Which is better, Google Paid Ads or Local SEO?

In the ever-evolving realm of digital marketing, businesses continually search for strategies to enhance their online visibility and engage their target audience. Google Paid Ads and Local SEO are two dominant forces in this arena, both aiming to drive traffic and boost conversions but operating with distinct methodologies and unique advantages and drawbacks. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the disparities between Google Paid Ads (PPC) and Local SEO, helping businesses discern the strategy that best aligns with their needs, objectives and budget.

Google Paid Ads provide businesses with immediate visibility through paid placements at the top of search engine results, offering a swift and effective way to capture attention. As soon as your paid campaign is active, you’re in the market and able to generate leads. However, this rapid exposure comes with a caveat – by nature it demands a continuous and significant financial commitment. The moment you turn your ads off, *poof* lead generation dies. However, this doesn’t mean paid ads shouldn’t be part of your marketing strategy.

On the other hand, Local SEO takes a more organic approach, gradually optimizing a business’s online presence to resonate with local audiences over time. Think of local SEO as an investment vehicle. You invest smaller amounts of money over a period of time with the goal of generating a sustanable return on your investment. Though slower, this strategy yields sustained local relevance and proves to be compelling for businesses with a “big picture” vision and a focus. Additionally, local SEO allows businesses reap better profitability and sustainability for the long-term.

In the pursuit of online supremacy, businesses face the decision between the swift impact of Google Paid Ads and the gradual, organic growth fostered by Local SEO. Or do they? This is what we’ll explore in this guide: When is it best to run Google Ads, when is local SEO the better choice, and when should a small business utilize both.
Should you do paid ads, local seo, or both?
Identify what your needs are

What do you need, man?

Before we can explore what strategies and course of action makes the most sense for your business, we have to uncover and understand:

  • What are your business needs?
  • What is your marketing budget?
  • What is your timeframe for results?
  • What are your revenue & growth goals?

Take a minute to think about those 4 questions, then continue reading.

The Big Question: Google Ads, Local SEO, or Both?

Table of Contents:

A Comprehensive Guide to answer that exact question.

Choosing between Google Ads, Local SEO, or a blend of both for a small business owner depends on factors such as goals, budget, timeframe and target audience. An optimal strategy might involve a balanced combination, leveraging the strengths of both approaches to create a comprehensive and effective online marketing plan. The goal of this guide is to help you determine what is best for your unique business needs, then provide you resources to help you down whichever path you choose.

Recognizing the importance of this decision, this guide offers a wealth of insight that will hopefully help answer your questions and get you on the right path to reaching your goals. If you’d prefer the benefits of a one-on-one consultation, and professional insights to help you determine your underlying needs and best course of action, please feel free to meet with an Account Manager.

1. Understanding Google Ads

Google Ads, a powerful online advertising platform, enables businesses to promote their products or services across the Google network. It operates on a either a pay-per-click (PPC), pay-per-impression (PPM) or pay-per-lead (PPL) model depending on the type of campaign being ran. Google Ads offers various ad types, each catering to specific marketing objectives.

Primary Types of Google Ads

  1. Google Search Ads (PPC) Displayed on Google’s search engine results page, these ads aim to capture users actively searching for specific keywords related to the advertiser’s offerings. These are considered “bottom-of-funnel” users in the decision making process as they’re actively looking to find a solution for a need.
  2. Google Display Ads (PPM) These visually engaging ads appear on websites within the Google Display Network, aiming to create brand awareness and attract potential customers through images and compelling visuals. These are great for new businesses looking to get their name known in their community but this campaign type is not meant for lead generation.
  3. Performance Max Ads (PPC) This is a relatively new campaign type in Google (launched November 2021) and put to use the power of Google’s own AI. A mostly automated campaign type that optimizes across multiple Google ad inventory, including Search, Display, and YouTube, to maximize performance and reach diverse audiences. This does still require the campaign manager (you or your marketing company) to make periodic adjustments to optimize the campaign.
  4. Local Service Ads (PPL) This is about as “hands-free” or a Google campaign you can get, as there’s no elements to really optimize. Local Service Ads (also known as “LSA” or “Google Guaranteed”) are tailored for service-oriented businesses. These ads showcase local service providers at the top of search results, with a “Google Guaranteed” badge emphasizing credibility and generating leads. A huge benefit worth noting in this campaign type is it’s the only campaign type Google currently offers that is billed on a cost-per-lead basis!

Let’s bust a myth!

