The Complete Guide To Google AdWords for Local Business

PPC - Google adwords guide

As a business owner you’ve probably heard of Pay Per Click (PPC) and Google Adwords. Unfortunately, for many small and local business owners, it can seem quite confusing.

Maybe you’ve tried it before and you didn’t get the results you were hoping for.

The truth is there is a bit of learning curve when it comes to AdWords, but the benefits far outweigh them. In this guide, we’re going to show you all the necessary information you need to know in order to start feeling confident using AdWords.

Let’s get started.

AdWords: An Introduction

AdWords is Google’s online advertising platform. Have you ever seen ads pop up on the top or side of a Google search you’ve done before? Those results are from AdWords.

Here’s an example in action.

Let’s say you run a bookshop that specializes in travel books and is located in London. We all know one of the best ways to get your site lots of visitors is through good search engine optimization (SEO) that will allow it to rank at the top of Google for a particular keyword, in this case “travel bookshop London.”

Now, using AdWords, you can take it a step further and create an ad like the one below. Notice how it’s above even the first result (it has the green Ad square). This ad was created to appear specifically when a potential customer typed something that relates to the main keywords.

The goal of an advert like this is to capture the attention of potential customers and then drive them to your website when they click the ad.

You only pay with AdWords when someone actually clicks on your ad. If they see it and don’t click, you aren’t charged.

How Local Businesses Can Benefit from AdWords

To put it simply, AdWords revolves around keywords. What you want to do is take the keywords you know that people use to find you online and create adverts around them.

When you create your first AdWords ad you can set it up to show to people based on specific criteria. This is especially useful to local business owners since one of the criteria is for people who are searching for keywords in a specific location.

So, if you are a luxury car mechanic in East London, you can create an ad that is triggered by people who are looking for any specific luxury car keywords like:

  • Audi mechanic
  • Range Rover repairs
  • Mercedes services East London

If you create an ad around your targeted keywords and with your local criteria, you can reach an entirely new set of customers who might not have known about your business before.

See the potential?

Getting Started With AdWords

Before you jump into AdWords, there are a couple of things you want to keep in mind. The biggest and most important thing is to know what you want to accomplish through an AdWords campaign, your ideal outcome.

If you don’t know this ahead of time, there will be a very good chance that you’ll spend a lot of time and money creating adverts and getting poor results. You want to be able to capitalize on AdWords and create outcomes that have a positive effect on your business.

Here are a few examples of common goals for most local business owners:

  • Phone calls
  • Sign ups on a landing page
  • Sales

These can all be outcomes from an AdWords campaign, so know what you’d ideally want before you get started.

Another important consideration is your market. While AdWords will work for most businesses, if you have a brand that is offering something very new or within a very small niche it might not be for you.

The best AdWords campaigns are those that have a specific target market that is looking for specific keywords in a general area. So, if you run businesses like a mechanic shop, a print shop, a bookstore, hair salon,or an accountancy firm, to name a few, Google AdWords will be great for you.

Finally, you want to do some research. Keyword research, which we’ll cover more in depth in a later section, is very important to your success. You need to know what keywords potential customers are searching for online in order to find you.

You also want to pay attention to your competitors. Notice where and when they pop up on online searches. If they are currently running ads check out their copy and headlines. Thankfully, you can use a tool like SpyFu to directly track any specific keywords your direct competitors use in their marketing campaigns.

Research also includes your current customers and online audience.

Never be afraid to interact with your customers to see what they love about your service or what they think can be improved. Search online reviews and see what they think about your competition too. Create a simple Word or Google Doc where you can keep notes of all this info, because it could come in handy when it’s time to write your ads.

Setting Up Your Account

Now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to get your account up and running.

Step 1: Sign Up

Head to the Google AdWords site to begin. If you’ve already got a Google account that you use for Gmail you can continue with that email address or enter a new email that is related to your business.

If you don’t have an email address already associated with Google, you will be asked to create an account. This is very simple and just takes a minute.

Once you’ve created your account, you’ll be brought to the next page. Here, you’ll see there are four main steps to creating an advert before you continue. We’ll go through each of these one by one.  

Step 2: Set Your Budget

This first thing you’ll see is the budget. One of the benefits of Google AdWords is that it’s a system where the advert creator doesn’t get charged unless someone actually clicks on the ad.


One of the reasons why AdWords is good for small and local businesses is you can easily set a daily budget and then change it at any point later on. This way, you don’t have to worry about accidentally spending £1,000 when you only meant to spend £100.

