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Hosted by Julie F Bacchini, this week’s PPCChat session was focused on “Geographic Targeting for campaigns”.  This discussion was inspired by Google’s change in location targeting which were announced last week.


Q1: How important is geographic targeting in the accounts you work on? Why is it at that level of importance? (I am assuming it matters to some degree to all advertisers, but not equally importantly).


For my HVAC client, the geography is vital. If someone’s house isn’t in the service area then he can’t help them. @robert_brady

The clients I’ve worked on have all had geographic requirements. Most SMBs just don’t have the budget for national ad campaigns, even if they have the ability to serve the whole country. @ferkungamaboobo

Very important, some accounts are even structured around Geo campaigns. @NathanK_TX

Geographic targeting is very important for a lot of accounts I work on/have worked on. @NeptuneMoon

Extremely important, conversion rates, shipping rates differ by locations, offers differ, etc… @lchasse

Most of our clients are national/international, but often will have special promos going to just certain geos. @Mel66

Highly important, because conversions rates vary dramatically per location for my clients that offer localized services.@ThatSearchGuyNL

It varies from account to account. I’ve worked with events recently and that’s obviously HUGE. Was recently in a Lead Gen account where campaigns were structured by the Zips that would pay the client more. Thought it was fascinating! Most stuff is national though. @markpgus

We focus on brick and mortar stores as well as dealing with Dealer/Store territories. So, super important for us. @Jturnerpdx

Previously was very important – used to have two clients who would bid across postcodes, and more broadly with city/town names appended on the keywords. @scright

For most accounts, targeting is national and the rest isn’t that important. When it comes to physical stores and customized ads, precise location data suddenly becomes crucial. @bloomarty

We operate a number of clients with brick and mortar locations, restaurants, hospitals and urgent care clinics. Granular geo targeting is the life blood. @JonKagan

Geographic targeting is very important for all the accounts we work one. All of our clients, right now, sell products/services to specific cities/provinces so targeting outside of that would be a waste. @adwordsgirl

Depends on the client, but it’s usually part of just about every campaign. Everything from actual, specific targeting, to excluding markets due to shipping constraints, etc. @CountXero


Q2: In Google Ads what historically has been your preferred geo targeting setting? Why?


Wow, tough question. Really depends on the client. I have clients in Ireland, U.S., Germany and the most important settings used are the locations they serve I suppose.@lchasse

People In and Searching For My Targeted Locations, with negatives on problem international stuff as I saw it. @ferkungamaboobo

I almost always used “People In My Targeted Locations” as my geo setting in Google Ads. @NeptuneMoon

People in your targeted locations. @Mel66

People in my targeted location. @heyglenns

Used “in and interested in” until 2014 when we saw it taking too many liberties, then switched to “in only”. @amyppc

It really depends on the campaign and client. Mostly I do people ‘In Your Targeted Locations’ but for certain campaigns that have to do with housing or events “People in or searching for your locations”. @Jturnerpdx

No surprise here, the non-default advanced location targeting setting. -> ‘people IN my target location’ . Simply because the use location report shows it’s the best option if you optimize for ROI. @ThatSearchGuyNL

“People In” If you’re using “People Searching For” this change shouldn’t be too big of a deal for you. It’s not that I think targeting people “Frequently In” the GEO is bad… I just want to control it. Let it be an option (and only at lower CPCs please). @markpgus

I tend to use the people in the targeted location setting because the products/services our clients sell are specific to locals. @adwordsgirl

I am very keen on the GMB+Radius efforts. Years ago I got to pilot the zip code+4, but then the government got involved and it got ugly. @JonKagan

Not really a preference, but a decision based on the goals of the campaign. @CountXero


Q3: Do you expect the change in the way you can target geography in Google Ads to impact you or your clients? If so, how?


Time to get crazy with the negative locations. @robert_brady

I expect to have to build out more geographic exclusion lists (town, zip code, etc.) just like I have to with keywords now. Also will have to look at geo reporting more frequently. @NeptuneMoon

Yep, similar to the close variants search terms versus the real exact match. Some ‘non-exact’ user locations will probably perform great, some will probably perform terrible. @ThatSearchGuyNL

I don’t expect much of a change for most advertisers. The bigger the area you’re targeting, the smaller the issue becomes. Maybe it’s different in the US, but in Europe most people target nationally anyway. @bloomarty

Probably not? My gut says that the vast majority of folks aren’t regularly traveling outside of a normal business radius – places where people travel further have larger business radii. May become more difficult in “state-only” businesses like attorneys? @ferkungamaboobo

