If you've been in the PPC game long, you've had the importance of geo-targeting thrown at you from every direction, time and again. It's to be expected, as the proper use of geo-targeting is fundamentally important to the long term success of your PPC campaigns.
I've learned there are three core aspects to successful geo-targeting; let's walk through each and to see how they helped me boost a client's conversion performance.
Start by Getting It Right at the Macro Level
Let's start with the obvious stuff. On the macro level, where do you do business? In which cities, states, territories, countries or hemispheres do you sell products or provide services? If you service the U.S., geo-target to the U.S. (at a minimum, but we'll go deeper in step three). If you can't service Canada - DO NOT target Canada. In that scenario, every click and every dollar spent in Canada is a waste of money. Furthermore, driving untargeted traffic that ultimately will be turned away could escalate into a brand or PR issue.
Seems simple enough, yes? Yet you would be surprised how many PPC advertisers mess this up. Beyond choosing the right country, if you are a truly local business, avoid geo-targeting in large bundles. Get granular by choosing zip codes (with caution), cities, DMAs or radius targets.
Analyze & Act On Your Geographic Data
It is your job as a PPC professional to analyze data and make decisions accordingly. This skill is especially important in geographic targeting.
You have already decided where in the world you can target your PPC ads. Now, it's time to zero in and understand the micro-data at your fingertips. Work with your (or your clients') sales team, grok on some analytics and data dump from your AdWords/Bing Ads campaigns directly.
Establish a target list of the geo-targets with the best conversion history and isolate them for more focused optimization. On the flip side of that coin, establish a list of geo-targets that do not convert. Exclude these locations or isolate them for further testing. The bottom line is this: PPC is a numbers game. Geographic data is another set of statistics to make those numbers work in your favor!
Get Granular with Localization
For many people, including some on my own team, "localization" is a dirty word. Why is that? Because it's hard! Once you've established where you can target on the macro level and then analyzed the micro-data, it's time to get granular.
Localization, at its core, is the process of isolating specific geo-targets and tailoring your budget, bids, ads and landing pages to be as relevant to that location as possible. This can be as simple as singling out specific states and making sure that state is mentioned in the ad and landing page. Most PPC professionals consider localization a more holistic effort that breaks down target languages, dialects and cultures in creative and keyword sets.
Three Core Geo-Targeting Aspects at Work
One particular client has a macro geo-target of the entire U.S. Any person in any of the 50 states is a potential lead and customer. There are 2 problems with this:
• Their budget doesn't allow for true PPC saturation in all 50 states.
• The leads just don't come from all 50 states - that's been determined.
At the onset, the client already had a "black list" of states to avoid. Great, that made our job easier right out of the gate. From there, we ran campaigns to the "white list" of states, to establish a baseline. Over time, we were able to generate a set of data from which to analyze, optimize and localize blended phone call and conversion data directly from Google AdWords and Bing Ads.
Our next step was to match that lead data to sales data from the client's back-end. From this, we were able to further refine and
• Excluded additional states and cities within the US that simply did not convert.
• Created a new target list of states to isolate and optimize.
Each of the new target states was given a unique campaign, budget, bid levels, state-specific ads and state-specific landing pages.
Here are the high level before and after results of the optimized geo-targeting effort:
In short, phone calls and online conversions increased by 26%. The proper use of geo-targeting in PPC is a smart, effective way to improve your campaign performance. Breaking it into three core considerations helps ensure maximum campaign improvements.
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John A. Lee is an Internet marketing jack-of-all-trades with experience managing PPC, SEO, and social media campaigns. He is a Managing Partner for Clix Marketing, a marketing agency specializing in PPC, display, and social media advertising. Before joining Clix Marketing, John worked as Paid Search Manager for Wordstream and was a Senior Search Marketing Consultant for Hanapin Marketing in Bloomington, Indiana, where he was instrumental in the success of Hanapin's two search marketing blogs: PPCHero.com and SEOBoy.com. John's writing has also appeared on SearchEngineWatch.com, Acquisio's Blog, Wordstream's Blog, and within Website Magazine.