Google Changes Nofollow Link Guidelines & More Recent News

Hey, everyone! Welcome back to the blog for another online advertising news round-up. We’ve got seven stories for you this week: Google changing the way it interprets nofollow links, Facebook testing in-app checkout, and more! Let’s dive in.

1. Google announces changes to nofollow links

In an effort to aggregate more information and “better understand unnatural linking patterns,” Google has announced that they’ll now interpret the nofollow link attribute (i.e., rel=“nofollow”) as a “hint” rather than as explicit instruction to ignore the linked content. Additionally, Google has announced two new link attributes that they’ll also interpret as hints:

  • Sponsored (rel=“sponsored”): to flag a link as part of an advertisement, sponsorship, or some other compensation agreement.

  • User-generated content (rel=“ugc”): to flag a link within user-generated content, such as a comment on your blog post.

Launched in 2005 to combat comment spam, the nofollow attribute has long been used by website owners and SEOs to indicate that certain links aren’t meant to endorse the corresponding content or publisher. Accordingly, Google has ignored links flagged with the nofollow attribute when ranking the organic search results.

google-changes-nofollow-link-attributes

You can use the “Inspect” function within Chrome to find the nofollow links on a page.

In their announcement blog post, Danny Sullivan and Gary Ilyes explain that Google’s ability to evaluate the characteristics of individual links—e.g., anchor text—gives them access to important information they can use to better understand linking patterns and, thus, put an end to nefarious link schemes. In other words, ignoring links with the nofollow attribute altogether has kept Google from collecting as much information as they can. With this new model, you can still refrain from endorsing certain publishers while allowing Google to collect information they consider useful.

There’s no need for you to change any nofollow links currently on your site. When appropriate, you’re free to append multiple attributes to a single link (e.g., rel=“nofollow ugc”). And, no—Google does not anticipate that this change will have a substantial impact on rankings.

2. Facebook testing in-app checkout

Continuing to capitalize on the rise of social shopping—the practice of selling products on social media rather than simply promoting products on social media—Facebook has confirmed that it’s testing in-app checkout for dynamic News Feed ads. Though a spokesperson has stated that the test involves a “small subset” of advertisers, Facebook has not revealed who has access to in-app checkout or why they were selected for the test.

google-changes-nofollow-links-facebook-in-app-checkout

Via Facebook.

Dynamic ads are built to make your Facebook remarketing efforts more personalized and effective. When your dynamic ad is served to a user, Facebook automatically optimizes the promoted products or offers according to the user’s past behavior on your website or within your app. If the prospect has shown clear interest in a handful of specific products, Facebook will dynamically update your ad to highlight them.

Thanks to their personalized nature, dynamic ads were already a great way to close the deal with your remarketing prospects. Now that users have the opportunity to make purchases without leaving the Facebook app, the effectiveness of dynamic ads should only improve. This is pure speculation, but based on past betas, we’re willing to bet Facebook will roll out in-app checkout to all advertisers at some point next year.

Tangentially, Facebook is also testing an expansion of in-app checkout on Instagram—a feature that’s currently limited to a small group of brands. Since its launch earlier this year, Checkout on Instagram has only been available for organic posts. Now, Facebook is allowing the brands with access to turn those organic posts into ads.

3. Google bans ads for unfounded medical treatments

To protect vulnerable users from malicious advertisers, Google has banned ads for “unproven or experimental medical techniques,” such as stem cell therapy, cellular therapy, and gene therapy. Additionally, treatments lacking scientific basis and treatments lacking sufficient clinical testing are no longer eligible for promotion, either.

Obviously, this is an important step towards shielding users from products and treatments that may have adverse effects on their health. However, in order to allow legitimate actors to inform the public about their experiments and findings, Google will continue to permit advertising for medical research. As breakthroughs occur, Google will revisit the policies as needed.

4. Microsoft rolls out RSA beta to everyone

Continuing the not-so-gradual march towards fully automated search advertising, Microsoft has officially rolled out the responsive search ad beta to all Bing advertisers. To join the beta, you can either reach out to your account representative or complete this interest form.

