A Common Challenge with Local Paid Search

Searcher intent is the most important aspect of search

Paid search can be very effective in driving potential customers to your website. Essentially what you’re doing is showing an ad to a person who is searching for a keyword related to that ad. As simple as that sounds, if not done properly, you can waste a lot of money targeting keywords that really aren’t going to be aligned with what you offer. That is why you always need to look at searcher intent.

Avoid targeting broad terms

A big mistake we see when taking over a clients existing paid search account is that they are spending a lot of money on general terms. Although the general terms are aligned with their business, the intent of the searcher does not match the products or services they are offering. As an example, there was a client that owns a small group of hotels in Iowa. That client stated that they wanted to show up first for the keyword ”Hotels”. Now at first glance that seems like a goal every hotel would want. After all, if you own a hotel and someone is searching for hotels wouldn't you want to show up? However, when you dig a little deeper you’ll realize that you will not get a return on investment on that keyword. One reason is that keyword is very expensive. You’d be competing with large companies such as Hotels.com Marriott, Hilton and several others. The bigger reason, however, and the focus of this post is the intent of the searcher.

When someone goes to a search engine such as Google and types in the word "hotels" chances are they are not looking for a specific hotel in Iowa. So how do we know what their intent is?  One of the best tools to understand searcher intent is Google's own organic results.  What we see as results for the keyword hotels are sites such as kayak, hotels.com, Hotel planner, trip advisor and more. What that tells us is the searcher is looking for a place where they can compare different hotels at different price points and locations. With that information, if a searcher did end up on this particular clients website for the keyword hotels they would likely leave very quickly. That tells Google that your website is not a good fit for the keyword hotels and they would likely lower your quality score, thus raising your costs.

Target local based keywords

So now that we have ruled out the big general term hotels, what should this client be bidding on? The answer is terms relevant to their location.  For example, if they are near a theme park such as Six Flags we would target "hotels near Six Flags" with their city and state.  Or if they were near the airport we would target terms such as "hotels near Des Moines Iowa airport", or "Des Moines airport hotels".

The results we see from this approach are lower traffic compared to the big generic term such as hotels however, they have much higher conversion rates, many more bookings and a strong return on investment (ROI).


This situation is not unique to hotels. We have seen the same thought process for gyms, restaurants, shopping centers, etc.

If you have a local business you really need to focus on intent and what is bringing people to the area or what they are searching for in your particular area. This leads to strong return on investment without wasted spend. If you would like to learn more on how we can help enhance your paid search please contact us today.

Contact us today to see how we can help your local search performance

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