I just expect if we are seeing increased ad exposure to areas we are not targeting, we will need to create negatives. In Google’s eyes, this increases exposure, which they believe is good. For us it just means paying closer attention. @lchasse

Honestly… I think it will be ok. I know it’s less than ideal, but there are good use cases for getting someone that works in the GEO but is at home outside of it. Now local services? That sucks. For most other things, the ads can be effective. Remarketing will be. @markpgus

Yes I do us similar targeting on all the different platforms that I work with (Bing, Facebook). Don’t have to worry about targeting with Amazon. @lchasse

About as much as the exact-match change. I’d imagine it’ll be frustrating when I notice it (especially for lawyers, HVAC, etc.) but not a HUGE amount of budget will be effected. Still a pain though! @DarthSamK

I think this is going to mean I am going to be building a fair amount more in the negative location list. @Jturnerpdx

Google Ads is built on the ability to precisely target. More often than not, marketers don’t know how to correctly leverage that. But for those that do, removing the option is a real loss. (As with “in only” geo targeting.) By offering “in only” location targeting, Google Ads was able to function as a de facto “geofencing” tool. Seems that geofencing is lost with the update. @amyppc

Jon you can add EDU to that list too. @dotcentrex

It’ll probably be the same thing as keywords where we would have to build out negatives/exclusions. Yay. More tedious work! @adwordsgirl

I’m actually excited about this change. People don’t live in a bubble, they move around, especially in major cities. People without vision see this as a money grab for Google, but it’s really a smart idea.@CountXero


Q4: Do you use similar geo targeting on other platforms? Why or why not? Which are similar or different?


Depends on budget and goals. Social I often don’t tend to go as granular as search in breaking out by geo. @timothyjjensen

Very similar on Bing which makes sense. Less similar on Social Advertising, we’re typically casting a wider net there so a little more lax but depends on the account. Typically see more room for testing when it’s not so conversion-forward advertising like Google Ads. @DarthSamK

For same client, we try to emulate it between platforms. That being said, Google is better than Bing’s, so they end up different. @JonKagan

I use GEO targeting more in social. A lot of local stuff I’ve worked with don’t have much Brand/Category Awareness. Gotta GENERATE THAT DEMAND! @markpgus

Facebook and Bing. @adwordsgirl

Absolutely. It depends on the client, but with our “grocery store brands,” we do some creative geo-targeting to help us prove ROI by blacking out certain markets to compare sales. @CountXero


Q5: Do you have any practices you employ to try to keep geo targeting limited to where you actually want it (on any platform)?


As others have mentioned, geo exclusions are crucial to help keep irrelevant people from slipping through. Also exclude search terms with irrelevant locations. @timothyjjensen

Exclusions come to mind, but for small targets you’ll need to be equally granular with exclusions. No fun… @bloomarty

Geo Adjustments & Exclusions are a monthly optimisation for me due to former clients needs drilling it into my routine. Even with a tight targeting approach things can slip through. @scright

Running geo reports for clients, so we see where the traffic is coming from and then make adjustments (negatives) from there. Just need to make sure a geo report is part of your data set for customers. @lchasse

Simple Exclusions. Tell me if there is something magical I don’t know about please…. @markpgus

Informally, it really comes down to the client, vertical, and objective. @JonKagan

Watch the user location report like a hawk, and if perforamnce sufferts -> start automating adding location exclusions using. @ThatSearchGuyNL

Exclusions & Bid Adjustments, that’s about it though. @DarthSamK

I do frequent audits of our accounts and looking at geo is part of that. @adwordsgirl

It usually requires going beyond just “settings” and really understanding the target audience (like a good media planner is supposed to do). Los Angeles Metro is a complicated place for geo-targeting unless you mix in other factors, like HHI, etc. @CountXero


Q6: Do you regularly monitor location data for your campaigns (on any platform)?


