Running Google Ads is one of the best ways to target potential leads who are looking for the services your local business provides.
What’s nice about paid search is you can target keywords based on search intent. With paid social, you’re limited to data like demographics and interests which can quickly lead to saturation.
If you target keywords with high search intent, you’re more likely to capture highly qualified leads.
Better yet, the lead generation process is relatively simple even for beginners. You don’t need to pay an expert for lead gen services if you have some extra time on your hands to experiment.
In this post, I’m going to outline the process I used many years ago to generate leads for a local contractor with zero paid traffic knowledge.
It will cover lead generation techniques, Google Ads strategies, how I set up a website and funnel to collect leads, and the results of my campaign.
Here is a rough outline of the lead generation process I used:
- Perform keyword research
- Build a campaign around those targeted keywords
- Design a dedicated landing page to collect leads
- Tweak and optimize based on performance
- Create a system to respond to and close prospects
The goal of the keyword research phase isn’t to go overboard with super niche long-tail keywords. I found it was more effective to target fewer keywords when you’re just getting started with a local lead generation campaign.
This is partly because landing page relevance factors heavily into ad rank. Google only wants to show ads to searchers with links to pages that are highly relevant to the search queries at hand. That’s the whole point of Google in the first place.
So if you’re trying to target ‘bathroom remodeling’ but your landing page is all about ’exterior painting’, your ad rank is going to suffer.
As a result, your ad will be shown less frequently (impression drop) and further down the SERP (search engine results page).
I wanted to find keywords that targeted people actively looking for contractors in the area. Not people searching for what a general contractor does or how to hire one. The latter group isn’t in the right buying phase.
I needed to target keywords with purchase intent, not research or casual browsing intent.
What’s one of the best ways to do this for local lead generation?
Simple: add a location modifier.
There’s no need to overcomplicate this. The majority of people searching for a local contractor will add a location modifier to their search because they’re not looking for contractors in Antarctica if they live in Tuscon or Omaha.
Not unless they’re prepared to fly a penguin out to do the job.
Some examples of keywords like this that I used in my campaign:
- general contractor [location]
- general contractors in [location]
- [location] general contractors
- best [location] contractors
- And so on…
These are also called Service-Location keywords, or SL keywords for short.
The Google Ads platform offers different keyword types for more precision or flexibility in your targeting.
To start out, I decided to use modified broad match keywords. This keyword type is more open to interpretation than exact match keywords are but is also more restrictive than broad match which I hoped would preserve ad relevance.
Then down the line, the plan was to expand into some exact match and negative keywords to fill in the missing pieces and increase ad rank even further.
There’s a lot more to keyword types which is out of the scope of this post. You can read about them in further detail on the Google Ads help page.
Before getting started on the campaign, I had to arm myself with tools and a proper system to capture potential leads. This began with the creation of a relevant landing page.
Back in the day, the best way to get a landing page up and running quickly was to purchase a WordPress theme or HTML template catered to lead generation. As much as I consider myself a UI/UX connoisseur, a flashy site with all the bells and whistles just isn’t necessary during this early testing stage.
These days, I personally use Elementor which is a site builder bundled with a bunch of useful pre-made templates and customization options.
I wasn’t subscribed to the service at the time though, so I simply dropped $25 on a theme catered towards lead generation.
The criteria I looked for in a theme were a prominent lead capture form in the hero section of the front page and a simple, clean layout conducive to conversions.
I would try to avoid spending too much time on this part. I do however recommend learning how to use a page builder like Elementor eventually as it can considerably speed up the process and allow for more customization without the need for coding knowledge.
Once I had the theme set up and the pictures tweaked to my liking, it was time to write the copy.
For local lead generation try to keep your copy simple — there’s no need to reinvent the wheel here or go too overboard. Remember, your visitors are already looking for your service.
You don’t need to convince them why they need to tile their bathroom. Just build enough trust for them to reach out.
The main header text went something like this:
“Looking for reliable General Contractors in the [location] area?”
The goal of this was to elicit an “As a matter of fact, yes I am” type of response in the visitor’s head. Again, nothing crazy.
I coupled this with a slightly more detailed excerpt below the main headline and a prominent arrow pointing directly to the adjacent lead capture form. The lead capture form was placed above the fold to take advantage of proximity and the average visitor’s aversion to scrolling.
The rest of the copy was just filling in information about the services offered and outlining the benefits of each service offering.
If you’ve never read a copywriting book before, just try to embrace the concept of listing benefits over features.
An additional consideration was the ability to field calls from prospects.
To account for this, I signed up for a free trial with CallRail, a popular call tracking and routing software. They provide a dedicated number in the area code of your chosen location. When someone calls the number listed on your site, the incoming call is routed directly to your cell phone and you can track the results accordingly.