It’s good to experiment a bit with your budget to see what works best for you.

A larger luxury auto mechanic might run a 1 week campaign just as winter approaches to highlight a need for seasonal tuneups. In this case, they could spend more per day over a shorter period of time. A salon might run a consistent new customer deal for a few months, thus they would want to have a smaller daily budget running over a longer period of time.

So, here set your daily budget and click “save.”

Step 3: Set Your Target Audience

Next, you want to choose your target audience. This bit is important because you don’t want to waste your time (or your money) on reaching people outside your geographic area.

You’ll see this box:

You are going to want to chose your own best location.

Let’s use an example.

Say you run an accountancy firm in Kensington, that’s a prime area to begin targeting. So in this box, you want to type in your postcode. You’ll see a reach of about 250,000 people and Google will populate an estimated daily reach based on your budget and location, in this case, with a budget of £10 a day and this location, there will only be just one or two clicks. So you will want to increase the area where your ad is targeted.

Click on the blue “Nearby” link and you’ll see this:

Here, Google has provided you with all the neighboring areas. You can choose to add these areas to your search or even exclude specific areas. Or you can use Radius Targeting, which just means you can pick anything around say 5 miles of Kensington, rather than adding specific areas.

You can play around a bit with these locations until you find the right combination that works well for you. Remember, it’s very easy to change any of this, so if you start with an area that is too large or too small, simply add or remove locations.

Step 4: Pick a Network

Next, you’ll see the networks box. This really only has one thing for you to do and that’s check if you want to have your adverts run on both the Search Network and the Display Network.

The Search Network means that your advert will appear when Google is used as a search engine. So if a potential customer goes to and types in accountancy firm Kensington you’re ad can be displayed. If they go to and type in accountancy firm Kensington you’re ad won’t be displayed.

The Display Network means that your advert can appear on websites where ads are shown. Here are some examples from the Google Display Network:

When you tick that box, your ad can appear not only on the Search Network but also on pretty much any site that shows ads.

Step 5: Select Your Keywords

Picking the right keyword is one of the most important part of having a successful AdWords campaign. If you choose the wrong keywords here, you are sunk before you’ve even begun.

The very best way to figure out what keywords you should use is to ask yourself one question:

What are my customers typing into Google to find me?

Those are the keywords you want to use. Proven terms that you know your customers are using to find you online.

When it comes to starting out with your first campaign, it’s fine to go small with your keywords. You are far better off having 2 or 3 keywords you know your customers are using to find you rather than 15 that you think might sort of work.

Now we can revisit the luxury car mechanic example but add a twist. Let’s say that while he does do any sort of luxury car he really specializes in Land Rover and Range Rovers. So he can really get specific with the keywords he wants to use in his campaign:

You can see these are all very reasonable keywords. And Google provides some information as well, namely the Search Popularity of each keyword. This isn’t an exact science, but it will give you a good idea of how many searches for each of these keywords are being performed each month.

If the luxury car mechanic wanted to start out with a solid smaller campaign, he could target just these keywords:

  • Kensington mechanic
  • Range Rover mechanic
  • Land Rover mechanic

Now, here you might be thinking why not go with the “mechanic” keyword that gets 450,000 searches a month! WIth that many searches it means it will be a keyword that could be very hard to bid for. Google AdWords works on a bidding (aka auction) system so the more searches a keyword has the more expensive the bidding for that word.

The more keywords you use the more expensive your advert will be. So never be afraid to start with very small and targeted keywords.

Keyword Types

There are a number of types of keywords to choose from inside AdWords. Here are the descriptions from Google:

Broad match: “allows your ad to show for searches on similar phrases and relevant variations, including synonyms, singular and plural forms, possible misspellings, stemmings.”

Modified broad match: “allows your ad to show for searches that include your broad match keyword or close variations of your broad match keyword.”

Phrase match: “allows your ad to show only for searches that include the exact phrase, or close variations of that exact phrase, with additional words before or after.“

Exact match: “allows your ad to show only for searches that use that exact phrase, or close variations of that exact phrase, and no other words.“

This chart can help note the differences:

AdWords defaults to “Broad Match.” This casts the widest net to find an audience. You can move forward with this option because it may help you reach new potential customers, but keep an eye on the costs and see if you’re paying for clicks that aren’t relevant. You can also use negative keywords (more below) to help mitigate the risk here.

The other end of the spectrum is “Exact Match.” It means only the results for the keywords you specified will be shown. This will ensure you hit the exact audience that you want, but you could also be missing out on potential customers by being very restrictive.

