I have been managing an account that is geographically targeting the Midwest (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Kentucky). I created a geo-targeted Adwords campaign, and about a week later I also initiated a campaign that was distributed throughout the entire US. I loaded this national campaign with the same keywords as my regional campaign except I added geo-qualifying terms such as “Indiana” and “Indianapolis” to each keyword (for example: “Indianapolis widget maker”). This way if someone in Texas needs a widget maker in Indiana, our ad would appear. Simple enough.

After allowing my nationally focused ad group to run for two days I noticed I wasn’t getting any impressions, so I put in a call to my friendly Google Relationship Manager and did some additional research. I learned that when you geo-target an ad with the keyword “widget maker” to Indiana, AdWords can interpret that as if you’ve listed “Indiana widget maker.” Since the new keywords I added to my national campaign were keywords that already existed within my geo-targeted campaign, with geographic terms tacked on to them, AdWords was interpreting them as the same keywords. Whenever two ads in the same account are running on the same keyword, or those interpreted to be the same, keyword Adwords shows the better-performing ad. Since the ads from the geo-targeted campaign have more account history Adwords was showing the ads from my geo-targeted campaign.

When using geo-targeting, users in California, for example, who search for “Indiana widget maker” are able to see my ads. Users in Indianapolis who search for “widget maker” are also be able to see my ads. But, users in California who search for “widget maker” will not.

I still need to look into this more in depth, but it an interesting find…