Advertising in Maps – Unparalleled Local Context

In March 2017, Caleb Donegan, VP of Product and Digital Strategy for Balihoo, presented this content at SMX West Conference in Los Angeles.  We wanted to share it with our readers! Please enjoy.

Let’s talk about how online maps have infiltrated our everyday lives – 41% of internet users worldwide use Google Maps services, which is an amazing statistic. This amounts to 1 billion monthly users of Google Maps, so it’s no wonder advertisers are jumping on board quickly to get their products in front of these highly qualified, ready to buy consumers!

Except that they aren’t – jumping on board, that is.

Advertising within Google Maps and other products like it is still in its early adoption phase.  This is likely partly due to the fact that Google doesn’t currently make it easy to purchase these ads placements (relative to basic search and display ads).  So, advertisers that have the knowledge and resources (people, tech) to take advantage of the map market have the chance to capitalize on low competition.

First things first, let’s go over why localized advertising (such as map ads) is taking over advertisers’ budgets, as it helps explain the extent of the current opportunity.  Take a look at the following:

  • 66% of people want ads customized to their location.
  • 50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day.
  • 18% of local searches on smartphones lead to a purchase within a day (compared to 7% of non-local searches).

You can see that local search, in particular, is a huge market.  The ads placed here are not just hyperlocal, they’re hyper mobile, and that equates to big business in 2017.  And, as the “local pack” (the portion of the SERP with localized results) has evolved over time, the map has become Google’s primary focus for consumers.

Between 2014 and 2015, Google saw a 2x increase in “near me” and “nearby” searches, with 80 percent of those searches occurring on mobile devices.

Another reason that smart advertisers are snatching up map ads is that local searchers have purchase intent – they are in the vicinity of your location AND are looking for a product like yours, which makes them incredibly valuable.  This combination of Location and Consumer Intent is very powerful, and if you aren’t standing out in that moment, you’ve lost them to a competitor.

So, when should map ads be used?  Here’s some best practice scenarios that are ideal for a map ad strategy:

  • You have a physical location (or thousands of them)
  • You have a new offering or a grand opening
  • You are the little guy amongst recognizable competition

Now it’s time for the million dollar question: how do I get some of these map ads?  For the purpose of this post, let’s focus on Google Maps, since it’s much larger than other networks.

The first thing to understand is that you can’t just go into Google AdWords and “buy” map ads – it’s not that easy.  Google’s algorithm decides what ads show up in the map and when.  However, you can take a series of steps to ensure that your ads are being considered for map ad placement by the algorithm.  Master these steps – and you’ll likely be seeing map ad traffic soon.

The basic steps:

  1. Connect your Google My Business account to Google Adwords – Google now makes this pretty easy. Just go under ‘Ad Extensions’ then ‘view: Location Extensions’ and click ‘ + Extension’.
  2. Keep Google My Business account updated – always. This included hours of operation, photos, menus, etc.

That’s it! However, you can choose to make your map ads even more powerful by performing the following best practices:

  • Day-part aggressively – only show ads during business hours, and consider only showing ads during peak hours.
  • Think mobile first – or only, in some cases
  • Layer 3rd party data into your ads, such as weather or demographic triggers (You’ll need automation for this…see below)
  • Change your bid strategy based on distance from your location.  A searcher in your zip code? Increase the bid by 25%, for example.

Metrics to review and track once your ads are showing on Google Maps:

  • Segment by Click Types
  • Geography and zip code reports
  • Hourly engagement

All of this is easy if you have a few locations.  But, what if you have 20 locations? 200 locations? 10,000 locations?  All of a sudden, it becomes a massive amount of work, and you’ll need to consider automating things so you aren’t spending all of your time maintaining and troubleshooting, and none of it optimizing performance (which is a recipe for low return on investment).

Luckily, Balihoo is built for localized paid search across all your locations and will automate almost anything you want to do across all, or some of your locations. Location extensions are automatically activated and maintained via data, and 3rd-party triggers can be used to provide further automation and precision advertising. To learn more about how Balihoo can help you scale digital campaigns across locations, request a demo!

Advertising in Maps: Conclusions

  • Low competition right now
  • The most contextual relevant search ad option
  • Connect to Google My Business
  • Optimize like crazy…use automation for the grunt work
  • Pay attention to day-parts and distance from location
  • Adjust bids up for mobile