Yes, and I think this is sometimes a point missed for businesses that aren’t necessarily hyper-focused on particularly geo areas. You can still see vastly different performance by geography and should pay attention to it. @timothyjjensen

I look at that info maybe monthly. @adwordsgirl

I’ve always found Analytics better for finding and diagnosing issues. @ferkungamaboobo

I look at location data, but I feel like I will be looking at it more often now for Google Ads campaigns…@NeptuneMoon

On broader campaigns yes – I want to see what the best postcodes are, the best cities in the country to be able to adjust to those. Maybe build out new campaigns specifically for key areas.@scright

What others are saying! GEO optimizations don’t need to be JUST for local businesses. Sometimes New Yorkers really want to request a Software Demo while Alabamans don’t! @markpgus

Yes, I have it built into reports as a general rule. Their changes mean paying much closer attention to the data now. Now that you cannot depend on not getting traffic outside where you can serve customers. @lchasse

Yep, we do a bi-weekly settings QA, which includes checking geo’s that generate impressions. @JonKagan

Absolutely. The data we seen on search for this is usually very helpful in a larger business understanding, but with platforms outside of search, this is usually a big source of wasted spend.@CountXero


Q7: Do you find that you are geo located correctly by search engines, web sites or social platforms? If not, does that concern you as an advertiser?


For the most part yes, but we’ve seen abnormalities in Canada when you do Canadian Postal Code targeting. @JonKagan

I’m usually a town or two over. For Facebook, I still get a lot of ads for Louisiana. In general, I have a VERY low opinion of how ad companies geolocate (which is why very small-target geofencing doesn’t make any sense to me) @ferkungamaboobo

Nope, I’ve run tests and tend to be located in NYC, even though I’m 100 miles north of there. It does concern me, and it’s important to point out to clients that geo data is never 100% accurate. @timothyjjensen

Correctly in their definitions sure, but it’s rustles my jimmies when I see traffic coming from Germany for a UK only campaign. Normally because Google felt there was intent because the brand is called like “Something England” @scright

I am never where Google thinks I am. Off by how far, varies. For national or regional campaigns, no big deal. For more local ones? Very big deal. @NeptuneMoon

Yeah Google is fine. FB is the big offender on this one. I haven’t updated where I live in like 9 years… I regularly get ads from local businesses in Portland… I’ve lived in Utah for over 2 years now…@markpgus

Absolutely not. I get served ads from Toronto (I haven’t been there yet), Montreal or other Canadian cities all the time. @adwordsgirl


Q8: Is geo targeting something you would trust machine learning to figure out for you? Why or why not? Does your answer vary by platform?


We gotta work with the tools we have, and we’re limited to using available settings. So to an extent we’re forced to trust platforms to target the way we set them up. At the same time, manual oversight is still required to keep faulty targeting from slipping through. @timothyjjensen

At the machines’ current level of understanding of geography, I do not trust machine learning to figure out geo anything for me. @NeptuneMoon

Google, No, I don’t trust Google to correct low performance if a high number of clicks is coming from a bad location. Facebook, sure, I really do trust giving Facebook a broad data range and learning over time. @scright

Depends what you mean. If I could display an avg CPA to Google and they said “Hey let us target more broadly, but we will at least get you the same volume/CPA.” I’d say, LET’S DO IT ALL DAY LONG. Sadly we are the ones testing their experiments with real dollars…@markpgus

All things considered, we have SUCH limited data about the types of people interested in our ads. Be very careful of concluding “Californians enjoy X but Texans like Y” based only on limited location performance data. @amyppc

If you mean using ML to locate a user, I don’t see how that would work. But using ML to figure out whether an ad is relevant to a user because of location (among a gazillion other factors), that’s already what’s happening. @bloomarty

I don’t think ML is smart enough, right now, to understand it. So, no, I wouldn’t trust it. @adwordsgirl

I’m all for machine learning sorting this one out further. I’ve always felt humans suck at thinking this targeting through properly. @CountXero

From an optimization standpoint, sure, from an initial setup, no. @JonKagan


Q9: If you could magically change one thing about how you’re currently able to geo target campaigns on any platform, what would you do?


O how i’d love to be able to geo target specific office buildings….@ThatSearchGuyNL

Would love to see geo bid adjustments, like Google and Bing have, added to FB/LI. @timothyjjensen

Let me Geofence myself! Let’s take that away from programmatic agencies and give that to us Direct Response marketers!!!! @markpgus

I’d like to literally be able to draw the perimeter of targeting. Would save me some precious time. @scright

This is a waste of a wish and magic, but the feature I most often wish I had for geotargeting is an easy option to exclude continents or large bundles of countries / regions. @amyppc

I would like to see this “frequently in” aspect better developed and have it as an option to use along with the tighter “people in my targeted locations”. Full transparency about criteria for what constitutes “frequently in” too. @NeptuneMoon

Believe it or not, it just happened. That slight change just made where it’s “people in or have recently been in” is a great idea. People don’t live in a walled garden. @CountXero

More of a tactical part, I’d make it easier to bulk targeting in the UI and editors. @JonKagan


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