5 Reasons Local SEM Campaigns Fail – Bear Creek Web, Seattle

The competition for local business has become even more competitive with the reduction in Google’s local “snack pack” map listings. Recently, Google stopped showing the top 10 business results on desktop in favor of showing only the top three.

This change brings desktop results in alignment with mobile results, but it also means that many businesses that were once highly visible on the first page of results are now having to look at other options for generating traffic to their website.

Local advertising is often an attractive alternative for businesses that are still working on improving their organic rank. However, many times these local SEM campaigns fail to produce the desired results. There are several reasons why a paid marketing campaign might perform poorly, but it usually breaks down along one of these five areas:

Poor Targeting

In trying to reach the right audience, there are multiple targeting choices to consider:


Selecting the location for target advertising can be more complex than it first seems. Do you target people currently near your place of business, or do you target the area where most of your customers live? What about out-of-state buyers? What if you do business internationally?

Think carefully about where your target audience is most likely to engage with your advertising.

In the case of brick-and-mortar stores, it may make sense to have local ads that include sales and offers that activate when a customer is close to your store. In the case of service options, it may make more sense to target the location in which you provide services, versus the location of your actual business.

And for those who do business nationally, or internationally, separate campaigns for each location can help to optimize results.


Just as important as location, timing is essential to ensure that you get your message in front of your target audience at the right time. In particular, if your business has set office hours you most likely don’t want to have ads running when your office is closed, or there’s no one available to take the customers call.


Some types of local advertising, such as social media ads, also allow for targeting based on a set demographic. Here it can be very helpful to have a persona for your target audience as it allows you to narrow down the audience for your advertising so that you only reach people who are most likely to convert.

Message Mismatch

Another area where local SEM can falter is within the messaging itself. In order for advertising to be its most effective, the messaging in the ad needs to closely match the messaging within the landing page that the ad leads to.

In cases where advertising links lead to an unrelated general page, or a homepage, engagement will typically be lower than if a specific targeted landing page is used instead. Setting up hyper-targeted local landing pages can improve the results of advertising campaigns that are otherwise well optimized.

Poor Scheduling

We touched on this a bit earlier when we were discussing targeting. However, scheduling warrants its own section due to the fact that most online advertising platforms allow for a dynamic range of bidding based on times a day and days of the week.

An astute online marketing professional will, when creating a local campaign, adjust the bids according to the times when customers are most likely to be active.

Another effective tactic is to increase bids during specific events. For example, you might raise bids during a particular sale or to coincide with the launch of a new feature or service.

For brick-and-mortar stores, you might only raise bids for people who see your ads on mobile, as these people may be more likely to visit your store immediately if they are in the area.

The key to successful scheduling is to watch for trends. When are people converting most often? Where are they when they convert? Answering these questions successfully can lead to increase lead generation and sales for all campaigns.

Confusing User Experience

Landing page design is another aspect that directly contributes to the success of an online marketing campaign, and this is especially the case in local campaigns where users are looking for very specific information.

Fortunately, good web design and clear goals for desired customer action on the page can streamline the process of creating a focused user experience. Ensure there are not too many elements on the page, and that the action you want users to take is simple to find, and adequately explained.

Ideally, you will have the same or similar messaging on your landing page as in your online ad to reduce user confusion and maximize the opportunity for conversions. A clear call to action, coupled with effective design can make it easy for potential customers and clients to reach out to you.

No Follow-Up

One area where many small businesses have room for improvement is follow-up. When users visit your page via an advertising campaign, but do not convert, retargeting provides an opportunity to remain top of mind.

If there are no systems in place to capture leads or re-target them, then there is no way to ensure that they will ever see your website again.

Having a retargeting campaign in place before you start sending traffic to the page ensures that you gain maximum exposure for your website even when users are not actively visiting the page.


Local SEM campaigns have become even more important now that it’s more difficult to get an optimal placement in local search results. However, these paid media campaigns must be optimized in order to return a positive investment. Take into account location, demographics, and user intent when optimizing your campaigns to ensure maximum ROI. Also, take advantage of scheduling and bidding adjustments to ensure that your ads are in front of your ideal customer at the times when they are most likely to convert.


At Bear Creek with, we help businesses develop online marketing programs that generate highly targeted traffic, lead generation, and sales. Contact us to schedule a consultation, and put our expertise to work for you and your local online marketing initiatives.

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