Google improves location targeting in Adwords – Nice, but could do better


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Whatever business you are running, geolocation targeting is likely to be very important. It will not only allow you to reach a very specific target audience, but the traffic you will generate will be highly more qualified.

facebook advertising has been excellent with this and provides a snapshot of the estimated reach (screenshot. 1).

facebook geotargeting

Screenshot 1 – Facebook location targeting & Estimated reach

We advertisers have been waiting for a similar functionality with Adwords for a long time. And we’ve been waiting for Google to improve the accuracy of their geotargeting for even longer!

You see, Google may show your ads to someone in Perth, even if you are not targeting Perth… let me explain.

Google determines a searcher’s location based on a couple factors.

By priority, they are:

  1. Search query – If someone specifies a location in their search even if he/she is not physically in that location, they will trigger ads for campaigns targeting that location;
  2. IP address – In a properly connected country, like in the US, Western Europe or North East Asia, an IP address will give a very precise idea of where the person is located. And while the rapid growth of mobile connectivity is changing the game, some countries such as Australia are still lagging.
    Most searches on Google would be generic, without any location specified, therefore the IP targeting is important. But despite improvements having been made in the past few years Down Under, IP targeting remains highly unreliable. As it is based on the ISP (Internet Service Provider), the IP address is often located where the ISP servers are. For example, I am currently in Sydney but my IP address is from Newcastle. (Check where you are!). Now will I be considered a Newcastle resident in the eyes of Google? Technically yes.
    State-level accuracy is estimated to be around 90%, while city-level accuracy drops to 60% (nearly one in 2 IPs are wrong).

 

New Adwords location targeting interface

Google has revamped its location targeting screen last week. While the number of locations used to be limited, Adwords is now linked to Google maps, which means that the system just got a lot smarter. For Google, linking the two services will “provide more information about locations, make relevant location suggestions, and improve the level of accuracy of our location targeting“.

Similarly to the screenshot from facebook seen above, Google now shows the estimated reach for each targeted location (see screenshot 2 below). Note that this does not match the population in these areas, but is more a representation of how many unique browsers are represented in each location. For example, if you use your computer at home, another computer at work and browse on your mobile, you count as three.

Screenshot 2 – Adwords estimated reach

Two notes though:

  • Sydney is included in NSW, so in all logic, the NSW reach should be greater than Sydney’s… which isn’t the case?!
  • Melbourne and Sydney have a combined reach of 24 Million, more than the national reach of 21M?!

New location suggestions can be greatly helpful

Let’s say you are targeting a city you don’t know well, for example Brisbane. Until now, you could select Brisbane and that was it.

Now Google suggests “Nearby locations” which can give you an idea of additional reach in the area. In the screenshot 3 below, the advertiser could identify and easily add Gold Coast as a new location to target.

Another great use of this new tool would be the following. Imagine yourself advertising 10 different stores. One of them is in a location that does not receive enough traffic volume. Well now you can easily see the enclosing locations, including state and country level, which makes it easier for the advertiser to increase its reach.

Screenshot 3 – Nearby and Enclosing locations

Hadrien Brassens & the Reef Team Head of Paid Media / Co-Founder

Here at Reef, I help our clients determine if, how, when and where to best use their online media budgets.

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