With a responsive search ad, or RSA, you hand over control of the text ad creation process to Microsoft’s algorithms. After you’ve submitted up to 15 headlines and four descriptions, Microsoft will test different variations—more than 32,000 are possible—to determine which work well and which don’t. Eventually, users will only see your top-performers; the rest will get shelved.

google-changes-nofollow-links-microsoft-advertising-rsa

The chief advantage of using an RSA—which Google initially rolled out last year—is that you can save a bunch of time. The chief disadvantage, of course, is that you’re almost completely sacrificing control over the creation of your text ads. True—you’re the one who creates the initial headlines and descriptions. But from that point on, you’re at the mercy of machine learning.

Give the RSA beta a try. There’s a chance you’ll see improved performance as you reclaim a substantial portion of your workday. However, make sure you’re simultaneously running standard text ads as well. Directly comparing the performance of the two ad types is the only way to determine which method works best for you.

5. Google will soon integrate Express into Shopping

Per an email sent to customers last week, Google plans to retire the Google Express brand and integrate it into the new Google Shopping experience over the next few weeks. Following up on the announcement originally made at Google Marketing Live, the plan to retire Google Express marks a shift in Google’s approach to challenging Amazon’s dominance in ecommerce.

google-changes-nofollow-links-google-express-brand-retirement

Google wants you to shop across YouTube, Discover, Gmail, and more.

Google Express, for those who don’t know, was Google’s attempt to create a centralized online marketplace where shoppers could browse products from major retailers like Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and so on. In other words, it was Amazon—minus the private-label products. As you may already know from your own online shopping experience, Google Express never really took off. Even among the people who knew it existed—not a large group—it failed to present itself as a compelling alternative to Amazon. Plus, the major retailers who were selling on Google Express were simultaneously finding ways to make their own marketplaces more appealing.

So, as Google ramps up its efforts to win over both ecommerce advertisers and online shoppers, they will integrate Google Express into the new Shopping experience. Whether someone wants to make a purchase from the search engine results page, Google Images, YouTube, or Google Discover, they’ll have access to the universal shopping cart, easy checkout, and free shipping options that used to be the main selling points of Google Express.

6. Microsoft opens betas for two new audiences

In another step towards parity with Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising has announced open betas for two new audience targeting solutions: product audiences and similar audiences.

A product audience is basically a remarketing list for a specific product in your catalog. If a prospect visits your website and shows interest in a particular product, they’re added to the audience. Then, when they return to Bing to search for that same product, you’re there with the perfect Shopping ad. This beta is now open to ecommerce advertisers in the US, Canada, Britain, India, France, Germany, and Australia.

A similar audience is the paid search equivalent of a lookalike audience on Facebook and Instagram. Basically, it allows you to reach new prospects who are similar to your existing customers. Similar audiences have been available in Google Ads since 2017, and as you can imagine, they tend to drive above-average conversion rates. This beta is now open to search advertisers in the US.

google-changes-nofollow-links-similar-audiences-conversion-data

7. Google makes it easy for users to skim videos

To help Search users find the information they’re looking for faster, Google has announced that they’ll now link to key moments in YouTube videos directly on the SERP. If the content creator includes timestamp information in the video description, Google will use that to highlight key moments and direct users where they want to go. Here’s how the new feature looks in action:

google-changes-nofollow-links-youtube-timestamp

Via Google.

If creating YouTube videos is part of your content marketing strategy (we recommend it), start including specific timestamp information in your video descriptions. As users get accustomed to this new feature, some may begin to disregard videos that don’t allow them to skim through. To avoid a decline in valuable traffic directly from the SERP, start adding timestamps today.

Your Comprehensive, Go-To Guide to Google Merchant Center

You know those people who say, “Oh, man—I just cannot function before I’ve had my morning coffee.”

It’s an unoriginal take on coffee and being a person, but it serves as the perfect analogy for the relationship between Google Merchant Center and Google Shopping.

Google Merchant Center is to Google Shopping as coffee is to coffee addicts. Without a fully optimized Google Merchant Center account, your Google Shopping campaigns have no chance of functioning—let alone succeeding.

google-merchant-center-user-interface

That’s why this guide is dedicated to providing a complete tour of Google Merchant Center—a tour that’ll cover all the basics you need to start thriving with Google Shopping ads. Here’s a quick rundown of the questions we’ll answer by the end of the tour:

  • What is Google Merchant Center?
  • What is Google Merchant Center used for?
  • What is a Google Merchant Center feed?
  • How much does Google Merchant Center cost?
  • How do I set up a Google Merchant Center account?
  • How do I set up shipping in Google Merchant Center?
  • What are Google Merchant Center promotions?
  • What if my Google Merchant Center account gets suspended?

