Local SearchMobile

Targeting Hyper Local Customers with Paid Advertising

By November 14, 2017 March 3rd, 2022 7 Comments

In my years as a marketer for small businesses, I’ve found that most eliminate paid advertising as a legitimate channel – both because of cost and targeting.  There’s a misconception among non-marketers who are trying to run businesses that PPC or CPC advertising is too broad reaching for a mom & pop establishment with one or two brick and mortar location(s).  The problem comes, in large part, because of the complexity that is local ppc ads. This is no longer a 10 minute setup and let it run channel.  Like most other local search & online marketing platforms, the local ppc options are evolving and becoming more complex.

So how does a small business, or a business with a limited reach compete online? With local and hyper-local targeting!  There’s definitely a way for a restaurant with a 20-mile radius of influence to compete.  Whether you live in a small town, or a huge city with a narrow delivery radius – there’s a paid ad option for you.

Bing Ads or Google AdWords

These are the traditional PPC advertising outlets, but did you know you can target pretty granular locations with your PPC ads? In Bing Ads and Google AdWords you can set up a campaign to target keywords searched in a pretty narrow radius from city center.  In AdWords you can choose radius from your Google MyBusiness location, which would help a business that delivers food, or draws walking visitors from a tourist or business district.

Writing local ppc ads that specifically target those visitors locally can help as well.  Mention attractions they recognize, regional colloquialisms, landmarks, etc that help orient the ad viewer to your neighborhood and guide them to your location.

If you want to target locally, vs hyper-locally, you can put in specific zip codes to target locations nearby or cities near you.  This can be especially effective if you’ve a brick-and-mortar location in one town, but want to be aggressive in targeting nearby cities.  It’s very hard to rank organically in the local pack for towns where you don’t have a location – getting a PPC ad to the top of results can help.

Local Services Ads

Formerly known as “Home Service Ads,” Local Services Ads offers a paid advertising platform for service providers that target a specific area.  These ads appear in a carousel at the top of search results along with stars and reviews.  Right now the service providers these are available for, and the metros available are a bit controlled as Google continues to refine the product.


Phoenix, Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

Service Categories:

Locksmiths, plumbers, electricians, HVAC, and garage door services.

If you don’t see your category or location, check back often as Google is actively expanding this product.

AdWords Express

I feel like I should throw a few words in about AdWords Express.  I’m not a huge fan because it’s very restricted and doesn’t give the advertiser much control.  It’s attached to your Google MyBusiness account, creates placements based on categories and phrases you seed, but you can’t bid on specific keywords.  You can write your ads, and it does track phone calls as well as click-throughs.  Like AdWords you can target a local radius as well.  My hesitation is because of the lack of keyword control.  If you want to target a nearby town or neighborhood, you can – but you can’t choose the keywords you show up for.  The keywords slant heavily towards branded keywords – this left the longer tail but highly qualified keywords behind.  AdWords proper gives us back that control.

Targeting Mobile

There are a few different ways to target mobile devices.  This technology is getting more popular, and sophisticated.  It’s becoming possible to target an ad towards those walking by your business – or just in your neighborhood.  You can build mobile-specific campaigns with limited radius in AdWords or Bing Ads – but you’re dependent upon them performing a search for your category/keywords while they’re nearby.  Right now pushing an ad to a nearby mobile phone isn’t something that’s readily available, especially on a small scale.  The pervading opinion is that pull marketing is still where it’s at – and push mobile marketing is too invasive.  Snapchat is doing something with push ads using geofencing, which is interesting but has a very limited audience.

Retargeting Ads

Retargeting, or remarketing, ads allow you to market your business to an audience that has already visited your website.  This feature is available in AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook at this time. You place a bit of code on your website that tags visitors with an expiring cookie – and then your local ppc ads follow them around the web during their browsing.  While many consumers think it’s “creepy” to see ads for a pair of jeans or shoes they were looking at on Amazon on other websites – as marketers we’re chuffed to keep those products and brands front of mind as you go on about your online day.

Here’s an example – I was on the Harry’s Razors website (because I love them) and picked up a tracking cookie – now when I visit other sites – in this case NBCNews.com – I see an ad for Harry’s.

This is an amazing opportunity for small business to advertise on big websites – for a fraction of the cost, and only to those who have expressed an interest in the brand and/or product.  You actually end up paying a fraction of what ad buys on huge websites would cost, but you still keep your brand/products/services top of mind with your client base.

Facebook Ads

Of all the ad platforms, we’re seeing Facebook offer not only the most robust as far as targeting goes – for many products and services the social aspect of advertising is leading to a higher conversion rate than on more traditional channels like AdWords or Bing Ads.  Not only can you target narrow locations with radius targeting like you can on Google or Bing – you can also target interests, some competitors, previous website visitors, email lists, specific demographics, audiences similar to your best customers, and more.  For a local or hyper-local business – you can target your typical client demographics laid over the top of your location or radius targeting.  

