arena in the local pack.  If the SEO budget is untouchable, many brands will siphon funds from the national paid search budget or reduce co-op program payouts, both of which continue to be popular strategies for leveraging the rise in local-digital while softening unperforming programs.

  1. Who takes advantage of local pack ads?

Brands launching new locations will now be able to instantaneously affect the local pack, something never before possible.  You see, with the local pack, Google uses structured citations across the web to judge the quality of your business as a potential result.  Brand new locations have none of those footprints for Google to judge, and in the past have had to wait it out. But now, they can jump to the front of the line.

  1. How should my company prepare for the launch of ads in the local pack?

If you want to control and optimize local pack ads across some or all of your locations, you’ll likely need to build out a plan to optimize and link your Google My Business listings up with individual AdWords accounts or sub-accounts for each location.  

There are many services-oriented organizations out there that can update your GMB listings at scale.

If you don’t already have individual accounts or sub-accounts for each of your locations in AdWords, ads in the local pack aren’t the first reason to make the shift.  Sub-accounts allow you to execute ads in the correct timezones, automatically set and pace individual location budgets , and easily report and diagnose problems at the location level. To truly execute locally, this best practice is a must-have, and is a feature automatically built into the Balihoo Paid Search and Display platforms.

What is your company doing to prepare?  Have you already begun discussing the implications? We want to hear from you!