What a New Google Campaign Means for Small Business Owners

During the keynote this July, Google introduced Local Campaigns, an automated initiative aimed at driving and measuring foot traffic to local businesses.

According to industry reports and experts from the event, the case to push in-store visits is strong: around 90 percent of purchases still happen in store. Coupled with the fact that 80 percent of Americans are also shopping or browsing online at any given time, the potential for marketers to capture and measure those “micro-moments” within the customer journey remains largely untapped.

Thanks to the power of the mobile devices in our pockets, we fully expect to find highly relevant information about the things around us instantly – anytime, anywhere. For that reason, search queries containing “near me” and “open near me” qualifiers have been on the rise – nearly doubled – within the past year, according to Google.

It comes as little surprise, then, that Google would expand store visitation and local conversion reporting to help small businesses future-proof their SEO strategy.

How Local Campaigns Work

Local campaigns will provide users with a location and an ad. According to the keynote, advertisers set a budget, and Google “automatically optimizes your ads across properties to bring more customers into your store.” Such ad properties include Search, YouTube, Maps, and websites and apps. The ads are generated automatically based on location extensions and ad creative elements from the advertiser.

Store visits are measured from anonymous, aggregated data, and can’t be tied to individuals. Yet, users will need to be signed in to their Google account and turn location history on in order for merchants to view conversions.

Local campaigns will be available over the next few months. But for advertisers, learning how to adapt to local search queries and customer expectations is nothing new. In fact, there are many similarities between Local Campaigns and Smart Campaigns, the default ads experience for small businesses. While both tactics employ machine learning and automated delivery across Google ad networks, Local Campaigns exist solely to drive traffic to store from the ads.

Image Source: Mindstream Media

Implications of Driving Local Traffic

With so much changing, it’s worth noting what this will mean for retailers running a local business. For one, it makes marketers’ jobs easier across all aspects of campaign management. In Google’s efforts to streamline more processes and build better mapping measurement capabilities, this level of automation frees up more time for store managers to focus their efforts elsewhere.

Second, this creates a whole new type of in-store measurement. Because store visit measurements are no longer exclusive to large brick-and-mortar chains, this levels the playing field for smaller businesses to really fine-tune their ad creative, spend, bid strategies, and other elements of their campaigns.

But with such a push to drive traffic in store, will retailers find the number of account sign-ups online dwindling? It’s a possibility, but worth noting that store visits is also one of the new goals for Smart Shopping campaigns. Local campaigns will nonetheless convert users who are hesitant to purchase online in the first place, thereby broadening local business’ audiences and ecommerce as a whole.

Likewise, Local campaigns may also help advertisers capture those key shopping “moments” for an always-connected audience. Thanks to machine learning, marketers can provide the right content or tools to users spanning all stages of the customer journey, across all different kinds of environments: Google, YouTube, social media, maps, and more.

All of this, it seems, is Google’s best attempt to compete with the likes of Amazon. During the keynote, the company unveiled that they have joined forces with Shopify to bolster its presence in the ad world. Google has a vested interest to partner with many major third-party ecommerce platforms, because they all service brands that aren’t Amazon. While Shopify is the first with direct integration, it won’t be the last.