Press "Enter" to skip to content

How Does Location Targeting Work?

There are plenty of traps that people fall into when it comes to Location Targeting in their Google Ads campaign. This article will be very informative as we start from the basic to the advanced options of targeting locations. 

Usually, Google will have a preset selection for you. It’s most likely the country that your account is associated with. If you set up your account in the United States, Google is automatically going to have the United States selected as your location.

Sometimes, that is great. You do want to target the whole country depending on what you are selling. But sometimes that’s not applicable, especially if you’re a local business. In that case, you need to target a specific location.

For situations like this, you can choose to change it from the default target. Another thing you’d want to change from default is going to be located in the “location” options section. It’s a little bit hidden. If you click a little down arrow  for location options, you’ll see some very important options on who to actually target and who to exclude.  

The default here is going to be:

“People in, or people who show interest in your targeted locations. (recommended)”

I’m not sure why they felt the need to recommend this option. It’s certainly not an option I select. I can’t really think of a good reason to select this option at all. It certainly helps Google get some more traffic, so maybe that’s why they recommended it.

This default option is going to potentially show your ads to the people who are not only in the locations you are targeting, but also people who show interest in the locations you are targeting.

If I’m advertising a local cleaning company, it’s not going to be worthwhile for me to show my ad to people who may be interested in the city that I’m advertising.

For example:

I’m advertising a cleaning company in Walla Walla, Washington. Do I want someone from across the country or across the world to see that ad just because at some point Google thinks they’ve shown interest in Walla Walla, Washington?

The answer in NO. I don’t want my ads showing to those people. I have no idea of knowing why Google thinks that this person is interested in the city. Maybe they were just reading some random news article about the city for random reasons, and now Google thinks that that person is interested in Walla Walla, Washington.

If I’m trying to get local traffic, I’m not at all interested in those types of people. What I normally do is select the option “People in or regularly in your targeted locations”.

The last option is “People who show interest in your targeted locations”. This is good for businesses that provide service for people from out-of-town and businesses that provide local tours or something of that nature. But even in that case, if I’m trying to reach traffic like that, I’d do that using keywords. I will include my location name in the keywords. Because that’s how people are going to be searching anyway, they always type in the city name along with their search. 

Needless to say, even in this case, I will still select  “People in or regularly in your targeted locations”.

As long as I’m including a city name in all my keywords, then I might target the entire country. I’m still going to get traffic from people searching a specific city.

“People in or regularly in your targeted locations”, this means that we could be targeting people who are not in your location at the time they’re searching. 

They could be people who are

  • often in your targeted locations
  • living in one place and they work in another place, and they are on the internet a lot in both places
  • on a business trip

Google knows about this, and they are going to define that person as being regularly in each of those locations. So if I’m running a campaign that targets either of those locations, that person is potentially going to see my ads. Those people will see ads from wherever it is they have traveled to.

Excluded Options. Here, you can exclude “people who are in or show interest in your excluded locations”.

I personally don’t want to exclude people who may show interest in an excluded location. If I’m excluding locations, I really just want to exclude someone who’s in that location that I’ve excluded. I don’t want to exclude the wrong person. If I’m targeting an area, I want to reach the person in that area. I don’t want to exclude someone just because Google thinks they have an interest in the location that I happen to be excluding

In the basic setting, you can add countries, cities, states, provinces. In advanced options, you can add specific locations, zip codes, and you can quickly add them in bulk.

Also, rather than individually adding all of the locations on your list, you can also target based on “radius” (example: 10 miles around your target location, etc).

If I’m targeting a few miles around a specific location, the question is, is it accurate? For the most part, YES. I found this fairly accurate

However, I will say that Google doesn’t always know where you are, especially if you’re moving around a lot. I used to live in a fairly rural town in Minnesota. When I used to do testing and some campaigns, my click would actually show as being from a city in North Dakota. It’s a nearby city, but still, it’s a completely different city and state. 

So, Google does not always know exactly where people are. Especially if they are on a computer, they don’t have GPS coordinates for all of these searches. It’s based on where their Internet service is located. But you can’t worry about that too much. You just need to get your targeting how we want it. Just a warning that if you get too specific, it might not work as you are hoping that it will. The narrower you go, the more discrepancy there’s going to be.

Typically what I’d do if I’m targeting a radius is this: I would also include cities and zip codes that fall within that radius.

Excluded Locations

There really are instances that you can find it useful to exclude certain locations in a campaign, and you can do that within this section. If I’m targeting a bigger area, a state, or a big radius, but I don’t want to include certain cities or zip codes, I can then add those as excluded locations. Take note, you can’t add a radius as an excluded location.

Keep these in mind next time you consider your options for Location Targeting on your Google Ads! Remember, it’s not just about placement of your ads, but it’s also about the placement of the people you are targeting for them to become customers.