8 Geo-Targeting Dos and Don’ts You Need to Follow

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Welcome to day 2 of our week-long series on PPC geo-targeting!  When navigating the expansive waters of geo-targeting with pay-per-click, there are about as many tactics to employ as there are locations to target. Choosing the right geo-targeting tactics can be a daunting task. To that end, today I’m going to share 4 Dos and 4 Don’ts to paint a very clear picture of how anyone can find success with geo-targeting!


  1. Create Segmented Campaigns – For both practical and performance reasons, utilizing tightly themed and segmented campaigns for geo-targeting is very important. In terms of practicality, geo-targeting options are set at the campaign level. Therefore, a lot of the decision making will be dictated by the locations you need to target. However, proactively finding more granular segments to target will not only help you to focus your efforts, but it will lead to increased performance. Let’s use a cheesy example: You start your geo-targeting journey with a single campaign targeting ads to the entire world. After a few days you realize that the US and Canada really perform great. So you create 2 new campaigns specifically geared towards those countries. This could be all you need, but I’d wager that if you really dig into the stats you’d find that particular states (or provinces) perform better than others. Maybe there are a few cities that just hit it out of the park. Each layer of granularity in data can and should become a segmented campaign. That extreme level of segmentation will enable you to provide the most targeted click to ad to landing page to conversion experience possible.
  2. IP & Keyword Targeting – This is one of the more frequently discussed topics surrounding PPC geo-targeting. But that’s not without merit! There are two distinct methods for targeting searchers by location. The “old school” method is to add location-specific modifiers to your keywords. Add city, state, country – heck, even continent names. The problem with this method is that searchers don’t always enter search queries using their specific location. On the flip-side is IP targeting. The PPC search engines review the physical IP address of each searcher and delivers geo-targeted ads based on that IP. In this scenario, your keywords can be as general or specific as you feel necessary and the geo-targeting happens as a campaign setting in your account. Whenever you manipulate your campaign settings for geographic locations, this is based on IP targeting. An important point to remember: If you are using IP targeting in Google AdWords, this will pick up keyword-based searches OUTSIDE of the geographic area you selected. Example: IP targeting is set for San Francisco, California for a random selection of plumbing keywords. A searcher in Minnesota types in “San Francisco plumber” into Google – they will see your IP targeted ad based on that location-specific search query!
  3. Utilize Offline, Market and/or Search-Based Research – When considering whether or not to use geo-targeting, or maybe how to expand your targeting – it’s important to use all of the data you have at your disposal. This kinda falls under the “head smacking” category, but I think it is necessary! Start at the most basic level. If you or your client has been in business pre-PPC, look at those records and determine what locations have previously performed best. This is a pretty good place to start for determining where to geo-target your PPC ads. Do you have professionally prepared market research? (insert head smacking here) Use this research to create your geo-targeting plan! What about those of you who will be jumping into both your business and PPC at the same time? Well, you can use search-based research tools like Google’s Insights for Search. This tool can provide location-specific, keyword-level search volume data that you can use to guide your geo-targeting strategy.
  4. Reporting – Maybe I jumped ahead of myself on the “head smacking.” So, assuming that you’ve made it through DOs 1-3, you have performance data at your finger tips! Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter all have geo-targeting reports available for you to make educated decisions on your targeting. If you are geo-targeting, USE THESE REPORTS. Another avenue you can take is to utilize your analytics program of choice. Analytics can provide you with yet another way to slice and dice your geo-targeting data to get the most out of your campaigns.


