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4 Pillars of Local Search Conversion OptimisationFocusing just a little time & effort towards effective conversion optimisation can reap huge rewards in local search marketing.

I’ve run hundreds of local search engine marketing campaigns in a range of different industries & geographical markets. One thing I’ve noticed is that the majority of companies doing local SEO or Google AdWords are missing at least one of the critical steps necessary to maximise ROI.

The great news is that this stuff is extremely simple to implement for the majority of companies targeting localised markets online. Conversion optimisation in local search doesn’t need to be rocket science. The most subtle changes to your keyword targeting & landing page quality can result in a SIGNIFICANT reduction to your cost per lead and overall return on investment.

Here’s what I consider to be the 4 most important factors in conversion optimisation in local search marketing. Simple, but powerful stuff.


1. Effective Conversion Tracking – Measure EVERYTHING.


Measuring Local Search MarketingKnowing how many visitors your website attracts each month is useless unless you have insight into how those visitors translate into new customers & profits. The first step to conversion optimisation in local search is to ensure that you’re tracking anything that you consider to be a valuable conversion. Email enquiries (and the sales they result in), phone call enquiries (and the sales they result in), brochure downloads, new email list subscribers, new Facebook fans – whatever. Figure out a way to track everything. You can’t optimise for conversions without knowing what conversions are coming through and where they came from.

One challenge here for companies trying to track their returns from organic traffic is that phone calls are still the primary point of contact for local consumers and organic tracking numbers. This can cause some issues for your NAP (Name, Address & Phone Number) consistency & hence local rankings if you’re not careful. There are a couple of ways around this challenge. The first is to do some paid search advertising with phone tracking numbers over the course of 3-6 months and track which keywords are driving phone calls. You’ll also need to have voice recording activated and set aside some time to analyse this conversion data thoroughly. One of the most effective ways to track phone calls from your PPC campaign is to use reverse proxy tracking technology. Even hire somebody to listen to the phone calls and make notes on what sales have been achieved. The whole purpose of this exercise would be to acquire valuable data samples which you can use to tweak your keyword targeting & website content (See steps 2 & 3) for better conversions in the future. That is, once you know which keywords are converting from your paid search campaign, you can then focus your SEO strategy around those more valuable terms.

Another method for tracking phone call conversions from organic search is to use Dynamic Number Insertion (Javascript code that enables you to show dynamic tracking numbers based on your website’s referral traffic sources and other metrics). I think we’ll see this form of phone call tracking become more and more popular in Australia, as it helps businesses understand which online mediums are driving phone calls organically – without adversely affecting local rankings because Google spiders are still shown the correct NAP (apparently). This solution still won’t accurately track all calls from Google+ Local though because some searchers will call your normal number straight from the SERPS without clicking through to your website where the tracking number is shown.


2. Relevant & Valuable Keyword Targeting – Make your traffic squeaky CLEAN

Ideally, you’ll be using a bid optimisation platform for your paid search that actually works out which keywords are actually generating the most valuable conversions. (Both online conversions like email enquiries and offline conversions like phone calls).

Without accurate online & offline conversion data, you can never really know which keywords are most valuable to your business. Remember, just because a certain keyword drives the most traffic to your site, doesn’t mean that it equates to the best return on investment scenario.

For example, let’s pretend that you’re a pest control business located on Sydney’s North Shore. You’re running a local AdWords campaign with the geo targeting set to include your local North Shore radius area but you also want to try and attract work from across the bridge in Sydney’s CBD. You’re just not sure if the ad spend will be worth targeting that Sydney CBD area yet so you want to test it. It’s likely that a broad, highly competitive keyword like “Pest Control Sydney” will drive the most traffic and also spend the biggest chunk of your budget. Keywords like “Pest Control North Shore” & “Termite Inspections Neutral Bay” are likely to deliver much better value to your business in terms of costs per lead. Especially if your website makes it clear that you’re located in this area because consumers like to shop local when possible. In saying this, I’ve seen plenty of campaigns that get a better cost-per-lead result from the higher volume, more expensive keywords like “Pest Control Sydney”. The solution? You need to test which keywords are driving the best cost per lead. That’s the only way to find out which keywords are really going to be the most valuable to you. You also need to take into account which positions (across all keywords) on Google are driving the most cost-efficient result across all target keywords. There’s no point trying to figure this out manually. There’s bid optimisation software out there that is designed to do this for you.

Tip: From my experience, position one in the sponsored links section almost always delivers a higher cost per lead. Higher volume of traffic & leads, but at a more expensive price. So it just depends on what your campaign goals are here.


3. Website Landing Pages That Sell – “Clicks” don’t pay your bills, CUSTOMERS do.

You can have the highest budget, the best service & a super-relevant keyword set, but if your website &/or landing pages don’t give your potential customers what they want then you may as well flush your marketing dollars down the toilet. Your website should really be addressed before you pump any resources into SEO or PPC advertising. I’ve found that simple stuff like having your phone number easily found, having all of your products & services listed, promoting your service area clearly & having a mobile optimised site are all easy wins for conversion optimisation in local search. More on Effective landing pages here and a great article on local landing pages here.

Here’s a simple example of how making a few tweaks to your landing pages & keywords can improve your cost per lead from local Google advertising. The report shows spend, impressions, visits, calls & web events (form submissions) in chronological order from most recent down to least recent. FYI this is for a Newcastle based business in the Home Improvement industry, who has an average sale value of around $500.

4 Cycles PPC Conversion Analysis

First campaign cycle – Before any campaign learnings had happened.

Conversion rate from click to lead (call or email form submission) : 18.2%. Cost per lead = $17.54

Second campaign cycle – We cleaned up some search traffic coming from irrelevant keywords and keywords that were spending budget for no conversions.

Conversion rate: 21.5%. Cost per lead = $14.49

Third campaign cycle – We decided to make some simple website updates at the start of this cycle, including adding some price based offers and more information about the business’ products & services.

Conversion rate: 23.3%. Cost per lead = $12.50

Fourth campaign cycle – As well as some ongoing keyword tweaking & campaign bid optimisation, we also launched a mobile optimised site for the client to help searchers find the information they needed to convert easier on smartphones.

Conversion rate : 35.5%. Cost per lead : $8.47


4. Train your sales team! – Turn online leads into OFFLINE conversions.

Don’t bother doing local online marketing unless you have an effective offline sales process in place first.

You could hire the best search agency, have the best website with the most relevant keyword traffic in the world, but if your salespeople can’t convert your warm leads into paying customers then the whole thing falls to pieces. I have come across this problem with some of my clients. We start a campaign for them, deliver a heap of quality leads, then we notice (by listening to voice recordings of the tracked phone enquiries) that their receptionists or salespeople are flushing the new leads down the toilet.

I recommend to many of my clients that they invest in some professional sales training if they really want to get the most out of their advertising investment with us. A friend of mine, Bernard Hynes of Hynesight has done some amazing work for some of my clients so I have seen first hand how a little support in this area can really maximise your marketing returns. (And also boost your customer service ratings).

This fourth step is the one that I see most local businesses needing help with. it’s also probably the easiest step to fix in local conversion optimisation. Not only that, but sales training for better offline conversions will drive better returns from all marketing mediums.

I hope this article has got you thinking of some easy ways to start driving better returns from your local search campaigns.

Any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below.