Because search captures demand generated by other media, it can help you determine the impact of your offline marketing efforts. But what if your campaign is geo-targeted — can search still help you measure its impact? In a word, yes.
Since Google enhanced AdWords in late 2007, marketers can exclude geo-targeted areas from a national campaign. As a result, they can now use search to isolate and test the performance of their offline initiatives in these “excluded” markets.
To leverage search to measure the impact of a geo-targeted offline media buy, you would conduct a test using two paid search campaigns. One is the control group — national in scope, but void of your geo-targeted area. The other is your test group, limited to just your geo-targeted area.
For example, let’s say that you’re running radio ads in Boston but nowhere else in the country, and you want to measure the impact of these ads. You would create two mirror campaigns in Google AdWords. One would be nationally targeted, but exclude Boston; the other would be geo-targeted to Boston only.
Once the paid search campaigns are in place, you need to bid on branded and relevant non-branded keywords, both before and after your offline campaign launch. Relevant non-branded keywords are words that someone might recall after hearing or viewing your ad. And, because position can affect click volume, you must bid so that each keyword’s position is the same before and after the offline media launch.
In addition, don’t forget to have consistent messaging between your online and offline ads so that the searcher experiences a consistent brand image. And while it’s ideal for your national and geo-targeted campaigns to have identical ad copy for an apples-to-apples test, you’ll want to make an exception if you’re offering a promotion in the geo-targeted region, but not nationally.
Once you have all of your data, create two graphs — one for the test group and one for the control group — that are populated with daily data that span the time before and after the launch of the radio ads. From that, you should then be able to establish whether any lift in search volume occurred in the test campaign following the radio launch that did not occur in the control campaign. This would be an indicator that incremental search traffic in Boston resulted from the radio ads.
Now that the hard part is over, it’s up to you to determine whether this incremental traffic was worth the cost of the radio ads.