An example would be a Chinese food restaurant that offers 3-mile radius delivery but only via PayPal payments so you’d want to target anyone who “likes” PayPal, who lives in your delivery radius with an ad that promises 15 minute delivery.  This is a real boon for hyper-local targeting that can be focused even further towards your ideal customer.  You don’t waste CPM dollars on people unlikely to convert.

Instagram Ads

Instagram ads are a function of Facebook ads – it allows you to set a minimum 10-mile radius of your business location – or you can narrow down to people who live, visit, or travel TO this location.  You can do the same type of targeting with Facebook ads – you just choose Instagram as your placement instead of Facebook when you’re looking to run an Instagram photo ad.

Twitter Ads

If your audience is using Twitter a lot – you can target Twitter ads via City, Metro area or Zip code fairly easily.  You cannot set radius from a location in Twitter, but you can narrow your audience by Age, Gender, etc.  You can also target your ads to a specific event – so if you’re trying to market an event in a specific locations, that can help you target more intricately.


While Snapchat ads have some pretty interesting hyper-local targeting opportunities, the audience that’s using snapchat is fairly specific – so be sure this is a platform where your customers are interacting.  You can draw a geofence that will show your SnapChat ad during a specific timeframe in that specific area.  It’s not inexpensive from what I’ve seen – but if they’re your audience and you have a limited window of return on investment – it might be worth it to buy a geofence ad.


As you can see – there are a lot of different ways to target your local or hyper-local customer base via paid advertising.  The trick is to get that local ad in front of your converting audience.  That might be Facebook, but not Twitter or SnapChat – or vice versa.  The correct combination for whatever market or niche you’re in will dictate which platforms you should try.  Use your  analytics to find your best audience sources to help you decide where to start with your local PPC ads.  Look for not only which sites are sending traffic, but look at the audience insights for your best converting traffic to build a persona within your local market.  Use that persona (or personas) to decide which platforms to use to target local or hyper local ads towards your products and services.

Carrie Hill
Find Carrie


  • Chris says:

    Great article! I left PUBCON last week with the goal of ramping up paid search.

    Is AdWords Express only for ads displaying in the local pack and Maps? Or can you use the regular AdWords for these?

  • Kylian Gibbs says:

    I tried local map ads and guess what my sales jumped up to 200%. I was literally scared of trying map ads but it really worked for me. The potential benefit of map ads is that you don’t miss out on foot traffic nearby your location.

  • Nice summary. Our experience is specifically that for local smb’s mobile is dramatically moving towards adwords. I’m sure it differs industry to industry, vertical to vertical, but the fact that the entire screen real estate on a mobile can and is often completely dominated by ads has changed the environment. Ads are sweeping up clicks and activity.

    Sort of ironic for localU as Mike has been emphasizing the KP and suggesting how to emphasize the fullness of the KP as a substitute or alternative to a site’s home page. With an ever greater number of clicks on ads (especially in mobile) a growing percentage of searchers never get to the KP.

    The other perspective is that for the smaller smb, managing organic, local, and adwords is an ever more challenging effort. Adwords alone can take up a lot of time. It changes, roughly as much as local and organic.

    Who the heck can manage all that???

    Well larger agencies can if and when they have specialists; specialists that are devoted to one or another of the specialties. Of course the larger the agency and the more specialists…the higher the costs for the smb.

    Large smb’s can afford those specialties. Smaller smb’s have a tough road ahead of them.

    In any case, nice summary of the different opportunities and alternatives.


    • Carrie Hill says:

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for your comments! I think ads are always going to be a big part of the Google ecosystem – because they are definitely a “for profit” company.

      That being said, I don’t think we can count out Knowledge Panels yet – I think the “look” of the local search results will continue to change – and actually Dr. Pete Meyers at Moz put out some work that shows featured snippets are disappearing, and KPs are appearing in their stead:


      Granted – the KPs are not traditional Local Search KPs – but the possibility is there.


  • Carrie: Don’t disagree. I’m merely commenting on the fact that clicks on ads are growing in volume and percentage and they are growing more rapidly in mobile: mobile which is significantly more used for local search than is desktop.

    With more clicks on ads: there is less opportunity to ever get to the KP. Its not an insignificant amount or number.

    Its not just that there are a lot of ads: there are situations wherein competitors run ads against your business name or variations on your name. Some of it is a little sick. Imagine a search on your business name and a competitor runs an ad that highlights a 50% sale.

    I saw Dr Pete’s comments and examples of the KP replacing featured snippets. Once again though if ads siphon off some of that search traffic…it never gets to the kps.

    Moz posted on the impact of ads on search traffic in early October: https://moz.com/blog/google-organic-clicks-shifting-to-paid

    Ads are an important element of the existing search framework. That was the simple point of my comment.

    In that regard your article is appropriate.

  • Soumya Roy says:

    I must say that this post was one of the most comprehensive posts I have read recently on online paid advertising.
    From next year onward I am planning to allocate some budget on paid marketing which I haven’t done yet. Hence your content gave me few points which was informative for me. Thanks for publishing this post and also thanks for pointing those tips.

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