Let’s jump in!

What is Google Merchant Center?

Google Merchant Center is a digital platform where you can store information about the products your retail business sells—both those sold online and those sold in brick-and-mortar stores.

google-merchant-center-user-interface

Though it enables you to tackle a range of different tasks, its core value proposition is centralization. With Google Merchant Center, you can keep all the most important information about your retail business in a single online location. Convenient, right?

Does Google Merchant Center cost anything?

Nope! Google Merchant Center is entirely free to use. You do, however, have to pay for clicks on your Google Shopping ads.

How do I set up a Google Merchant Center account?

If you haven’t already, create a Gmail account. Then, head to the Google Merchant Center website and follow the account set-up instructions. Once your account is set up, you can use that website to access Google Merchant Center no matter where you are.

What is Google Merchant Center used for?

In short, Google Merchant Center is used to power your Google Shopping campaigns, your local inventory ads, and your Shopping Actions promotions.

Google Shopping

As I alluded to in the introduction, Google Merchant Center is most commonly known for its connection to Google Shopping: The retail marketing platform that falls under the broader Google Ads umbrella. Without up-to-date and optimized product information stored in Google Merchant Center, you’re not eligible to run Google Shopping campaigns. Don’t worry if all this terminology is a bit confusing; we’ll go into more detail in the following section.

google-merchant-center-shopping-ads

Local inventory ads

Your Google Merchant Center account is for more than just Shopping campaigns, however; it can also be used to power local inventory ads. With a local inventory ad, you can let eager shoppers know that you have the products they’re looking for in a nearby brick-and-mortar store. Whereas Google Shopping ads allow you to promote products you’re selling both online and offline, local inventory ads are used strictly for offline sales.

Shopping Actions

The final use of Google Merchant Center I want to mention is Shopping Actions. To borrow Google’s words, Shopping Actions is a shopping program that “allows retailers to surface their products across different Google platforms … and enables a frictionless experience [for consumers] by using a shareable list, universal shopping cart, and instant checkout.” Basically, by joining the Shopping Actions program, you have the power to sell products across Google Shopping, Google Images, YouTube, and voice search.

Of course, none of this is possible without—you guessed it—a well-kept Google Merchant Center account. There’s a lot more to say about Shopping Actions, but we’ll save that for another guide.

Because it’s the most common use of Google Merchant Center, we’ll focus on Google Shopping for the remainder of the tour.

What is a Google Merchant Center feed?

A Google Merchant Center feed—also known as a Google Shopping feed or a product data feed—is a spreadsheet that organizes key information about your products in a way that Google can easily understand.

Your feed is the single most important part of your Google Merchant Center account: It’s the primary source of the information Google needs to create Shopping ads for your products.

google-merchant-center-product-data-feed-sample

That’s right—Google creates Shopping ads for you. You don’t select keywords; you don’t write traditional ad copy. Instead, you populate the various fields in your Google Merchant Center feed and let Google use this information to automatically generate Shopping ads on your behalf.

Each field in your Google Merchant Center feed gives Google a piece of information that they can use to determine when your product is relevant to a shopper’s query and what the shopper needs to know about your product. This raises a crucial question: What are these magical fields of information? Let’s go over some of the most important ones: product title, product image, and product category.

Product title

Your product title is the blue hyperlinked text that appears at the top of your Shopping ad.

google-merchant-center-product-title-optimization

When it comes to optimizing your Google Merchant Center feed, your product title should be your top priority. Why? Because it’s the first piece of information Google looks at when determining which products are most relevant to a shopper’s search query. Without an optimized product title, you don’t have much of a chance of getting your product in front of the people who want to buy it.

So—how do you optimize your product title? By using a keyword research tool to find out how your prospects are searching for your product and targeting high-volume keywords in your product title. Sounds a lot like search engine optimization, right? Exactly! Basically, optimizing your product title means using the language of your customers to show Google that your product is relevant—and, therefore, worthy of a top Shopping ad position.

Product image

Your product image is the—go figure—image of your product that appears to the left of your product title.

google-merchant-center-product-image-good-example

Your product image is a crucial part of your Google Merchant Center feed for a pretty obvious reason: Nobody clicks on an ad with a low-quality image. After all, winning a new customer means winning the trust of another human being—something you won’t accomplish if you greet them with a bad, unprofessional image.

