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Google AdWords Geo-Targeting: 5 Jaw-Dropping Techniques

  |  September 5, 2013   |  Comments

When it comes to geo-targeting, there are many creative ways to be more precise and relevant without limiting reach.

Generic Geo-targeting by StateMany PPC advertisers who need to geo-target their audiences can find it challenging to find the volume they need when limiting to location. Since some searchers limit cookies or browse privately, this can further reduce reach.

Advertisers can improve ROI by being more creative in their targeting methodology.

There are several ways to geo-target, which can be mixed and matched to some extent.

  • City, state, country, region
  • DMA (designated market area)
  • ZIP code
  • Radius around a point
  • Location extension targeting

Google will determine which ad to serve based on several location cues, such as search terms, physical location of the searcher, and the domain being viewed.

Selecting the advanced setting "People in, searching for, or viewing pages about my targeted location" will allow ads to be shown to people who used the name of the location in their searches, viewed content about a location, or selected the location in their search settings.

For example, this type of targeting would be important for someone who is searching for services in a location they are moving to, or searching for a job and willing to travel. Consider various scenarios where the audience may not be physically located in the geo-targeted area but would still be a qualified lead.

What follows are five geo-targeting techniques that can greatly improve performance and ROI in an AdWords campaigns.

1. It's OK to Exclude

AdWords allows advertisers to exclude a location so ads aren't shown in there. For example, a retail chain excluding locations where they don't have a store. This is also a good way to improve ROI by limiting activity in areas where poor leads are originating.

  • Run a report to see locations clickers are coming from.
  • Sort by low quality clicker (i.e., don't convert at a high enough rate or CPA).
  • Exclude them or use bid adjustment (more on that next).

2. Bid Adjustments Can Help Trim the Fat

Enhanced campaigns offer a great feature: bid adjustments by location. This allows an increased or decreased bid in chosen locations to optimize performance.

For example, consider a college or event company that hosts attendees from all over the world.

  • Look at attendee/student list.
  • Calculated a % of attendees/students by country, region, or applicable.
  • Use the EC % bid adjustments to match the attendee list.

3. Geo-Targeting an Area With Only Keywords

There are some businesses with local presences that would be appropriate to limit targeting not by the location settings, but by keyword only.

For example, a cable company may want to create separate campaigns to target people searching for "cable companies Rochester" rather than only using geo-targeting. Most people know that cable services are limited to an area, so may be more likely to include a geo-modifier in their query. The cable company can pick up more traffic and even use this as a competitive strategy.

4. Geo-targeting With Mobile Focus

Mobile-Only Geo-targeting

You didn't say goodbye to mobile-only campaigns in AdWords did you? You don't have to!

If your audience is on-the-go or works in the field, it may be appropriate to geo-target to your mobile audience. A nice option for advertisers who use call extensions and where click-to-call is a critical part of business.

Imagine targeting real estate agents who are always on the go. Or consumers who are looking for towing services when stranded!

5. Bid by Weather

Target by Weather

Using Google Scripts, we can now make bid adjustments depending on the weather with a simple spreadsheet.

Google gives an example of an amusement park that may want to increase their bids when the weather is nice. Businesses could use the bid by weather feature to increase bids for cold and rainy days for their indoor entertainment or theaters for new movie releases.

This exciting feature has a lot of potential. Consider your unique audience and how the weather impacts their searching and purchase decisions.


When we think about geo-targeting, there are many creative ways to be more precise and relevant without limiting reach. Share what you've learned in the comments.

This article was originally published on Search Engine Watch.

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Lisa Raehsler

Lisa Raehsler is the founder and principal strategist at Big Click Co., an online advertising company and Google AdWords Certified Partner, specializing in strategy and management of SEM and PPC for search engines, display, retargeting, and social media ad campaigns. Lisa has led strategy on dozens of PPC accounts and puts her experience into practice every day as a thought leader in integrating clients' search campaigns with ecommerce websites, behavioral targeting strategies, and web analytics. She has participated extensively in the local interactive community, as well as at national search engine marketing conferences. Lisa's recent speaking engagements include SES, OMS, MIMA, HeroConf, and SMX conferences, as well as numerous private and public training engagements. As a columnist for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, she writes on the topic of paid search. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRocksSEM.

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