Many PPC advertisers today focus the bulk of their efforts on optimizing campaigns for search ads — and with good reason. It’s profitable, reliable and a known entity on which they can comfortably and (somewhat) predictably reach their core target audience. But it’s certainly not the only path for revenue. Location-based ads — and in particular Google Maps — increasingly offer a variety of new features that advertisers can leverage to better target and convert local audiences. And by adding its dearth of features to your digital advertising toolkit, you’re sure to give conversions and ROI a significant lift that likely won’t go unnoticed.
The following is everything you need to know about leveraging Google Maps to supercharge your online advertising strategy.
Google Maps Ads: A Tutorial
When people search for businesses through the Google Maps app, they automatically have access to search ads that feature business locations, which appear in the application when advertisers set up location extensions. Similarly, when users search Google.com for nearby businesses, location-based ads can appear in local at the top of search results from the Google Maps mobile app. (This also works when conducting searches using Google.com or Google Maps on desktop.)
Compared to regular Google PPC ads, it might seem like Google Maps ads provide little opportunity to rank, simply because the Google Maps app only displays one ad above organic results and Google Maps desktop shows two ads before organic results. And as such, your targeting strategy needs to be competitive enough to land your ads in those top one or two positions.
That said, there are numerous ways you can optimize your listings and leverage Google Maps to improve online advertising — it just requires you to execute precision with your targeting strategies and optimize your ads to attract more in-store visits.
So Why Google Maps?
E-commerce has grown astronomically in the past 10 years. It’s no secret that people love to shop online — even going so far as to order all their groceries for home delivery — a development that has left many advertisers wondering if allocating their budgets to drive in-store visits is really worth the investment.
Yet despite the growth of ecommerce, in-store shopping is still going strong, propelled, in part, by the wealth of location-based shopping information available on mobile phones. Consider this:
- Around 90% of all global sales still happen in stores.
- 88% of consumers making local searches from a mobile device take an action (calling a business, making a purchase, or visiting a store) within 24 hours.
- 51% of local mobile searches result in a store visit.
- One out of every three mobile searches is local.
And with more than a billion users, Google Maps is also by far the most popular mapping app for acquiring location-based information. So incorporating local search ads into your advertising strategy carries a myriad of benefits, that include:
- Attracting in-store visits. Beat out the competition in local search results with targeted advertising.
- Get calls. You can include an option for users to call your locations in your ad. This is great for businesses that offer services by appointment.
- Overall business exposure. Local search ads can direct people to your business’s location page, which displays more helpful information about your services/products, opening hours, and more.
In short, mobile phones make it quick and easy for people to find relevant local information when they’re out running errands or planning a trip to local businesses. People who use their smartphones to get local business information don’t want to endlessly search to find what they need — they want to access it quickly and easily — underscoring that location-targeted advertising is increasingly essential for any business with a physical location. And advertising with Google Maps is key to reaching these users.
Google Maps Features For Advertisers
Google Maps has implemented a bevy of changes recently that give businesses even more opportunities to improve advertising performance on its platform. In fact, during Google’s most recent Performance Summit, the company announced four key new features: Promoted pins, customizable business pages, local inventory search, and in-store promotions.
A new important advertising feature that can help your business get noticed in Google Maps are Promoted Pins (that array of red pins on the map highlighting businesses.) But perhaps surprisingly, not every business automatically gets a pin. By strategically leveraging Promoted Pins, it’s possible to display a special branded pin to help your business stand out to people who are nearby your business and looking at Google Maps.
These pins are purple instead of the traditional red, indicating that it’s an ad. Promoted Pins can also include your business logo right in Google Maps. For example, if someone searched for “Contact lenses near me,” it could trigger a branded Walgreens Pin. If they click on the pin they’ll see a targeted ad as well.
The ads that correspond with Promoted Pins display important business information such as location, distance, and Google Reviews rating. But they’re also an opportunity to highlight special in-store promotions to convince people to come visit your business.
Along with these ads, it’s also possible to promote coupons related to the person’s search. So if someone searched for “Contact lenses near me,” Walgreens could display a coupon for $3 off contact lens solutions to entice the person to come visit their store.
Customizable Business Pages With Local Inventory
When people click on your local search ad, they’re taken to your Google My Business page. This is a local business resource you can customize and optimize to increase in-store visits and conversions. At a fundamental level, your business page needs to include important information like your location, business hours, phone number and website.
Also, these days many customers only make location store visits only if they’re sure it stocks the items they want. To that end, you can also use your local pages to display a searchable database of that store’s local inventory. By sharing your local inventory along with your Google Maps ads, you can increase in-store visits and, thus, conversions.