If you need help getting started, I recommend checking out these 14 product photography tips. As you browse them, keep in mind that Google has some rules: no watermarks, no additional text, and no logos.

Product category

Unlike your product title and image, your product category is a piece of your Google Merchant Center feed that only Google sees; it’s strictly a backend attribute that they take into consideration when determining which products are most relevant to a user’s query. Your prospective customers won’t ever see it!

In order to make your product eligible for advertisement in the Shopping results, you need to select a category from the Google Product Taxonomy (GPT). Available to download for free, the GPT is complete with over 6,000 categories and subcategories.

As I’ve already alluded to, your product category is extremely important when it comes to demonstrating the relevance of your product. The more targeted you can get with your subcategories, the better off you’ll be. As such, you need to narrow it down.

For example, let’s say you sell bicycle shorts. Technically, you could categorize them like this:

Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Activewear

But you’ll see much better results if you categorize them like this:

Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Activewear > Bicycle Activewear > Bicycle Shorts & Briefs

google-merchant-center-product-category-examples

See what I mean? The narrower, the better!

How do I add products to Google Merchant Center?

When you decide to expand the catalog you’re promoting with Shopping ads, there’s a number of ways to add products to Google Merchant Center. We don’t recommend it, but technically speaking, you can manually update your feed and then upload it to the platform. A less tedious solution, however, is to set up scheduled fetches. Basically, if you give Google the URL of your feed and tell them how often you’d like to add new products, they’ll take care of it for you. Simply head to the Products tab, select the feed you’d like to automate, click Schedule, and you can take care of the details from there. 

And if you’re looking for the simplest solution possible, I recommend using WordStream Advisor for Ecommerce to add products to Google Merchant Center. With our Data Feeds feature, you can take care of all your product data needs without ever leaving the Advisor for Ecommerce interface.

How do I set up shipping in Google Merchant Center?

In order to promote your products with Shopping ads, you have to let prospective customers know how much you charge for shipping. According to Google, shipping cost is the most common explanation for shoppers abandoning their purchases. Suffice it to say that your shipping settings are a crucial part of your Google Merchant Center account.

Important note: The shipping costs you submit to Google Merchant Center must be equal to or greater than the shipping costs outlined on your website. Obviously, deceiving Shopping users with inaccurately low shipping costs will get you in trouble.

One of the many cool things about Google Merchant Center is that there’s a range of shipping options for you to choose from based on how you charge for shipping. Whether you charge a fixed rate, base it on the overall price of the order, or use the rates of third-party carriers, Google Merchant Center is fully supportive. You can even set up customized shipping tables that calculate the cost of shipping for a particular product based on its dimensions or destination!

We won’t bore you with step-by-step instructions for setting up your Google Merchant Center shipping settings; Google’s already taken care of that in detail. Instead, we want to discuss something seemingly obvious yet incredibly important: Your choice of shipping option should be based on your broader business goals.

When setting up your shipping information in Google Merchant Center, think about why you’re using Shopping ads in the first place. Are you simply trying to drive more conversions? Or are you aiming to achieve something more nuanced, like a higher average order value?

The point is that different shipping options make sense for different goals. If you’re simply trying to drive more overall conversions, offering free shipping makes sense. Alternatively, if your goal is to increase average order value (AOV), you may want to offer free shipping exclusively to shoppers who cross a certain price threshold. It’s a small difference, but it matters.

What are Google Merchant Center promotions?

Google Merchant Center promotions allow you to use your Shopping ads to offer special deals to your prospects—discounted prices, free shipping, etc. Once a promotion has been applied to your ad, shoppers will either see it at the bottom of the ad or they’ll have to click on a “special offer” link (also shown at the bottom of the ad). Either way, using Google Merchant Center promotions is a great way to make your Shopping ads more attractive and secure more orders.

google-merchant-center-shopping-ads-promotion

Important note: Google Merchant Center promotions are only available to advertisers in the US, Britain, Germany, France, India, and Australia. If you’re based in one of these countries and interested in running promotions, you can apply to do so here.

Once you’ve created a product data feed and Google has approved it, you’re eligible to set up promotions (which also need approval before going live). Below are the three types of promotions you can submit for approval through Google Merchant Center:

  • Discounts: 10% price drop, BOGO, etc.
  • Shipping: Free shipping, 50% off shipping, etc.
  • Free gifts: Free product, free electronic gift card, etc.