  1. Ignore Language and Cultural Barriers – This is a pretty common error. I have been guilty of this at times, too. But let it be known that if you geo-target your ads to other countries, you open yourself up to an entirely different PPC landscape. Even the simple act of targeting our northern neighbors in Canada should be treated with caution – 22.7% of the Canadian population speaks French as their primary language! While you can get away with targeting foreign countries with English language ads and landing pages, there’s an incredibly high chance that you’re not only alienating potential customers, but you’re wasting your money. Beyond the plain and simple fact of language – cultural barriers exist, too. US slang, euphemisms, what-have-you will be lost on most foreign searchers. And if you’ve had your slang roughly translated into another language, you might as well put your cash in the trash can and save yourself the trouble. When targeting foreign countries, take the time and invest in carefully crafted ads and landing pages that are language specific and culturally aware. Your conversion rates and ROI will thank you later.
  2. Using Generic Ads and Landing Pages – Another common mistake is to follow DO #1 (creating segmented campaigns) but use the same ad texts and landing pages for every location that you’ve targeted. Depending on your product or service, this could be a major faux pas. If you’re a local jeweler and you’ve neglected to mention that your store is in the city your ads are targeting… well, maybe PPC isn’t for you? That’s a pretty obvious example, but on a much broader scale, neglecting to acknowledge the geo-targeted location will lead to lower click-through rates and conversion rates. It’s all about that keyword/search query to ad text to landing page connection. When a user is searching for “Product X” in “Location Y” – your ad better mention both “X” and “Y” to produce a positive PPC experience.
  3. Mix and Match Geo-Targeting – This isn’t exactly a DON’T, but more of a “proceed with caution.” When I say mix and match geo-targeting, I refer to the potential scenario of having multiple campaigns capable of displaying ads for the same keyword in a single location. There are a half-dozen different reasons why this may be the case, and with Google AdWords, it is entirely possible to be running ads in this manner. However, what you need to be concerned with is that only one ad text will display per search. I hope you knew that already, but it’s an important distinction to make. In the mix and match scenario, you could have a “general” campaign that is open to the entire US, but you have created a geo-targeted campaign just for Indiana. When you created the new campaign, you didn’t remove Indiana from your targeting in the “general” campaign. Now you have 2 campaigns capable of displaying ads for the same keywords in Indiana. Survival of the fittest kicks in and the ad with the best CTR will display. Chances are the old ad in the “general” campaign will display – negating all of the great work you did creating your Indiana campaign. Pay attention to these details and change your campaign settings accordingly!
  4. Ignore Geo-Targeting Altogether – I know this is broad, but work with me here. One of the biggest DON’Ts I can think of is to ignore geo-targeting altogether. I see the word “ignore” working in 2 ways here. First of all, geo-targeting can produce some amazing results when executed properly. Benefits range from increased CTR, increased conversion rates and best of all – increased ROI. Ignoring the potential benefits is a big DON’T. What if you “ignore” geo-targeting in so much as you blindly use this PPC tool without considering the outcomes and/or consequences. There are other business-specific reasons why ignoring geo-targeting is a mistake. Consider your business’s ability to provide service to specific locations, ship products, or legally do business. If you jump into PPC geo-targeting all guns a’blazin’ without doing your research first, you could end up with confused/alienated searchers, angry customers or worse yet – lawsuits. Before you start advertising your plumbing services in Mumbai, you better check if you can follow through on that offer!

These are but just a sampling of the potential DOs and DON’Ts of geo-targeting with PPC. Hopefully these tips will guide you in the right direction for finding geo-targeting success! Do you have any geo-targeting DOs or DON’Ts you’d like to share? Leave me a comment!

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8 thoughts on “8 Geo-Targeting Dos and Don’ts You Need to Follow

  1. Justin

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve been wondering about “Do’s” #2… IP targeting in AdWords, picking up keyword-based searches OUTSIDE of the geographic area. Is there anyway to exclude a region? So for example, if I don’t want a searcher in Minnesota to see my “San Francisco plumber” ad?

    1. Arvind

      Its like you have targeted Sanfrancisco, California in IP targeting with some keywords. So your ads will display for those IP addresses in Sanfrancisco thats for sure but added advantage is that outside like Minnesota if somebody searching for “San Francisco Plumber” then because your ip targeting & keywords with location ie sanfrancisco by advance match it will serve your ads there too with logic End user searching for San Francisco Plumber and you want to show ads only to those who are interested in San Francisco + Plumber.

  2. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Justin,

    I’m confident that utilizing geo-specific negative keywords should alleviate any issues you may have in this regard!

  3. Trevor


    Remember that some ISP’s route user IP’s through servers in other states, meaning that sometimes a user in Washington State might see your ad targeted to users in Hawaii by their IP address.

    This actually happens more than you’d think, I don’t know if there is any way to prevent it either…

  4. Arun

    I have been trying geo-targeting for my campaigns since three months. It is working… improved the clicks with increased conversions.

    I do have a DO. If you are launching a geo-targeting campaing. Create two campaigns with same set of keywords, adcopies, LPs.. everything same but target to two sets of regions (based on your analysis). This way you can compare two sets of region’s performance and proceed further.
    If you keep running different sets of keywords, adcopies for two different sets of regions, you will not know, why the one set of regions is performing or not performing….

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  6. Justin

    GEO Targeting is a great way to broaden your keyword strings. If done incorrectly, however, Geo Targeted landing pages will be a waste of your time. Following the “rules” is the way to go.

  7. Lucas Yelland

    Am about to run a campaign in Brazil on Portuguese but don’t have a Portuguese landing page. Do I:
    A – run the campaign on Portuguese keywords, serve Portuguese ads, but link to English landing page
    B – run the campaign on Portuguese keywords, serve English ads, and link to English landing page (less chance of users getting there and not knowing what to do, but greater risk to quality score)
    C – run an entirely English campaign (keywords/ads/landing page) until I can translate my landing page

    Interested in your thoughts!


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