PPC – Mind the store: Using AdWords to drive offline sales

PPC - Mind the store: Using AdWords to drive offline sales

Google has measured over three billion visits to physical stores in the past two years, and you’ll soon be able to track store visits from the Google Display Network. That’s a whole lot of visits, but it’s only scratching the surface of what’s possible.

Location-based searches are on the rise, and while a lot of progress has been made in regard to measuring online-to-offline behavior, it’s still crucial to turn that data into action. In the past, I’ve gone under the hood of how Google measures store visits, and now I want to talk about what you should do with that information.

Whether you qualify for store visits reporting or not, there are some steps you can follow to better reach those omnichannel users (and a quick reminder: “omnichannel users” translates to “pretty much everyone” these days).

1. Understand the differences between online and in-store customers

A nuanced understanding of your customers as they navigate between channels can be the difference between a good marketer and a great marketer. The first thing that comes to mind for me between online and in-store is average order value, but there are plenty of other metrics about these customers that you should evaluate. Repeat visit rate, types of items purchased, and the holy grail — customer lifetime value — are all the types of numbers that can vary by channel.

There are a few different variables you should consider when calculating the total value of your campaigns, and you should also consider how those variables might change between online and in-store customers. The numbers you come up with can (and should) dictate your goals and bids across channels.

2. Get a sense of how different device types drive offline sales

If you’re using store visit conversions in AdWords, this is as simple as segmenting your store visits by device.  It’ll help you understand performance and decide on a strategy moving forward.


You can use this information to compare what you’re used to looking at (your online ROAS) with something that’s much closer to reality (total ROAS, including offline behavior). So a campaign that’s driving 2.1 return on ad spend online alone might see something more like 6 or 7 or even higher ROAS overall.

On a high level, US retailers measure four times more total conversions and 10 times more mobile conversions when connecting store visits with search ads performance. But what does that look like in your account?

You want to be able to see what’s going on across devices so that you can set your bid adjustments logically.

(Quick aside about bid adjustments: I’m generally a big fan of automated bidding, but you can’t currently tailor your bids based on the offline insights we’re discussing here. This is a case where it might make more sense to use manual bidding. I’ve already written about my preferred method of manual bidding, so check that out if you haven’t already.)

Here’s an example from an article in the AdWords Help Center that walks through what something might look like in practice when you account for offline behavior. I’ve added some extra columns over what is already in the Help Center. Illustrative numbers assume an even traffic split between mobile, tablets and computers.

Device Online-only ROAS Total ROAS Change to Base Bid

Device bid adjustment
[Device Total ROAS/Total ROAS]

Mobile 1.3 13.9 13.9/10.0 = +39%
Tablets 1.8 6.3 6.3/10.0 = -37%
Computers 2.1 9.8 9.8/10.0 = -2%
Total 1.7 10.0 10.0/1.7 = +588%


Now, if you don’t qualify for store visits, there’s still insight you can gather. A lot of that insight is going to live in your location extensions data. Clicks on your location extensions can help you understand performance differences. “Get location details” in particular is a powerful indication that someone’s interested in you in the real world.


Driving directions show impressions, but not clicks. We’re working on adding that in.

In this case, 0.23 percent of searchers wanted the location details for one of your locations. That 0.23 percent is a great starting point for understanding the offline behavior of your shoppers, and you can and should adjust your strategy to try to increase that number.

To really adapt your strategy to the behavior you’re seeing, download a report with two segments added so that you can see what people are doing by device.


Along with the types of clicks that your extensions are driving, you can also look at performance relative to where someone is while they search. Use the Distance Report for your location extensions to understand differences in performance, like store visit rate by distance.


Segment this report from the dimensions tab to view actual store visits by location.

Use this report to understand how offline performance varies by distance from your actual locations. You can use bid by location to ensure your ads are in top positions for nearby users and optimize for performance at different radii. Don’t try to optimize for every single slice of this report — find meaningful differences in performance for different distances and set bid adjustments where it makes sense to do so.

3. Know the types of conversions your keywords and campaigns drive

Store visit reporting makes this type of thing really straightforward. Segment your reports by conversion name and see what’s driving the most offline activity. In this case, it’s not about the devices someone’s using — it’s about the types of things she’s searching for.

Understand which product categories people will be interested in checking out in a physical store before buying. I’ve talked to people who found out that a bunch of keywords and categories with crummy online conversion metrics were driving significant offline impact. This data is available at the keyword level, which is pretty amazing, if you ask me.


Now, hope is not lost if you don’t have store visits reporting. Instead of hard data, though, you’ll have to rely on your own marketer’s intuition (plus some non-AdWords data if you can get your hands on it). You can talk to other teams at your company, including some folks who work directly in the store. Find out where the longer sales cycles are, the types of items that your sales teams know to benefit from that in-person touch. Then treat those items accordingly when you promote them online.

4. Update your AdWords strategy for your offline reality

What does all of this data and analysis mean in the real world? There are some simple steps to optimize product categories that you know to be offline-centric:

  • Ensure that you have keyword coverage for offline-likely searches.
  • Update your performance targets to include offline behavior.
  • Increase your device/location bid adjustments based on the performance in-store conversions you’re seeing. If you don’t have store visit data, project performance based on your own company info.
  • Use your sitelinks to drive more local interest through any featured products or promotional offers that are only good in store.

It’s really about getting insight into what’s happening out there in the real, non-digital world and connecting that with your AdWords strategies.


It is a simple fact that online behavior influences offline (Just ask Nissan).  If you have physical locations, along with an AdWords account, there is so much insight that you can uncover and use to your benefit.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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