In the middle of the two options are the options for “Modified Broad Match” and “Phrase Match.” You can use these if you want to have a bit more flexibility in what is shown for search results.

Whichever option you choose, be sure to track your results. Note how your advert is performing and make adjustments as you go. If you find you’re spending money on irrelevant clicks make your match type more strict.

For more on keyword types look at this post.

Negative Keywords

There is another feature of AdWords you can use when it comes to keywords and that’s using negative keywords. To put it simply, adding negative keywords to your campaigns alerts Google to not show your ad to people who aren’t interested.

Why does this matter? Because if you’re getting people who don’t want your services clicking on your adverts then you are losing money. If you aren’t sure how to figure out your negative keywords, try this mini-guide.

Here’s a  good example of negative keywords in action:

Image courtesy of Kissmetrics

This won’t apply to all businesses, but if you do have a product or service that shares keywords with something that isn’t related, it’s a good idea to include a few negative keywords.

Once you have your keywords, click “Save.”

Step 6: Set Your Bidding Budget

Here’s where that bidding comes into play. You can see from the bid box here are your options:

It’s a pretty simple choice, you can have Google automatically set your bids that will help maximize your budget (this is recommended). Or you can set your bid amount manually.

If you want to set your bid manually you need to first have an idea of how much your bid is going to cost. You can do that by going to the Google Keyword Planner tool entering your keywords and seeing what the estimated cost per click (CPC) will be. That’s basically the budget you can use for manual bids.

That bid number you select is going to be the maximum amount you would pay if someone clicked on your advert. It’s quite possible you might end up paying less per click, but you will not pay more.

There are a number of factors that go into the bidding including taking into account your own bid budget, the budget of competitors who are looking to use the same keywords, and even things like the quality of the landing page your advert sends people to as well as the quality of the advert itself.

These factors all add up to something called a Quality Score (QS). It’s only second to your bidding when it comes to your Ad Rank so it’s very important. A higher QS will have your advert show up higher in searches and can even lower your CPC.

There are really only three things you need to pay attention to when it comes to your QS:

  • The relevance of your advert to the keyword
  • How your landing page is related to your advert
  • The click through rate (CTR) of your advert

To learn more about Quality Scores, take a look at this post.

For beginners, we recommend sticking with having AdWords set the bids for you.

Step 7: Write Your Ad

Now we get to the exciting part, writing your ad!

When you get to this section, take your time. Don’t simply write out something in two minutes click save and call it a day. Remember, you advert needs to be be compelling it has to convince people to click on it so the copy does matter.

The quality of your advert matters. A poor one, even if the budget and keywords are right, will not get prime placement by Google when competing with a great ad written by another company.

Here are a few copywriting tips to keep in mind as you compose your advert:

  • Keep it to the point: There isn’t a ton of space for text in ads, which actually makes it quite a bit harder to write. Think about how you can get your point across in as few characters as possible.
  • Pay attention to the headline: Don’t just save the headline to the end, it needs to be something that calls out to your potential customers and catches their attention right away. It’s also a very good idea to make sure your keyword is in the headline too.
  • Have a call to action: Your ad needs to have a call to action, that is some text that tells your potential customer exactly what you want them to do.
  • Think about incentives: Have something that your customers just won’t be able to refuse, highlight that! Tell them about offers, sales, discounts, or special events in the ad.

For more advice on how to use copywriting to your advantage in your adverts, take a look at this post and this post.

Now that you’ve gotten a nice crash course in copywriting, let’s look at what goes into every advert.

There are four parts to every ad:

  1. Website landing page
  2. Headline 1
  3. Headline 2
  4. Description

Let’s tackle each a bit more in depth.

Here’s an example advert to look at first:

Website Landing Page

The URL (or website address) you send your potential customers to from the advert they click is called a landing page. It’s the page they ‘land’ on once they hit your site.

Your landing page here matters. Remember from the bidding section, a landing page is one of the factors that Google pays attention to when ranking and placing your adverts. So a bad landing page could actually hurt an otherwise great advert.

Plus, a well done landing page can really help convert visitors into warm leads or even customers. Think about it this way, for most local businesses a landing page will have about a 5% conversion rate. Now, if you put in the effort to have a great landing page, you can easily move that conversion rate up to 10% (or higher) that translates into real money.