In order to display this information on your local pages, you’ll also need to have a local product inventory feed, which requires you to submit information daily about all of your inventory. The incremental local product inventory feed allows you to make regular updates to the price and/or quantity of items available throughout the day.
In order to take advantage of local inventory search, you’ll need to provide the store code, quantity and price of each item you have in stock. But you can also include optional inventory details like sales price and sales price effective date. Google can then use this information to recommend special promotions to members of your audience.
In-store promotions can appear alongside your promoted pins, directly on the map below the logo. It’s also possible to display coupons, specials or sales right from your business page. If you use the incremental local product inventory feed, you can offer special sales that are happening at your store at certain times of the day. This helps your local audience find what they’re looking for while also offering relevance and opportunity to convince them to choose your store over another.
How to Advertise on Google Maps
Here’s a basic runthrough of how to set up location-based ads to show on Google Maps:
Set up location extensions
In order to show ads for Google Maps, you first need a Google Ads account and a Google My Business Page, which is critical for all aspects of search engine marketing. Your business page is a free profile where you list important information about your business, such as your location, store hours, photos, and online reviews, that can appear in local organic search results. It can also appear with your local search ads or on Google Maps.
You likely already have a Google My Business page and have optimized it to make your business look appealing — included listing correct information, uploading appealing business photos, and promoting positive Google reviews for your business. From there, the next step is to set up a location extension. To do that, first log into your Google Ads account. Then go to to Ads & extensions>Extensions. Click “Create Ad Extension” then select “Location Extension.” On the next page that comes up, it will ask you to link your Google Ads account to a Google My Business Account. Fill out the relevant domain name to find and connect an account. Once you successfully link your Google My Business account, it’s possible to add location extensions to display your business address alongside your search ads. You can also now target ads to customers near your address.
Targeting customers near an address
One important way you can optimize your Google Maps ads is by targeting people who are near your business location, which can be done by setting a custom radius of how close someone needs to be for your ads to appear. Among other things, this helps you focus on targeting quick conversions from people who are out and about and can visit your local business based on proximity and convenience.
Location targeting allows you to target entire countries, areas within a country or a radius around a location. Choosing a radius around a location may result in less reach for your ads overall, but it will help you target specific audiences that are likely to convert. This is particularly important for location-based businesses that deliver services within a specific radius, or a local business whose customer base is within a certain radius.
Say, for example, someone runs a chain supermarket with three locations in town. They wouldn’t want the targeting radius for one store to overlap into another location where people are physically closer to a different store. In the same vein, a towing company wouldn’t want to target ads to a radius outside of their service area.
Here’s how to select a radius in Google Ads:
- Click Locations from the page menu on the left
- Click on the campaign
- Click the blue pencil icon, then select Radius
- Enter the address of the location you’d like to use in the search box. Then you can select a radius measurement from the dropdown menu. Be sure to check the map to ensure your targeting is correct.
It’s also possible to adjust your bids based on audience location. For example, you can increase your bid for someone who’s within a 1 mile radius of your business.
Targeting location-based keywords
Radius targeting is only one way to optimize your location-based ads. If someone searches for “[niche keyword] near me” and they’re within your set radius, then they could see your ads on Google Maps.
However many potential consumers have location-based search intent even when they’re not within a specific location radius. For example, someone taking a trip to Minneapolis next week could search for “Minneapolis hotels” while they’re still physically in Seattle. So you’d need to target location-based keywords if you want your ads to appear for these queries.
To build out your location-based keywords list, you can use your search queries report, Keyword Planner and other third-party keyword research tools — with the biggest difference between regular keyword targeting is that location-based keywords include modifiers that imply local intent.
A Seattle hotel, for example, could target keywords like:
- Seattle hotels (Modifier: City name)
- Hotels near University of Washington (Modifier: Major university)
- Hotels near UW (Modifier: Major university abbreviation)
- Hotels in Capitol Hill (Modifier: Neighborhood)
There are a variety of modifiers relevant to your business location, such as a major nearby employer, event venue or other colloquiums used to describe different parts of town. The keywords you target can also inform the promotions that display along with your Google Maps ads. A pharmacy like Walgreens wouldn’t just target keywords like “pharmacy near me,” or “pharmacy [city name].” They could target keywords like “contact lenses [city name]” then display a special discount on related products as part of their Google Maps ad.
While sometimes overlooked, Google Maps offers a host of features aimed at helping businesses attract local traffic and drive conversions. And targeting keywords with local intent and radiuses around your business location are just the beginning. Used strategically, Google Maps can help you harness relevant inventory information, limited-time promotions, and help your location stand out on the map using special promoted pins. In short, it broadens the horizons of your strategy with exponentially more possibilities for targeting specific demographics. And like a premium fuel, or a shot of vitamin B12, will serve to supercharge both your short — and long-term — digital advertising strategy.