beautiful vintage sign for a local plumber in the shape of a dripping faucet
PHOTO: Brian Harro | unsplash

Think about the last time you tried to find a plumber. Did you use Google to find a national provider and then use their website to find a local provider? Probably not. Did you search for “best plumber in (my town)?” That's more likely. But even more likely is you looked for “plumber” and Google did the rest, automatically reading your location and presenting you with a list of ads and organic results of plumbers in your area.

This system, which includes what Google refers to as Local Service Ads (LSAs), is now so familiar that marketers overlook its potential. Sometimes we get so distracted by the flashy, exciting new developments, like the ways that machine learning will transform the advertising industry or the promise of contextual personalization, that we forget that sometimes the simplest methods are the most effective.

And that means that if you provide a local service, you should advertise locally. In this article, we’ll explain both why and how.

The Problem With Ads

There are many problems with the way that advertising works at the moment, but the biggest can be summed up in a single sentence: customers don’t trust advertising.

That simple phrase hides a lot of complexity, however. For example, one reason why customers don’t trust ads is because national companies have huge advertising budgets and they can afford to spend (or waste) money plastering the web with ads. For most users, this means that searching for a local service like a locksmith, plumber or electrician can be surprisingly hard, because they will see results sponsored by national companies that don’t actually provide services in their area.

Another reason why the average user is skeptical of ads is more technical: the rise of malvertising. Local companies often don’t have the budget to employ expensive and experienced graphic designers. This can lead to their ads looking a little … dated, let’s say. These ads can seem suspicious, because users (rightly) associate poorly written copy and poorly formatted images with malware.

A third reason has more to do with human nature. Up until a few years ago, most skilled professionals relied on word-of-mouth recommendations to generate local business. Google hasn’t changed that. People like to employ local workers who understand their community and needs and prefer this to having to deal with a faceless national conglomerate.

Google’s Local Services Ads (LSAs) are designed to get around all of these problems by providing local businesses with a direct, geo-localized connection with users in their area. But that’s not the only advantage of LSAs.

Related Article: 4 Ways Bad Cybersecurity Habits Can Cost You Customers

Advantages of Google Local Services Ads

LSAs offer a number of clear advantages here. One is they are simply a cost-effective way for local businesses to reach customers. The cost of running an ad in your local area is many times less expensive than paying for it to appear on Google in places where you don’t offer services. As such, LSAs are a great way to maximize the impact of your advertising spend.

A second reason is that LSAs are effective at driving clicks and traffic to your website. Take a look at the data and this becomes clear. Blue Corona found that when LSAs were available on SERPs, they received 13.8% of local SERP clicks. The presence of an LSA at the top of SERPs also affects the total number of clicks for all other SERP types. When LSAs are present in search results, paid ad clicks account for a total of 25.3% of all user clicks, according to research by BrightLocal.

There are also indications that LSAs will become even more important in the years to come. Despite concerns about privacy, smart speakers such as Google Assistant are becoming more popular. LSAs are one of the few ways businesses can appear in the nearly 20% of searches made in this way, according to Google.

Related Article: The Future Is Multimodal: Why Voice Alone Will Never Be the Answer

Integrating LSA Into Your Advertising Strategy

If you've read this far, you are probably keen to get started. I’ve got some great news for you: it's easy to get started with LSAs.

First, use this link to complete an eligibility check with Google. If you’re eligible for LSAs in your area, you will then need to enter into the Google Guaranteed program by passing Google’s screening process. Being a part of the Google Guaranteed program means that Google has verified you as a trustworthy and reliable business. It's a little extra work, but is worth it for both your business and your customers. Google has explained why here.

But there is a slight caveat: you shouldn’t rely on LSAs alone. While they are great for driving traffic, they have a more limited utility when it comes to general SEO. That’s why, for instance, 53.6% of real estate agents think adding more locally-focused content to their real estate website will make it more appealing. But the most successful agents also target the national market, because people like to search for properties where they would *like* to live, and not just where they *do* live!

Related Article: How Marketers Can Recognize the Signs of Ad Fatigue

The Bottom Line

Depending on your particular business, the key here is to take an integrated, mixed approach to your strategy — one that makes the most of both LSA and national-level advertising.

That might sound complicated, but in reality using LSAs is relatively simple and gives you experience in building more complex advertising strategies. Paying attention to your local customers can be a great test run for ensuring cultural sensitivity in your marketing and advertising more generally, or for expanding your operations to new areas.