Again, we don’t see the point in redundantly drudging through the long list of policies you need to abide by in order to run Google Merchant Center promotions. Instead, let’s talk about some best practices you can use to get the most out of the promotions program.

1. Your Google Merchant Center promotion should align with your broader goals 

If you’re trying to get rid of some inventory by a particular deadline, run a BOGO promotion. If you’re trying to establish brand affinity and win more loyal customers, run a free gift promotion. And if you’re trying to boost your AOV, run a discount promotion for orders over a certain price.

2. You need to offer free electronic gift cards for the holiday season 

Look—nobody’s perfect. Sometimes, even the most thoughtful people procrastinate buying gifts for their friends and family members. In fact, some shoppers wait so long that their orders can’t be shipped to them in time for whatever holiday they’re celebrating. Good news: You can use a Google Merchant Center promotion to save the day! By offering a free gift card to every procrastinator who places an order, you provide something they can give to their loved ones in lieu of the yet-to-arrive gift.

google-merchant-center-free-gift-card

3. You can find ways to get around Google’s restrictions on promotions 

You’ll notice that one of the policies for Google Merchant Center promotions is that you can’t use them to offer discounts exclusively to first-time customers—allegedly. The not-so-secret workaround, of course, is creating a similar audience. Here’s how it works: First, create a remarketing list of people who’ve bought a particular product—let’s say it’s a bike helmet—from your store. Next, use that list to create a similar audience: a group of users who haven’t yet bought anything from your store but whose search behavior indicates that they’re interested in doing so. Finally, apply that audience to a Shopping campaign and offer an irresistible discount!

What if my Google Merchant Center account gets suspended?

Whew! We’ve thrown a ton of information at you in this guide. This is the last section you need to worry about—I promise.

In order to ensure that every user has the best experience possible, Google employees review your Google Merchant Center account regularly. If, for whatever reason, some of your products are in violation of Google Shopping policy, you’ll be emailed a warning message and given a week to correct the issues. During this week-long warning period, your Shopping ads will continue to run as usual (unless there’s something extremely offensive about them).

google-merchant-center-product-disapprovals

If you fix all the violations by the end of the warning period, you’re good. If any of them are left unfixed, your Google Merchant Center will be suspended and none of your products—not even the ones unrelated to the violations—will be eligible for Shopping ads. Make sure to note, however, that the suspension of your Google Merchant Center account does not mean you’re suspended from all Google advertising networks; the suspension only applies to Shopping ads.

If you find yourself in this not-so-uncommon situation, don’t stress—it’s not the end of the world! Getting your Google Merchant Center account reactivated is a fairly straightforward process. 

First things first: Fix the issues that have gotten your account suspended. There’s no getting around this; until each and every issue is resolved, you can’t advertise on Google Shopping. Once that’s done, manually request a review from the team at Google. If they review your account and find no issues, you’ll be back in business. If you’re still in violation, you’ll have one more opportunity to request a review before entering the cool-down period—a week-long stretch during which your ads are inactive and the “Request Review” button is disabled.

As you can see, you have ample opportunity to right the ship when your Google Merchant Center account gets suspended. As long as you’re diligent about fixing violations as soon as you’re alerted about them, your Shopping ads will remain active and your ecommerce business will continue to thrive.

Dive into Google Merchant Center today!

Understanding Google Merchant Center is an essential skill for anyone hoping to grow their ecommerce business through Google Shopping ads. Though it’s not exactly simple, there’s no reason you can’t become an expert through your own process of trial and error.

So, dive into Google Merchant Center today! Using this blog post as a guide, you’ll be driving tons of new revenue through Google Shopping ads in no time.

5 High-Impact Lead Generation Strategies for Local Businesses

Local businesses are up against it. With Amazon dominating ecommerce and Walmart dominating brick-and-mortar, many local businesses are struggling to compete.

Walmart aisles

Let’s face it: These aisles aren’t going anywhere.

Effective local lead generation strategies can help you do so.  While other digital marketing strategies put you in touch with the world, these strategies are more targeted: They put your business in touch with your exact market.

Here are the five easiest, most affordable, and most high-impact lead generation strategies for local businesses:

  1. Use targeted Facebook lead ads
  2. Create a localized lead magnet
  3. Run a local contest or giveaway
  4. Create a localized landing page
  5. Go offline

1. Use targeted Facebook lead ads

With 2.41 billion users and unparalleled targeting capabilities, Facebook is the best way for local business owners to find their people.

