Regional targeting is broken down into two basic tactics: IP targeting and geographic keyword targeting. IP targeting is the process of distributing ads based on the actual location of the searcher. Geographic keyword targeting is the process of using geographic keyword modifiers (i.e. “Indiana widget maker”) to display ads for location-specific searches. Before running through the details of these tactics, let’s first go over the fundamental differences between Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing’s various regional targeting tools. With both services, all regional targeting changes are made at the campaign level, and will affect all ad groups within said campaigns.

Google’s Target Audience selections are broken down by Countries and Territories, Regions and Cities, or the Customized option. Since the AdWords application distributes ads to a worldwide audience, this is important to note. The Customized option comes into play when advertisers find that their Regions and Cities selection is still too broad and they need to further pin-point a location. This works a few different ways:

  • Enter an address and then set a distance (diameter) around that location.
  • This can also be shapes other than a circle by utilizing a multi-point tool.
  • Use an interactive map that allows advertisers to search for their location: then the AdWords system will convert this location to longitude and latitude for the purpose of “aiming” the ads.

YSM’s Geo-Targeting selections are much more limited with access only to U.S. and Canadian locations. However, YSM offers an added bonus in their tool set with the inclusion of the Nielson Media Research DMA market areas. This is helpful when aiming at “entire markets” as opposed to just cities or states. While Yahoo!’s tools are easy to use, they do not allow for the same pin-point accuracy as AdWords.

Whether you are using AdWords or YSM, it becomes important to begin planning tactics around your regionally targeted campaigns. When constructing an IP targeted campaign, make sure that you are using both general keywords and geographically specific keywords. However, running only an IP targeted campaign might shut out traffic from users outside your chosen area who still need your location-specific product or service. The main tactic to use to counteract this is implementation of a “companion campaign” that will open up your ads to a nationwide audience by using geographic modifiers. Make sure these keywords are set to Exact Match/Standard Match so you don’t open yourself to un-qualified traffic.

There have been some debates on whether or not this tactic is necessary and/or relevant. We had a discussion with both our Google reps about regional targeting. One rep stated that if you are running a regional IP targeted campaign, users outside of your chosen area may in fact be able to see your ads. This is possible because if a user enters “Indiana widget maker” outside of Indiana, the AdWords system may make that association and display the ad due to its relevance. The other rep agreed with this point, but made clear that it is still important to run the “companion campaign” that uses geographic modifiers. When a searcher enters the keyword “Indiana widget maker,” AdWords can then choose to display the better-performing ad from either the IP targeted campaign (no geographic keyword modifiers) or the nationwide geographic keyword campaign. This point has been shown in one of our accounts. This client has had both campaigns up and running for nearly two months, and the better-performing IP targeted campaign receives nearly all the impressions and subsequent clicks.

Google’s clarification of the practice of allowing IP targeted ads to be displayed across all areas of the search network in part explains why some advertisers see widespread IP addresses in their analytics tracking. This brings me to a final point: No matter what method you use for regional targeting it is necessary to review the analytics data to ensure that it is both effective and working properly. That should go without saying, but we all need reminders now and then!