I’m two weeks in to a new job, and due to the nature of our business I’m having to dust off my geotargeting skills. At my last gig we were a national e-commerce retailer, so geotargeting didn’t matter so much. But now, I have to adjust my strategy based on individual metro areas. You might have a business that has the same problem. If so, it helps to have a basic understanding of how PPC geotargeting works.
First, the basics. PPC geotargeting in AdWords and Bing works one of two ways:
1. By reading the IP address of the searcher and determining their location that way.
2. By analyzing the content of their search query and determining if they are using geographic terms.
You can alter your campaign settings to include or exclude user location and/or user geographic intent to tailor your geotargeting experience to your specific needs. But, you should understand that either option leaves room for subtlety (and mistakes).
Just because your IP address is located in a specific city doesn’t mean that you are. Perhaps a user lives in a remote area and has to rely on an ISP several miles away. You might not get the targeting experience you were hoping for as a result. Even as an urban sophisticate living in Austin, Texas, I can occasionally see evidence that Google thinks I’m located in a nearby suburb due to my IP address. This could really throw off any local advertisers that are trying to reach me.
User intent is another hurdle to overcome in wonky geotargeting. If someone is searching for “Austin dry cleaners,” they might be located in either Texas or Minnesota. Sure, the search engines are probably looking at IP addresses as a fallback, but you never know.
So is geotargeting a worthwhile strategy despite its flaws? Absolutely. But, you should still take into consideration its limitations before you invest serious time and money into using it. You should also think about which locations you want to exclude as well as include. Cutting out unprofitable traffic can sometimes be more effective than maximizing the profit on existing traffic. Additionally, you should be sure that you’re reaching out to a large enough geographic area to get adequate traffic for statistical significance. It may seem like a good idea at first to do some hyper-local targeting by city or zip code. But you might find that after months of running your account, you have only a handful of clicks to analyze for data. In cases like this, it’s often better to lump together large geographic areas just for the sake of getting traffic. You’re going to lose some potential performance because you’re not creating the perfect user experience for each individual user, but having a larger reach will help you identify trends to capitalize on. These visible trends will probably give you better insight for optimization that should offset any losses you made by not hyper-targeting certain users.
And lastly, don’t forget about your keywords and ads. These can also be tailored to the local experience. Make sure your campaign/ad group content agrees with your geotargeting settings, and you’ll be on the right track for geographic success.