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Google AdWords Location Targeting Options

Location targeting of ads through Google AdWords has been one of the best features for many years, allowing advertisers to target a specific country, state, city or even suburb. Targeting by geographic location is an essential tool for advertisers to help improve relevancy and control spend, however, whilst the location targeting settings in AdWords are predominantly accurate, several limitations exist.

Advertisers using Google AdWords can set location targeting options at the campaign level, either with a single location setting or with multiple locations being targeted within the campaign. Within these settings there are also some advanced options whereby advertisers can choose to include or exclude people based on where they’re likely to be physically located or the places that they’re interested in (i.e. using the location term in their search query). Targeting by search query location is usually good for relevancy, but many searchers will not use a location term in their query and so that’s where the advertiser is reliant on Google’s ability to identify the current location of that searcher.

The AdWords system uses several factors to determine the physical location of the searcher, using either the identified location of the person’s computer or from a mobile device location. An IP (Internet Protocol) address is therefore the most common way that Google uses to identify location – this IP is a unique number assigned by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to each computer connected to the Internet. With mobile devices using Wi-Fi, Google may detect the mobile device’s IP address to determine physical location or, if it’s connected to a mobile carrier’s proxy server, then the carrier IP is used to determine the device’s location. This is generally the best option for Google to include users within the defined geo-targeted area, but it’s not 100% accurate.

IP address targeting has certainly improved over the past 10 years but can still be limited by accuracy if, for example, the IP address is associated with the wrong location or if the address is associated with a very broad geographic location. In large corporates with offices across multiple locations may also provide incorrect information to Google as the main server or Intranet connection will incorrectly identify the city location for some searchers. One quick way of testing your own location identified by Google is to click on the ‘Search Tools’ menu when searching and then in the sub-menu below that, the final option shows the location Google has identified for you as a searcher. If this is wrong, then it is possible to change this setting on your device.

If searchers are using a mobile device – which is increasingly common – then the geo-targeting can be more accurate as long as users have enabled precise location sharing on their mobile device. Google looks for a number of signals in this instance, such as GPS location, Wi-Fi location, or Google’s cell ID (cell tower) location database (in the US). In many cases the GPS location can be used and provides good targeting accuracy which is ideal for local search marketers.

In general, location targeting in Google AdWords works best down to city level, and although there is sometimes the option to select pre-defined regions within a city, or to use more specific location or radius targeting, the smaller the area becomes the less effective it will tend to be, particularly if the main city centre / location is not included. In these cases the advertiser should supplement their activity with a campaign targeting a wider geographic area, but limiting the search terms to only include ones with location words included in the query. Once the geo-targeting has been set up, Google then provides a number of different reports to help advertisers review activity by user locations.

If you would like more information about how location targeting can help your AdWords campaign, please contact us now.