Myth: Google Ads are too complicated for a business owner to manage themselves – you must hire a marketing company or else you’ll lose money!
  • Reality: We do have to agree with this statement IF you are running a higher budget Google Search campaign. ($1,000 per month in Ad Spend at minimum) This campaign type is complicated (major understatement), and if you have a significant amount of Ad Spend, small errors can cost you big dollars. You’re better off letting the Professionals handle it.

    However, most marketing companies charge upwards of $500 per month in management fees just to manage one Google Search campaign. If you’re working with a tight monthly marketing budget, say $1,000 per month total, it doesn’t make sense to spend over half of that budget in management fees, leaving less than half to go to actual Ad Spend.

    In addition, Google has come a long way in the past decade. There are tons of How-To videos on YouTube that walk you step-by-step through setting up and optimizing Google Ads campaigns. Plus, Google’s newer Performance Max and Local Service Ads campaigns are predominantly AI driven and require little to no optimization. (If our clients want to run Google Local Service Ads, we actually set up and manage their campaign for them. For Free!) That’s how easy they are.

Pros of Google Ads

Google Ads provide instant visibility, ensuring that businesses can reach their target audience right when they are actively searching for relevant products or services.

Advertisers can tailor their campaigns to specific demographics, locations, and user behaviors, ensuring that their ads are shown to a highly relevant audience.

Google Ads allows businesses to set daily budgets and bid amounts, providing control over spending and allowing for adjustments based on performance.

The platform provides detailed analytics, allowing advertisers to track key metrics such as clicks, impressions, and conversions, facilitating data-driven decision-making.

With various ad formats available, including text, images, and videos, businesses can experiment with different creatives to find the most effective messaging for their audience.

Cons of Google Ads

In competitive local searches, bidding for top keywords can become expensive, causing the leads generated to be less profitable or potentially limiting the visibility of the smaller business.

The visibility provided by Google Ads is contingent on the budget. Once the budget is exhausted, the ads disappear from the search results, making it challenging to maintain a continuous presence.

The complexity of the Google Ads platform may pose a challenge for beginners, requiring time and effort to understand and optimize campaigns effectively.

Advertisers may face the risk of click fraud, where competitors or malicious entities repeatedly click on ads to deplete budgets without generating legitimate leads.

The rise of ad blockers can impact the reach of Google Ads, as users actively filter out advertising content, limiting the effectiveness of certain campaigns.

Where do potential clients go?

Statistically, 86% of local searchers choose a business from the organic sections of Google (non-paid), while 14% will choose a business through Google Ads. The process used to improve your ranking and prominence in the non-paid sections of Google is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

2. Understanding Local SEO

Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a digital marketing strategy focused on enhancing a business’s online visibility for location-based searches. It aims to optimize a website’s presence to attract local customers and improve rankings in local search engine results. Local SEO involves several key factors to ensure businesses are visible to potential customers in their geographical area.

Key Consideration in Local SEO

  1. Authority Building Establishing the business as a reputable and authoritative source in its local industry or niche. This involves obtaining quality backlinks from local websites and citation directories to build a robust online presence. One of the primary factors Google looks at is if your information is accurate throughout the internet and your message is consistent.
  2. Reputation Management Managing and enhancing online reviews and ratings to build trust with potential customers. Positive reviews contribute to a business’s reputation and influence local search rankings. a-lot! In fact: 10% of Google’s local search algorithm is attributed to variables related to online reputation. Not just your number of reviews and star rating in Google itself, but across dozens of other review sites throughout the internet. How you respond to reviews throughout the web also plays a critical role in local SEO.
  3. Conversion Optimization Did you know Google measures your website’s conversion rate and uses that as a factor when determining how to rank you amongst your peers? Improving the user experience on the website to encourage visitors to take desired actions, such as scheduling an appointment, filling out a contact form, or calling your business will ultimately help improve your local ranking in Google. Google wants to show users quality content that is a good fit for what the user is looking for.
  4. Quality Content Creating locally relevant, high-quality content that addresses the needs and interests of the local audience. This includes optimizing website content, blog posts, and other materials for local keywords that matches the user’s search intent. Search intent is simply: “Why are you doing a search in Google?” Are they looking to buy something? Looking for information? Looking to compare services? Understanding your target audience’s search intent and then creating quality content to deliver what they’re looking for is crutial to local ranking in Google.

Let’s bust a myth!

