The Complete Guide to Google Ads Local Campaigns: Using Online Ads to Drive Offline Sales with Geofencing Marketing

October 3, 2019

Using Online Ads to Drive Offline Sales

With the holidays around the corner, local small businesses and massive e-commerce retailers alike are feeling the pressure to implement a marketing strategy that will maximize traffic, sales and revenue. But many local brick-and-mortar businesses assume digital marketing options like Google Ads’ suite of products are reserved for savvy e-marketers with websites that can track every customer click – and that online advertising isn’t a viable solution for those only interested in reaching people outside their storefront.

If you’re a local business owner with a brick-and-mortar store, online advertising is more relevant than you might think. If you’re still not sure if local advertising is right for your business, or you just need a little help navigating the local ad landscape, we have good news: You’re in the right place.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

1. Why you should be leveraging local ads to reach your customers
2. What geofencing marketing is and how it works
3. Where you should focus your time & budget in today’s never-ending list of digital ad options (specifically, which local ad campaign type you should integrate into your marketing strategy today), and
4. How to set up your first location-based advertising campaign

We wrap up with some helpful, step-by-step instructions, so you walk away with everything you need to launch your first local ad campaign. Ready? Let’s get started!

The Local Advertising Landscape

In today’s over-saturated digital space, you might be surprised to hear that people still want to purchase in-store. But the data proves it: 90 percent of overall shopping spends still happen in physical stores.

But while the conversion process might end offline, the purchase journey starts online: 91 percent of shoppers research a product online before buying, and Google searches for “near me” have increased 500 percent in the past two years.

With unprecedented access, choice and buying power, today’s consumers may turn to their devices for product information, but the point-of-purchase is still happening in a physical location. In order to keep up with this increasingly complex, non-linear consumer decision journey, local business owners can no longer afford to choose between offline and online. Because while your ads are online, your sales may not be.

Bridging the gap between offline and online is no longer an option – it’s a necessity. That’s why Google decided to launch a product to help you connect the dots between the two: Local campaigns.

Local campaigns use a combination of geofencing and device tracking to influence customers to buy from nearby businesses where their product-of-interest is being sold. Those visits are then recorded so advertisers can measure the effectiveness of their online campaigns at bringing in new foot traffic.

Local campaigns give you control over your advertising budget and customer reach by using geofencing. You may have heard of geofencing but don’t know how it works. Well, we’re here to help.

What is Geofencing?

Geofencing refers to the boundary you set around your physical location. When customers enter your “fenced-off” area, you can send them specific, targeted messages. If you know the maximum distance that customers are willing to travel to your location, geofencing gives you control over your advertising budget by not wasting dollars on areas that wouldn’t be profitable.

Local campaigns give you the flexibility to target as large, or small, an area as you like – from county, to city, to zip code, to a circle with a radius as small as one mile.

Geofencing marketing works by using GPS or RFID technology to trigger a response when a device enters a geographic area.

Now that you understand the core themes that power location-based advertising, let’s talk specifics: Which ad platform should you get started with?

We’re excited to show you why Google Ads Local campaigns are especially valuable for local business owners who aren’t interested in reaching anyone outside of a small, specific area.

What are Google Ads Local campaigns?

Local campaigns are Google’s solution for small-to-medium sized businesses and brick-and-mortar stores looking to advertise online. Since these types of businesses typically don’t see the necessity for having a strong online presence (because most of the sales are made in-store), Google offers them a way to drive more store visits from people who are actively looking for local needs.

How do Google Ads Local campaigns work?

The way Local campaigns work is actually quite simple. First, the advertiser sets up Location Extensions and some creative assets in Google Ads. Google then automatically places the ads based on the proximity of the person searching to the advertiser’s storefront. These ads can appear on Search, websites, YouTube, Google Maps and apps.

How do I know if Google Ads Local campaigns are driving store visits?

Google gives you visibility into how much foot traffic your Local campaigns are driving in, what’s known as “Store Visit Conversions.”

To determine Store Visit Conversions, Google uses the searcher’s phone location history (through GPS) to determine if they visited a store location after seeing an ad. That visit is recorded as a conversion in the Google Ads campaign.

Here’s a quick video that explains how Google Ads Store Visits Conversions work: 

With Store Visit Conversions, we can see beyond the pure volume of foot traffic resulting from our campaigns, to gather more granular insights like which campaigns, keywords and devices are driving the most store visits to your business. This level of insight enables us to understand the ROI of the campaigns we run on behalf of our clients, and make more informed decisions about our ad creative, spend and bid strategies. 

Google Ads Tutorial: How to Set Up Local Campaigns 

While discussing geofencing marketing and local advertising at a conceptual level is fun, we set out with a clear mission when we began working on this guide: to empower you to be successful in your local advertising journey. Specifically, we set out to arm you with everything you need to truly capitalize on these local trends and implement a Local campaign on your own – and this guide wouldn’t be complete without showing you exactly how to get started. So, to wrap things up, we’re going to leave you with step-by-step instructions for setting up your first Google Ads Local campaign. 


  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account. 
  2. Click Campaigns from the page menu on the left. 
  3. Click the plus icon and select New campaign
  4. In the “New campaign” window, select Local store visits and promotions
  5. In the next panel you can choose between using Google My Business to select your store locations, or using affiliate locations to select stores in which your products are sold. Click the radio button next to the option you want to choose. 

– For Google My Business, you can select all locations in the account for the Local Campaign by checking “Use all locations in your linked Google My Business account”. You can also uncheck the box to select a specific subset of your locations.  

– Click Use location group to apply an existing group, or Create new location group to manually assemble and name a set locations. That set will be applied to your campaign and saved as a reusable location group. 

– If you choose “affiliate locations,” use the “Select a chain” window to click the country of your location and then the location’s chain. You can use all or a subset of your account chains. 

– Note that Geographic radius targeting will be inferred based on the physical business locations specified for your campaign. If needed, you can exclude certain geographic locations from your campaign. 

  1. Click Continue
  2. Enter a name for your campaign in the “Campaign name” field. 
  3. Fill out the text assets for your ad. 
  4. Enter information for the following settings: 

Languages: The eligible languages you are aiming to target with your ad 

Bidding: The default bidding strategy is to maximize conversion value, which will automatically maximize the number of store visits within your daily budget. 

Daily budget: How much you’re willing to spend per day on your ad campaign. Contact your account manager for budget guidance. 

Additional settings: An expandable section where you can input tracking or a specific mobile URL. 

  1. Click Save and continue at the bottom. 
  2. Your campaign will now be ready. On the next page, you can review your campaign’s settings. Click Ad assets to review the text and images you set for your ad.  

And that wraps up our guide to Google Ads Local campaigns! We hope you found this information helpful and that we’re leaving you feeling more informed, confident and prepared as you embark on your journey into the local advertising world. 

And Greg Biggerstaff
Follow ForwardPMX

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