For instance, let’s say you’ve just opened a new dance studio in Seattle. And let’s say it’s around Valentine’s Day. Facebook advertising will enable you to target men in a relationship within the Seattle area specifically. Your message could be something to the effect of, “Valentine’s Day is coming up. Get her the best gift ever!” Simple.

But what if your dance studio only has classes in April?

You need to start getting prospective students now to fill those classes.

And that’s where Facebook lead ads come in.

There are a couple of options when talking about lead generation on Facebook:

  1. Run an ad with the “Conversion” objective and send everyone who clicks to a landing page on your website where they submit their contact information through a form.
  2. Run a Facebook lead ad.

What’s a Facebook lead ad, again?

It looks like this:

Facebook lead ad example

And it works like this:

Step 1: A prospective lead scrolls through their Facebook News Feed. They see your ad (for a Valentine’s Day gift of dance lessons), and click the call to action.

Step 2: A form opens within the ad, right in the News Feed. The prospective lead fills out their contact information (whatever fields you select).

Step 3: The lead submits their information. That information is automatically sent to your previously-integrated CRM.

Here’s what a Facebook lead ad might look like in the Facebook Ad Manager for our “Seattle Salsa” example:

local Facebook lead ad example

The best part is that Facebook lead ads work: WordStream found that Facebook lead ads convert the people who click on them 19.77% more effectively than Facebook ads that send people to a landing page:

Facebook Lead Ads vs. Landing Pages Data

Top Tip: Facebook lead ads are far more effective if you don’t have to do the manual export. Instead, connect your Facebook ad account with your CRM to send your new leads there directly and automatically.

2. Create a localized lead magnet

Creating a lead magnetan incentive that gets prospective leads to trade their contact informationis one of the leading ways to generate leads. The challenge, of course, is that your local business doesn’t need leads in Singapore if you’re based out of Hell’s Kitchen (and only sell to your area).

So creating a generic lead magnet appealing to everyone isn’t a very good use of your time.

Instead, create a lead magnet which is exclusively appealing to your target market in your local area.

Here are a few localized lead magnet ideas:

  • The Complete Guide to Estate Planning in [Your State]
  • The Complete Guide to Buying/Selling/Flipping a Home/Condo/Apartment in [Local Area]
  • The Complete Guide to Buying a Used Car in [Your State]
  • Preparing your Car for Winter in [Your State]
  • A Guide to the Perfect Road Trip/Holiday/Bachelor Party/Romantic Getaway in [State/City]

The format of these lead magnets is entirely up to you; they could be webinars, email-gated videos, or simply .pdf ebooks.

Here’s a localized lead magnet example:

localized lead magnet landing page example

Top Tip: Email-gating video is a powerful way to generate leads. To do so, you’ll have to talk to your developer to create something that pauses (or refuses to play) the video until lead information has been submitted.

3. Run a local contest or giveaway

Perhaps the most reliable way to generate exclusively local leads is to run a contest that gives away a prize in your area. Contests are similar to lead magnets, in that they provide a reason for a prospective customer to provide contact information. In this case, though, you give them a chance to win a prize they want to win.

When running a local contest or giveaway, though, there is a single best practice though, that makes all the difference: Give away a prize related to your product or service.

Let’s say you’re marketing a gym. If you create a contest giving away a trip to Barbados or $1,000, cash, you’ll get thousands of leads. Everybody wants a trip to Barbados or $1,000.

And that’s the problem.

Remember, a single lead who becomes a customer is worth more than 100 leads who don’t. Like social media followers or blog subscribers, the number of leads is (ultimately) a vanity metric. By giving away a prize directly related to your business, you may get fewer leads, but those leads will be worth something to your business.

For example, here’s what a local giveaway page might look like:

local contest landing page example

Image source

This local contest page is simple but effective. Here are a few things to note (and include in your next local contest!):

  • The countdown timer. Countdown timers add urgency to any promotion. They’ve been shown to increase conversion by as much as 332%. They work perfectly in contests because they’re real. Your contest really will end at the end of the week, and if people don’t enter, they can’t win.
  • The headline. Front, center, and large, the headline tells exactly what you could win. Put the value at the top.
  • The value of the prize. A dollar value helps your contest entrants understand what they stand to win if the value of your prize isn’t inherently understood. This is usually the case when giving away a product or service.
  • The form fields. This contest asks for nothing more than a name and email address. It’s (generally) best practice to ask for no more information than you need to contact your leads. More form fields tend to equal a lower conversion rate on your lead generation page.
  • The call-to-action button. Make sure it’s high-contrast and eye-catching so there’s no confusion about where to click to enter this contest.
  • The lack of external links. This contest page is an effective landing page. As such, it’s optimized for a single conversion goal. That means there are no links off this page to distract visitors from that goal.