Landing Page Tips

Here are a few tips on landing pages:

  • Have a landing page that is specifically dedicated to your advert offer. For example, if you run a hair salon with an advert that is targeting new customers with a discount booking an appointment you want that landing page to specifically written for these potential new customers and directs them to book an appointment right from that landing page.
  • While your ad will only have a few words to entice a potential customer, there is no limit to what you can offer them on your landing page so be sure to have a strong message.
  • Don’t forget to include a call to action on your landing page as well. It could be to call and make a reservation for a local restaurant, call for a quote from the local print shop, or sign up for a new class for the neighborhood yoga studio.

If you don’t already have a dedicated landing page for this AdWords campaign, stop right here and make your landing page first, then come back to creating your adverts. Unbounce is a great tool that can help you build a landing page really easily.

So, for the luxury car mechanic who is going to focus on Land Rover owners for his AdWords campaign a great example of a landing page would be to use the URL . The “Land Rover” landing page is going to specifically highlight and relate to what is mentioned in the advert.

Landing Page Mistakes

Now, there are also common mistakes you need to avoid as well when it comes to your landing pages. Here are a few:

  • Not directing your adverts to a landing page, no matter how great your home page might look, don’t miss this crucial step
  • Not paying attention to your landing page, the better your landing page the higher the potential of your ad
  • Not checking out your competitors landing pages to see where you can gain an advantage, use what works and improve on what doesn’t to really have an incredible page

Just avoiding these mistakes will help ensure your conversion rates are going to be better. Spending the time to focus on your landing page will absolutely pay off in the long run.


Google AdWords have two headlines per advert. Each headline has a maximum of 30 characters for a total of 60.

While you can separate one long headline into two segments note that Google puts that “-” dash mark right at the end of the first headline so that’s something you want to pay attention to when writing it.

In our example above we made sure to try to special to a specific need of the target audience, getting their Land Rovers ready for the bad weather come winter. No one, no matter what car they drive, wants to be stuck in the cold on the side of the road one January night. This headline speaks right to that concern.

Remember, headlines are very important. You want your headline to jump off the screen to your ideal customer. So speak to their needs, emotions, and even fears. Get specific and be bold.

The headline also makes sure to highlight those important keywords. It has “Land Rover Mechanic” and “Kensington Land Rover Mechanic” in there as well to catch the eye of those local customers.

You always want to have your keyword at least once in your headline. In an ideal world try to include it in both headlines (as long as it makes sense).

Pay Per Click Headline Mistakes

You know what you should do in your headline, but what about the things you shouldn’t do?

  • Don’t have the headline in your advert not match up with your landing page. If your advert’s headline is all about a guest author event at your bookshop don’t have your landing page be about your latest sale.
  • Don’t ignore your headline until the last moment, this is the most important part of the ad.
  • Don’t be afraid to test multiple headlines to see which one works the best.

To get even more in-depth on headlines, consider this employing a few of these tips.


When it comes to the description, you have a bit more wiggle room in terms of space, but only 80 characters in total.

In this space you want to convey to your potential customers what you’re offering and get them interested enough so they click on the ad where they can learn more once they are on the landing page.

Here again remember to include a firm call to action. You always want to tell people exactly what to do. It never hurts to be specific and even local in your description. Think about including special deals that your customers won’t be able to find anywhere else. Remember, it’s easy to change your advert so test them out and keep them very targeted.

This advert tells people if they book today they will get a discounted rate on their Land Rover tune up.

Here’s another example for a local printing service that is trying to drum up new corporate accounts:

You can see the landing page again speaks to the advert, it’s specifically for new business accounts. A business owner in the Leeds area who is looking for a new printer that does same day printing would be very interested in this advert.

Pay Per Click Description Mistakes

It’s often much harder to get a good message across when you have limited space so you need to use your description wisely. Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Not checking spelling and grammar. Double and triple check your advert.
  • Not getting specific. You need this part of your advert to speak directly to your targeted customer don’t be general and include keywords if you can.
  • Not including a call to action. You must direct people to take an action in your description without this you won’t see nearly as many clicks or calls.

Google gives some great advice on how to tackle the description part of your ads successfully.

Step 8: Finish and Create Your Ad

Once you’re happy with your advert, click “Save and Continue.” You’ll be brought to the last section of the creation process which is where Google will request your business information and payment information.

This part is self explanatory. All you need to include is your business name, address, and phone number, as well as your payment information. You will be charged when you hit your budgeted amount or after 30 days, whichever comes first.

So be sure to pay attention to this amount, if your ads are hitting your daily budgeted amount towards the end of the month, you can increase the daily budget.

Tracking Your Results

Congratulations are in order, you just launched your first AdWords campaign!

