The Google Ads Campaign That Tours & Activities Need to Know About

Ben Page


Do you want to grow your walk-up and call-in revenue?

We all agree that direct bookings are great. You get an opportunity to own the customer relationship, and usually the acquisition cost of a new customer is lower.

Depending on your market, your product, and the level of competition you face, the search results may appear to be stacked against you.

From googling keywords relevant to your business, you’ll likely find that appearing in the “map pack” is critical for gaining visibility and driving traffic to your website and location.

You’ve already optimized your Google My Business profile, but more often than not, you’re getting buried by other listings.

What should you do? Enter Local Campaigns.

What Are Google Local Campaigns?

Local Campaigns are a newer Google Ads product that allows advertisers to place sponsored listings in the map pack and in other Google-owned properties. Although they were originally intended for local retailers, they are a perfect fit for tour & activity companies as well.

Google continues to extend the functionality of this campaign type. Back in May, it was announced that the ads could appear as “auto-suggest” ads in Maps searches, navigational ads, and similar places ads.
Previously, advertisers had to rely on location extensions for this visibility, which displayed business location information underneath the text ad. This was a good start, but businesses were still vulnerable to losing ground to their competitors who owned the map pack. Local ads have created a way to force that visibility in the map pack regardless of your organic standing there.

Local ads have an additional advantage—the ability to present your local ad alongside your organic Maps listing and your paid search ad! That means that in some circumstances if you rank well organically for a given keyword and a local pack (sometimes called “Map pack” or “three-pack”) is displayed, you have the possibility of appearing up to four or more times at the top of the search results page.

This has never before been possible, and the benefits of appearing that high in the search results so frequently alone are worth the investment. Both ads and websites listed highly have an increased perception of trustworthiness, and they garner disproportionately high clickthrough rates. (See Ignite Visibility’s 2020 benchmark data on this phenomenon.)

If your domain appears multiple times in the top 6 results for a given query, it’s possible that your average clickthrough rate will be north of 50%. This is an absolute game-changer for the economics of customer acquisition and advertising.

Who Are Google Local Campaigns For?

Local Campaigns work great for many tour, activity and attraction companies—especially those who are in or near densely-populated areas or have more entrenched competitors.

At their core, Local Campaigns focus on driving engagement with the Google My Business profile. If your business does well at converting guests over the phone, you can set the campaign goals to optimize toward phone calls by way of your profile. Alternatively, you can optimize toward driving direction requests, and sometimes, store visits.

If these types of actions are valuable to your operation, or even if the awareness of your location and offer alone is valuable, you should consider a test run. Even a few dollars a day can start to have an impact, but for some of our clients, Local Campaigns are now allocated for up to 30% of their daily budget.

On the other hand, Local Campaigns may not work as well if you are in a rural area, have poor phone coverage, or if local SEO generally isn’t a factor for the keywords that are central to your business. Do some Google searches to determine if this might be the case.

How Do Google Local Campaigns Work?

In effect, Local Campaigns are a specialized campaign type that closely mirrors Google’s new Performance Max campaigns.

Unlike paid search campaigns, Local Campaigns are targeted to Google searches based on what Google algorithms intuit from the information on your Google My Business profile.

This makes it important to have a great business description, category & sub-category, and products built out.

A tip from Google Ads Help:

“Promote your stores across Google’s largest properties including the Google Search Network, Maps, YouTube, and the Google Display Network. Just add a few lines of text, a budget, some assets, and the rest is optimized to help customers find you.”

One of the strange nuances of Local Campaigns is that they require you to enter a YouTube video, so you’ll need to have a channel and link it to your Google Ads account.

In addition, you need to select which Google My Business location (or location group) is to be promoted, select one or more images and a square (1:1 ratio) logo, and then include at least a headline, description, and call to action text.

One of the limitations of Local Campaigns is that the reporting is fairly opaque, and if the campaign is successful, it is likely under-reporting its true impact.

In the Google Ads interface, it’s best to segment the campaign reporting by either “conversion action” or “click type” as shown here.

(Note that store visits reporting may or may not be available in your account based on volume and account status)

By default, Local Campaigns are set to optimize toward calls to the business and driving directions, loosely bucketed together as Google My Business engagements. If a user clicks through the local ad to the website and subsequently books directly from there, some conversion revenue will be reported–however, the primary engagement type in all campaigns we’ve managed has been off-site.

However, it’s best to triangulate results by looking at the booking engine for walk-up bookings, Google Analytics, Google Ads, and Google My Business.

Case Study

What happens when you invest a significant amount into Local Campaigns?

We did just that for one of our zipline clients during the peak season this year. 

The dynamics of this client are that they are in a travel destination, users are typically in-destination for 3 – 7 days, and approximately 90% of revenue is from inbound travelers. They are also within 30 miles of several prominent competitors but set about 30 minutes out from a metro area.

Below are results for July, 2021:

Based on our testing in earlier months, we decided to invest over $400 per day to supplement the full-funnel advertising we were doing on Google.

First, we look at directly-attributable online booked revenue through the website, which totaled nearly $2,100:

This only tells part of the story, however, because this campaign delivered nearly 6 million ad impressions within the month.

In addition, there were 25 mobile clicks-to-call, nearly 4,200 “driving directions” clicks, and over 4,600 “get location details” clicks. These local actions demonstrate intent from in-market consumers and lead to very real business growth.

Another example from a client in a different market highlights the“halo effect” of cross-channel lift during a time when running significant amounts of Local Campaigns.

For this client, a tour operator in the southern United States, we began ramping up local campaigns starting in July 2021 during their peak season.

In the time frame referenced in the graph below, July 1st – 15th, 2021, we delivered over 2.1 million Local Campaign impressions.

For this particular campaign, we spent approximately $280 in this time frame, and impressively, the directly attributable revenue was over $1,500:

Additionally, there were 4 assisted conversions worth another $581 in revenue reported in Google Analytics. Based on the conversion actions reported within Google Ads, we also had 16 clicks to call and 250 directions requests which are above and beyond what’s reported in these figures.

What we’re observing elsewhere is that “Map Listing Views” (via Google My Business insights) are disproportionately positively affected while running a significant volume of Local Campaigns. We have observed these results even when Search views are down and during GMB suspensions for one other client:

GMB Actions (had Local Campaigns in October, none in September)

While this Google My Business profile was temporarily suspended in October, we were able to help offset search visibility and engagement by driving traffic through Maps instead.

Jump Into Local Campaigns Now

It’s likely that you can still be a part of the early ⅓ of advertisers to adopt this newer campaign type and thereby gain an advantage. Eventually, most advertisers for whom it can work will adopt it, and the level of competition, as well as potential payoff, will dwindle, rewarding only the most successful advertisers.

Ready to get in while the going is good?

Looking for help growing your tourism company? Contact us at Blend Marketing; we help tour and activity companies with $2-20 million revenue grow their businesses through a strong brand, good data, and smart marketing.

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About The Author

Ben Page

As Blend's Director of Search Marketing, Ben leads strategy and execution of paid search marketing, including advertising on platforms such as YouTube, Google, and Microsoft Ads. Additionally, Ben’s depth in SEO supports tourism clients on organic search.

Email Ben

About The Author

Ben Page

As Blend's Director of Search Marketing, Ben leads strategy and execution of paid search marketing, including advertising on platforms such as YouTube, Google, and Microsoft Ads. Additionally, Ben’s depth in SEO supports tourism clients on organic search.