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I moderated two panels on local at SES this morning. Both were very interesting and took slightly different perspectives on Local Search. Both had tactical aspects and we were lucky to have an advertiser in the room that was part of the Google click-to-call beta test (more on that in a moment).

Patricia Hursh, president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing, was one of the panelists on the first panel and she presented an interesting case study on a national client (an ISP) that wanted to target regionally on Google. Her agency ran three campaigns. One was purely national; the second was "national" but used place name keywords and other geographic modifiers; the third campaign used no geographic keywords but relied on Google’s IP targeting AdWords product.

The true national campaign performed the worst of the three. The "local keywords" national campaign performed better in terms of clicks (CTRs), but was more expensive than the national campaign. The "IP-targeting" campaign had the highest CTR and turned out to be the least expensive as well on a per-click basis.

She argued, however, that these three campaigns were not mutually exclusive because they each caught prospects/consumers that the others did not and because Google figures out which ad to serve depending on the query. There was also the branding value of the national campaign versus the more "direct response" quality of the local campaign. So in this case national and local ads could serve different potential objectives.

We talk about the higher CTRs and the more qualified nature of consumers who click on local/geotargeted ads. Sometimes I feel like I’m in an echo chamber so it’s gratifying to see real-world examples from those "in the trenches" that validate these hypotheses.

Now to the Google click-to-call beta advertiser, who emerged during the second panel and is in the hotel industry. We didn’t get into detail on the program but he characterized the performance as "great." Panelist Jake Baillie, president of TrueLocal, wondered aloud whether the performance of the product was affected in any way by the absence of competition. The marketer said he didn’t think that accounted for it. But he did say that he thought the presence of the call option motivated consumers to go directly to the hotel rather than continuing to click around. It provided an immediacy for the consumer that made it correspondingly quite effective for the advertiser.

I made the comment that the presence of the call option had the potential effect of moving the consumer along the buying cycle more quickly. I’m going to follow up with him to learn more.

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