The job isn’t quite done yet though. You want to be able to track how your ads are doing, otherwise you won’t have any idea if you’ve created a successful advert or something that needs to be tweaked.

The good news is Google makes it relatively easy to track your AdWords campaigns with their conversion tracking.

The first thing you need to chose your conversion source. This just means what kind of conversions you want to track. Remember at the beginning when we said you needed to have a goal in mind when it came to what you wanted out of your adverts? Well this is where they come into play.

Most local business owners will have conversions from basically three areas:

  • Websites: When a customer takes an action from your landing page, that could be booking an appointment or signing up for your newsletter in exchange for a coupon or discount code.
  • Phones: When a customer calls you from a phone number in your ad, on your website, or call you from a mobile device by clicking the number on your mobile website
  • Imports: This is used a little less often than the other two, basically it’s when a customer might see your ad and call your office and you sell them over the phone. In this case you’d have to import that data into Google.

The two most common are Website and Phone conversion tracking. Each has their own instructions.

Tracking Websites

For website conversion tracking you can follow these instructions from Google AdWords. Basically, all you have to do is sign into your account, follow the steps and you will get a Conversion Tracking Tag.

You want to copy this bit of code and put it on the conversion page. So if the advert directs people to a landing page that has a booking request, the potential customer books an appointment, and is brought to a ‘thank you for booking page’ this is the page where the tracking tag will go.

Tracking Calls

The other main way to track conversions is through phone calls. You can actually have your phone number displayed in your advert. There are a couple of benefits to this. First it will get people to call (always a good thing) and second it works great for people who are on mobile devices. Rather than going to your website or landing page, they can call directly from the ad.

Here’s a great example right from Google AdWords:

If you want to set up your phone number to be displayed here’s how to do it.

Once you select a “Call-Only” advert, you follow similar steps as above in creating the ad making sure to choose your targeted location and daily budget. You can enable automatic bidding and enhanced cost per click (ECPC) bidding to be done by Google. The ECPC will allow Google to raise or lower your bid depending on who is more likely to click.

You’ll also be able to create a specific advert for this type of ad too. It will look slightly different from the previous ad, but you can still see much of the same information. Here’s what the print shop advert from above could look like as a call only ad:

You can see here with this advert the little “Call” button with the phone image allows customers to click and call directly.

Just as with the website tracking you can set up Google AdWords to track these phone call adverts as well. The step by step instructions can be found right here. Once the tracking is set up for these types of ads you don’t need to use a Conversion Tracking Tag.

However, if you decide instead to track phone number clicks from a mobile website then you will have to place the Conversion Tracking Tag on the page where your phone number is located on your website.

Navigating The AdWords Dashboard

Once you’re logged into AdWords you can see the AdWords Dashboard. The is the main center for monitoring your ads, checking results, and making any necessary changes over the course of your campaigns.

There are lots of things to explore inside the dashboard, but here we’ll just cover a few of the most important ones for beginners.


The Home view is going to give you a general overall look at what’s happening with your various campaigns. You’ll see how much money you’ve spent, how your ads are performing, and how your keywords look to name a few.

At the very bottom of this screen you can select home to be your starting place when you arrive inside Google AdWords, otherwise Campaigns is the standard starting point.


The campaigns tab is the heart of AdWords. Most everything you run will be from inside here. You can make changes to your campaigns, create new ones, and get an overall look at how every one of your ads looks and how they are performing.

Inside campaigns you can do a lot of advanced things too like create call only ads and include negative keywords in your adverts.

Inside Campaigns you can also change the dimensions of your adverts, make changes to your audience and get even more in depth demographic info on your target audience.


Opportunities is great for the newcomer to AdWords because it reads your adver and lets you know where there are areas of improvement. Use this to see how you can make your ads even better.


This one is pretty self explanatory, the reports option gives you a number of reports to chose from when looking at your campaigns and data. Be sure to check your reports monthly to see how your adverts are doing and where you can make improvements or grab opportunities.


Finally, the tools tab is a dropdown that provides a number of Google tools for AdWords users like the Keyword Planner Tool and Google Analytics. Since everything inside Google interfaces easily using these are a quick way to make improvements on your ads without much muss or fuss.


Well, there you have it. A general overview to getting up and running with Google AdWords. Using this guide should help you get started with your first campaign. As you get more experienced with AdWords don’t be afraid to test and experiment to see what is going to work best for your business.

When you are able to learn how use AdWords effectively you’re going to open up an entirely new way to reach customers that has a nice conversion rate and is very affordable.

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