The Great Geotargeting Guide: How To Succeed
Locally – Anywhere

Kyle Cavaness
Kyle Cavaness
Content Writer

It doesn’t matter if you’re a local brick-and-mortar business or a national advertiser, geotargeting has opportunities for you.

By personalizing your ads and landing pages with local references, you can present a custom experience for your users. And once you start tracking campaign performances by location, you can find trends and segments that can boost your return on ad spend (ROAS).

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s get on the same page. We’ll start with a definition of terms…

What is Geotargeting?

Geographic ad targeting (also known as location-based targeting or “geotargeting” for short) is when an advertiser chooses specific real-world locations for their pay-per-click ads to appear.

This form of targeting appears on all of the major pay-per-click platforms — Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Microsoft Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and more. The intent of location-based targeting is to put your ads in front of users when they’re most likely to convert on your offer, increasing the return on your ad spend.

geotargeting SERP local search
Here’s a screenshot of a SERP from a local search – image source

Why is Geotargeting important?

Geographic targeting is a crucial tool in any PPC marketer’s toolbox for a few reasons.

First, location targeting is a huge factor in the mobile search market. At least half of all mobile searches are seeking local results, and 61% of those searches lead to a conversion. So with mobile search already on the rise, you can’t afford to miss out on this massive market of potential customers/clients.

Further, local search results are much more likely to lead to a visit to a physical store within 24 hours.

Appearing in high-intent mobile searches isn’t the only benefit, however. Geographic campaigns give you more control over settings like language and ad scheduling. If you have one campaign targeting several countries, for example, you can’t effectively control your bidding for the time zones in those countries without geotargeting.

How does Geotargeting work?

According to Google — and the other platforms basically work the same way — the components for finding a user’s location for geotargeting can include:

  • IP address
  • Phone GPS
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • Cell tower IDs

On the search side, determining a user’s location of interest can include queries that mention a location, previous user locations, relevant website content, Google Maps searches, and custom location settings in search.

3 major types of Geotargeting

One of the most fun aspects of geographic targeting is that it can be as wide or narrow as you want.

(However, the word “geography” does imply that your targeting will remain on Earth. Which makes sense, as interplanetary audiences haven’t been monetized… yet).

From largest to smallest, the three most common types of geotargeting are:

1) Countries

The widest geotargeting audience you’ll want to use for your ads is the “country” or “geographic area” level.

Even though this potential audience is enormous, you can still tailor your copy and content to your prospects. If you’re selling products, for example, you can address the specific concerns of international audiences by highlighting benefits like worldwide shipping or 24-hour customer service support.

2) Areas within Countries

If “countries” is too broad for your needs but you’re still trying to reach a large audience, there are multiple targeting options to choose from.

For example, Facebook Ads allows you to refine your geographic targeting by free trade area, sub-regions within a country like states or provinces, and other features. In Ads Manager, you can also browse a list of regions and countries.

Similarly, depending on the country, Google Ads lets you target regions, cities, and ZIP codes.

3) Location Radius

Radius or proximity targeting shows your ads to customers within a certain distance from a specific location — like your business — rather than choosing individual cities, regions, or countries.

This form of geotargeting works best for driving foot traffic to a specific location or reaching potential customers within a defined delivery area. And when you get into radius targeting is often when you’ll see the biggest results come from your geotargeting adjustments.

While a tight targeting radius can help you reach high-intent customers in your immediate area, there are some drawbacks. The main disadvantage is that if there isn’t enough search traffic in your area, your ads might appear rarely or not at all.

Geotargeting travolta
“Where’d my ads go?” – image source

You’ll need to meet a minimum threshold of search traffic to take full advantage of your chosen PPC platform’s location targeting criteria.

Setting up & reviewing Geotargeting

Each PPC platform has its own particular path for setting geographic targeting. We’ll cover some of the major ones here.

Reaching your Geographic Audience in Google Ads

You can find Google Ads’ geotargeting menu in Location Options when setting up Geography. There are three options to choose from, which appear in the image below:

location targeting google ads
The menu where you choose who to target – image source

We should also point out that, as one of several recent changes, Google Ads has removed the option to exclusively target people who are in your geographic location of choice.

If you want to remain strict about keeping people outside your targeted region from seeing your ads, however, you can use geographic exclusions to block out any and all areas that your campaign isn’t targeting.

(We’ll cover exclusions in more detail in the Tips and Best Practices section below.)

Geotargeting in Facebook Ads

To set location targeting directly from Facebook, follow these steps:

  1. Open your Facebook Page and click the blue “Promote” button on the left
  2. Select Promote your Page
  3. Click edit on the Audience section

If you use Facebook Ads Manager, you can set location targeting under Audience at the Ad Set level. Location targeting for most objectives appears after you choose your primary goal.

Location Targeting in Microsoft Ads

To add geotargeting to a Microsoft Ads campaign, click Campaigns at the top of the page. Then open the campaign you want to change and click Settings.

  • Next to Location, click Edit Location Targets.
  • Select the locations you want to target or exclude.
  • Finally, select who should see your ads:
    • Users in your targeted locations
    • People who search or view pages for your targeted locations
    • Both

Like Google and Facebook’s PPC platforms, geotargeting on Microsoft Ads is most effective when you combine it with other targeting layers — which we’ll talk about next.