Having both a contact form and phone number on your website is key. You don’t want to lose a potential lead because they’re on mobile and email is cumbersome (and vice versa).
And try to make the phone number as prominent as possible at the top of the page. Don’t forget to link to the number directly in the HTML so that when it’s clicked, a call dialogue is opened on the user’s mobile phone.
Lastly, double-check that your site is mobile-friendly overall and that it loads quickly.
Alright, now onto the juicy part. The campaign and its results.
Keep in mind that I ran this experiment nearly 3 years ago. I did my best to remember everything and piece it all together from my notes. Not every detail will be covered in full.
The campaigns started off slow, to say the least. I was running two ad sets with slightly different creatives and targeting.
After the first few days of running ads, I managed to get my first click. The early stages were mostly used to gather initial campaign data. Try not to tweak your campaigns too much and just let them run for a while.
After some additional modifications to the keywords and landing pages to improve ad rank, I managed to get 3 more clicks with a Click-through Rate (CTR) of just over 3%. CTR is the number of clicks divided by impressions (how many times your ad is shown).
Notice how the first set of ads performed much better than the second, and I was paying $5.70 for every click.
This may seem like a lot for a single click, but you’ll see later on that it’s actually quite good due to the potential value of the leads and the estimated close rate.
At this point, I scrapped the second ad set and focused on the higher volume one. They were in slightly different sub-niches of construction and one was clearly too niche based on the initial data.
What I noticed at this point was that I was losing about 30% of my Impression Share (IS) which was detrimental to the success of the campaign, especially in such a small niche.
Impression Share is the percentage of impressions that your ads receive compared to the total number of impressions that your ads could get, relative to the keywords you’re bidding on. Actual eyeballs divided by potential eyeballs basically.
I suspected this was due to a low budget or ad rank, so I added the Search Lost Impression Share metrics to my reporting. This data revealed that I was losing 0% of my Impression Share due to budget, but 20% due to ad rank.
Most of my keywords were hovering around a 5–6/10 ad rank, so I focused on improving these ranks by continuing to optimize the following:
- Expected clickthrough rate
- Ad relevance
- Landing page experience
I discovered that the ad rank was likely driven down by low to mid-tier quality scores on the broad match modified keywords, but I ran into some difficulties getting this sorted out.
My landing page and ad were tailored perfectly to the offer.
After some further analysis, I came to the conclusion that it was likely an issue with a handful of the broad match modified keyword impressions lacking relevance to the offer.
The search term report showed that keywords from clicks were relevant, so the searchers clicking my ads were targeted correctly. It was just a small handful of the remaining impressions that were smothering ad rank.
The way to improve this over time is to use negative keywords to filter out the less relevant impressions.
At this point in time, I was averaging about 20–50 impressions and 0–2 clicks per day.
With 7 or 8 clicks and zero conversions, I was getting slightly discouraged but I knew if I stuck with it I would finally capture a lead.
Then out of the blue, I got a notification on my phone.
Someone had filled out the contact form.
Okay, a vague estimate. Not exactly a high-value lead, but if the house was in need of a bunch of repairs there’s definitely an opportunity there.
Fast forward a few days as I continued to improve my ad rank and impression share and another inquiry came through.
At this point, I was somewhat unprepared for what to do if I got any leads. I decided to pick up the phone and cold-call some local contractors to see if they were interested in a few free leads or a possible ongoing relationship for a monthly fee or commission.
To my surprise, most of the businesses I called were booked for weeks on end and weren’t as interested as I would have hoped in third-party leads.
For this reason, I ended up shutting down the campaign earlier than I wanted to and marking it down as a great learning experience.
Here are some of the final metrics from the case study.
Clicks: 12 | Impressions: 775 | CTR: 1.55% | Avg. CPC: $5.13 | Total Cost: $61.56
Conversions: 2 | LP Conversion Rate: 16.67%
Estimated conversion value of leads (assuming a 33.3% close rate):
(~$2.5k value * 2 leads) / 3 = $1.67k total conversion value
Total costs: $61.56 (ad spend) + $25 (theme) + $10 (domain) = ~$100 total cost
Total ROI: 1,570%
These are really rough estimates, but a 1,570% ROI - not bad at all!
Overall, following through with this campaign was easily the best way to learn the process of generating leads with Google Ads for about the price of a trip to the grocery store.
There’s simply no way to accelerate the learning process like this by reading and theorizing.
If I were to do this all over again, I would plan out the keyword selection more methodically and try to strike a deal with a local company before running ads to make it profitable.
Either way, I hope this helped shed some light on some techniques used to generate leads for local businesses via Google Ads. Feel free to reach out if you need some help with your local ads.