Not sure what to give away? Here are a few local lead gen contest prize ideas:

  • A date night package (especially valuable if you team up with another local business)
  • A “winterize your car” package
  • A home staging package
  • A family photoshoot
  • A holiday-themed makeover
  • Fitness classes and fitness gear
  • Product giveaway (themed)
  • Pre-wedding spa treatment

Top Tip: You may notice the social share boost the reach of your local contest or giveaway by adding share buttons incentivize your entrants to share your promotion with their network to earn additional chances to win.

4. Create a localized landing page

If you target multiple local markets or have local branches, create landing pages specific to those local areas to generate local leads.

For instance, let’s say you run a large law firm in Michigan. You may have your flagship office in Detroit, but another office in Lansing and another in Grand Rapids.

Your prospective clients—prospective leads—will be far more likely to engage with their local branch.

There are two things here:

  1. Focus on local SEO. You want to show up when someone types “Grand Rapids personal injury lawyer” into Google as well as “Lansing” and “Detroit.”
  2. Build a lead generation campaign that targets those areas (you can use Facebook ads for this) and then sends them to a landing page specific to their area and the partners or attorneys you have in it.

For instance, here’s a localized page for Cactus Club (an upscale chain restaurant in Canada). This is the page for their branch in the Yaletown neighborhood:

localized landing page example

If Cactus Club were to run local Google ads, they’d convert searchers far better if they directed people to their closest branch than to the generic homepage.

Google’s geo-targeted ads enable marketers to target searchers with pinpoint accuracy. Here’s a snapshot of how specific you can get with it:

Google AdWords Geotargeting Guide

For more on local Google Ads, check out “The Ultimate Guide to Google’s Local Service Ads.”

5. Go offline

It can be hard for digital marketers to remember to look out their window. We have a superiority complex when it comes to marketing strategies, and “shaking hands with people” is often overlooked in favor of another A/B test.

However, conferences and trade shows can be a fantastic way for your local business to generate quality leads and build relationships.

stats about offline marketing working

Image source

But it takes some work.

Here are a few offline lead generation tips to get your started:

  1. Choose your tradeshow or conference well. They’re expensive, and you want to get a positive return from attending, as well as the time you spend glad-handing. Our recommendation is to choose one or two as a test, then go from there if the work investment turns a profit. For a comprehensive list of trade shows (broken down by industry), check out AbsoluteExhibits.
  2. Determine what KPI will indicate success. Are you focused exclusively on generating leads? Or are you looking for wholesale providers, employees, product feedback, etc.?
  3. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. Like with the local contest above, it’s better to go with a highly-targeted (read: smaller) tradeshow or conference than it is to dive into the biggest ones out there—especially for local businesses. Find where your target clients or customers are, and go there.
  4. Give merch. Remember, this post is about local lead generation. Unless you’re getting cards or having prospective customers/sellers provide their lead information, you may be wasting your time and money. Give incentives, like merchandise or discounts, in exchange for contact information.
  5. Follow up. Leads you generate online are more easily contacted than leads generated by hand. Before you head out the door to attend the tradeshow, create an automated email series that will encourage new leads to complete your business’ objective. Start with something like, “It was great meeting you at [tradeshow]. Hope you had a great time!”

For more on local event and conference marketing, check out 11 Creative, Brand-Building Event Marketing Ideas.

Go and get those local leads!

So there you have it: the five best high-impact local lead generation strategies you can start using today.

To recap:

  • Use targeted Facebook lead ads to reach your local area
  • Create a localized lead magnet relevant exclusively to your target market
  • Run a local contest or giveaway which gets people excited
  • Create a localized landing page for your brand’s branches
  • Go offline to generate local leads face-to-face

Sometimes it can feel like digital marketing strategies apply only to the international, cloud-based tech firms in Silicon Valley.

But they don’t.

Your local business can find just as much success with these strategies as a SaaS running from a skyscraper in Manhattan.

So get started!