Myth: Local SEO is irrelevant for businesses without a physical storefront.
  • Reality: Even if you don’t have a physical location that customers can come into, your customers are still searching for you locally. Optimizing for specific locations can help attract customers interested in products or services within those areas. In fact, 85% of business citation directories allow you to mask (hide) your physical address so it’s not visible to the public. This allows you to still build crucial local authority in Google, without risking having your home address plastered all over the internet for everyone to see!

Pros of Local SEO

Local SEO strategically targets and engages local customers, establishing an exceptionally effective strategy for businesses that are keen on enhancing their visibility within their immediate community.

Local SEO often requires a lower financial investment compared to paid advertising, making it accessible for small and local businesses with limited budgets.

Positive online reviews and a strong local online presence contribute to building trust and credibility, influencing potential customers to choose a local business.

While it may take time to see the full effects, the results of Local SEO tend to be more sustainable in the long run, providing ongoing visibility to the local audience.

Local SEO fosters community engagement by aligning the business with local events, trends, and interests, creating a sense of connection with the community.

Cons of Local SEO

Achieving significant results with Local SEO can take time, as building authority, managing reputation, and optimizing content require consistent effort over an extended period.

In highly competitive markets, outranking competitors in local search results may be challenging, requiring a more sophisticated and sustained strategy.

While excellent for local visibility, Local SEO may not be as effective for businesses targeting a broader regional, or non-local audience.

Search engine algorithms are dynamic and can change, impacting a business's local search rankings and requiring adjustments to the SEO strategy.

Negative reviews can significantly impact a business's reputation and local search rankings, necessitating proactive reputation management.

0 %

of all searches on Google have local intent. The top 3 spaces in Google Business are referred to as the “Local Pack”, which is displayed in 93% of local search results! This underscores just how important ranking in the top 3 in Google Business really is!

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of all local searches on Google result in the customer choosing 1 of the first 3 businesses listed in the Google Business “Local Pack”. For local service-based businesses, being listed in the top 3 is a lead generation game-changer!

3. Choosing the Right Strategy

Choosing the optimal digital marketing strategy depends on the unique needs of a business. Google Paid Ads are well-suited for enterprises seeking immediate results and possessing the financial capacity for ongoing paid promotions. Businesses that require quick visibility and have a budget for advertising can benefit from the agility of Google Paid Ads.

On the other hand, Local SEO proves to be an ideal choice for those adopting a long-term perspective, focusing on cultivating organic visibility within their local area. Businesses heavily reliant on local clientele find Local SEO crucial for establishing a sustained local presence. Think of Local SEO not so much as a “Marketing Strategy” but more as an “Investment Vehicle” for your business. Like a 401K – you put in smaller amounts of funds each month knowing that the amortization over time will result in long-term financial stability and a solid return on your investment.

Remember: It doesn’t have to be an “either-or” choice. You can do both. Many of our client’s utilize our Elevate or Accelerate Solutions for local SEO, while running a small Performance Max or Google LSA campaign. This allows them to build long-term stability and organic lead generation through our SEO strategy, while meeting their short-term revenue needs through the paid ads campaigns.
In the decision-making process, key factors should be considered:

  • Business Objectives: Define short-term and long-term goals.
  • Financial Resources: Assess the budget for immediate or sustained marketing efforts.
  • Target Audience: Distinguish whether the audience is local, global, or a mix.
  • Competitive Environment: Determine the level of competition in the industry.
  • Time Horizon: Consider whether immediate results are needed or the focus is on long-term growth.
  • Nature of Services: Evaluate how large of a geographic area your services are suitable for.
  • Evaluate Current Ranking: Use our tool to measure how well you rank in local searches and where your areas for improvement are.
Careful consideration of these factors ensures a well-informed decision between Google Paid Ads, Local SEO, or a combination of the two.
Pay Per Click versus Search Engine Optimization

Congrats! You made it to the end! 🎉

At our website, you’ll find a wealth of solutions designed to address the challenges of modern digital marketing. From conversion rate optimization and comprehensive SEO services to content creation, authority building and reputation management, we offer a suite of tools to help you navigate the complexities of the digital landscape. We understand the demands placed on small businesses in today’s competitive market, and our goal is to lighten that load for you. Our team is dedicated to providing tailored solutions that align with your unique needs and goals.

Feel free to explore our website to gain a deeper understanding of the services we offer and how our expertise can be a valuable asset to your business. Whether you’re looking to revamp your online presence, explore new marketing avenues, or simply seeking guidance on the next steps, we’re here to assist you. Don’t hesitate to schedule a meeting with an Account Manager – let’s work together to ensure your business thrives on Google and in your local market!
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