Integrating Geotargeting

As we’ve already mentioned, geographic targeting in PPC isn’t an exclusive, “either/or” proposition. Quite the opposite, in fact — location targeting is most effective if you use it with other targeting options.

The platforms mentioned above typically incorporate elements like demographics, search intent, interests, and devices used in addition to location targeting in placing your ads. And in the right circumstances, geotargeting remarketing campaigns more effective.

And if all that isn’t enough, once your ads start appearing to users, you can review location data and adjust your targeting and bid strategies and improve your campaigns.

Reviewing your Ads by location

If you have active PPC campaigns, your existing account metrics should include where your ads are appearing and how they are performing by location. You can use this information to find more potential customers by adjusting your bids according to geographic performance.

For example, let’s say your cost per conversion in New York is higher than other states, like the screenshot below shows:

Geotargeting Granularity 1
Looks like the Big Apple is taking a bite out of youimage source

If this is the case, you may want to add negative bid modifiers at the state level, which usually looks something like this:

Geotargeting Granularity 2
Adjust your bids by state based on performance – image source

Finally, you can create new campaigns with state-level campaign targeting if you really want to dive in and reduce your cost per conversion.

Once those are established, you can create bid modifiers for individual cities within each state to tweak performance further.

5 Geotargeting tips & best practices

We’ve covered how location targeting can help your PPC campaigns, which is good to know. But what are the best ways to use location targeting effectively?

Here are some of the details that will give your geotargeting-based ads the best chance at generating a conversion.

1) Use local signifiers wherever possible

If you’re going to target local markets, you can use scripts to further personalize your ad copy and increase the likelihood of a conversion. For example, you can use dynamic keyword insertion to seamlessly include the names of the places you’re targeting for higher conversion rate opportunities.

Similarly, using a phone number with a geographically-specific area code for your ads and landing pages can reinforce the impression that you’re local — even if that phone number is automatically generated by your Google account.

In our experience, this tactic can create a significant bump in generating phone leads.

This tactic can go even further when you’re writing your ad copy. If you’re advertising at the local level, it’s important to “sound local.” So make sure you’re using local jargon and references for the locations or offers you’re emphasizing.

It may be a simple one, but the clearest example I can think of off the top of my head is using “Frisco” in a local ad to generate memberships for your new San Francisco-based gym.

Geotargeting san francisco frisco
I really don’t think that would go over well – image source

2) Optimize ads for store-open and high-traffic hours

Location-specific ads often go hand-in-hand with brick-and-mortar stores. Lots of advertisers are trying to drive foot traffic to a physical location via paid traffic on Google’s search results page.

If this is your (or your clients’) strategy, don’t just get location-specific — get time-specific too. For example, if the store in question is open certain hours of the day or days of the week, optimize your ad bids for those times.

geotargeting sorry were closed
Or, like, if your store isn’t open on Mondays, maybe don’t show ads on Mondays? – image source

If you already draw a big lunch crowd but want more breakfast visitors, for example, you can increase your bids earlier in the day to reach more users. (This is often called dayparting.)

Once you’re comfortable with the results of your bid adjustments, you can even use scripts to automate the process.

3) Test campaign changes locally before scaling up

Using geotargeting to segment your campaigns also lets you test new ad or campaign elements — new copy, exclusive deals, etc. — on a limited scale.

If you’re unsure how a new campaign will perform, for example, you can limit its launch to a few specific markets to see how it does before expanding your reach.

4) Double-check your locations

Did you know that there are 88 different places in the U.S. that include the name “Washington”? And 41 different places named “Springfield”?

simpsons springfield
Still my favorite Springfield. Sorry, “Home of President Lincoln.” – image source

This might seem super-basic, but you absolutely must make sure that the locations your ads are targeting are the right ones. And as the examples above show, just because you have the city name right doesn’t mean you have the right location.

5) Exclude poor-performing areas

We mentioned earlier that you can use geographic targeting data to see how certain areas are performing within your larger targeting picture.

You can use that information to adjust your bids, but sometimes, for whatever reason, certain locations won’t respond well no matter what you do. When that’s the case, you can exclude them from seeing your ads entirely and focus your budget on areas that are converting at a higher rate.

That’s a ‘micro’ example of using exclusions, but there’s a ‘macro’ version worth noting as well.

Let’s say you’re targeting a wide audience and showing ads in multiple countries, but your ads are only meant for English-speaking markets. You can exclude countries where English isn’t the primary language to avoid wasting ad budget on traffic that won’t convert.

Let’s get Geotargeting

The details can get complicated, but the ultimate goal of location-targeting is simple — to increase your return on ad spend by showing your ads in places where your customers are likely to act, and not showing them in places that they won’t. If you can remain mindful of that, your campaigns should pay off.

That being said, if you aren’t sure about using geographic targeting, you can start small. Try running campaigns in specific cities or ZIP codes and track your performance. Use the data from that “soft launch” to make tweaks before you go after a larger audience.

And remember, geotargeting isn’t exclusive — your best bet is to combine it with other targeting layers to reach a high-intent audience when they’re ready to convert.

Good luck out there. 🙂

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