The Most Expensive States for Paid Search in the U.S.

Depending on the state you’re advertising in, your cost per click’s (CPC) could range from as high as 78 percent above the national average all the way down to 65 percent less.

The way Google reports on CPC changes, you’d think paid search should be getting less expensive across the board. We’ve heard quarter after quarter about their declining CPCs, yet in the wild, many marketers will tell you they’re definitely not saving money in AdWords.

There’s a good reason for that. See, CPC in developing markets are definitely lower – there’s just not as much demand yet. If you’re looking at global CPC as Google enters new markets, sure, you’re going to see a downward trend as the rock bottom CPCs in those regions drag down the average. There’s also a shift happening from more expensive desktop searches to relatively less expensive mobile searches, as well as many other factors like cheaper YouTube clicks.

Remember though that these are all investments for Google, and that I fully expect these markets to grow in the coming years.

However, in the USA we’re seeing that talk about declining CPCs is incomplete. When you segment by device and only consider established markets like the USA and Canada (excluding stuff like YouTube clicks), you can still see that CPCs are rising, even with the shift from more expensive desktop clicks to lower cost mobile clicks.

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But which states are the most (and least) expensive for paid search?

WordStream’s data scientist Mark Irvine dug into PPC cost data for over 15,000 high volume English search keywords across over 20 industries to find out.

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The Most Expensive States for PPC Advertisers

If you’re doing business in any of these top five most expensive states for paid search, you’re going to pay well above the national average for your clicks (I’ve indicated how much above the average with each one):

  1. Alabama: 78 percent more expensive than average.
  2. West Virginia: 60 percent more expensive than average.
  3. Maine: 48 percent more expensive than average.
  4. Alaska: 43 percent more expensive than average.
  5. Louisiana: 34 percent more expensive than average.

If you’re advertising in these states, expect to pay that much more to get eyes on your ads and clicks to your content. 

Bargain Basement CPC Deals

If you’re advertising in one of these five states, you have a leg up on your competitors elsewhere in the US:

  1. South Dakota: 65 percent less expensive than average.
  2. Nebraska: 45 percent less expensive than average.
  3. Delaware: 45 percent less expensive than average.
  4. Rhode Island: 42 percent less expensive than average.
  5. Wyoming: 38 percent less expensive than average.

How PPC Costs Stack Up Across the USA

Mark identified some interesting paid search trends in his research, namely that:

  • Rural areas tend to have higher CPCs. The top five most expensive states for paid search aren’t home to large metropolitan regions. It’s very possible that people have to bid aggressively to rank well in AdWords in rural areas, given that Google is going to be the place most people search for nearby businesses.
  • Low unemployment rates = Low CPCs. This was a particularly interesting find: that 9 out of 10 states with the lowest average CPCs also had the lowest average unemployment rates. As Mark explains, “Full employment is typically a sign of lots of local businesses in the area – so there’s less need for local users to need to turn to Google to fulfill their needs and advertisers don’t need to be as aggressive with their bids.”
  • Population doesn’t correlate to high or low CPCs. The most populous states fell right in the middle and not a single one cracked either the top or bottom 10. According to Mark, “This is likely telling us that many advertisers targeting these regions are doing so in the same campaigns targeting the rest of the nation – driving their average CPCs closer to the national average.”

If you’re finding CPCs on some of your search keywords a bit out of control, try giving display another try, or leverage powerful new search ad targeting options and of course, always make the most of location bid multipliers. Search ads are fantastic for those high intent, commercial queries, but remarketing on the Google Display Network can give you a great deal of reach at a cost that might surprise you.

Can you spot any other trends or possibly the reasons for them? Leave your suggestions in the comments. 

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