AdWords Geo Targeting Demystified – Advanced Location Options


I can’t tell you how frequently I receive frustrated emails from clients who encounter surprises in their geo reports. Why is Google showing their ads to people in India if their geo targeting is set to New Jersey? Geo targeting seems like one of the easiest decisions you can make when setting up an AdWords campaign, but it’s not as straightforward as it may seem.

Let’s say I run a website that sells baked goods within Maryland. By default, my geo-targeted ads would be eligible to show to searchers who:

  • Are physically located in Maryland: This one is pretty straightforward. As long as the searcher’s IP address is located within my target region, Google can show my ads.
  • Are located outside of my target area, but are looking for products in my area: This searcher could be in Boston, but as long as their search query demonstrates that they are looking for “baked goods in Maryland,” my ad is fair game.

As you can see, Google manipulates your geo targeting settings to ensure that your ads are getting plenty of impressions. In some cases, this may work to your advantage.

However, if the results of your geo report make your blood boil, rest assured! There is a way to combat Google’s liberal approach to showing your ads.

Editing Your Advanced Location Options

Regain control of your impressions by editing your advanced location options in your AdWords campaign settings. Google will default to target “people in, searching for, or viewing pages about my targeted location” – meaning they’ll display yours ads to people based on both physical location and apparent search intent. This is unsurprising, because this setting allows it to give you most impressions. But you can edit this setting to include only “targeted location” or search intent (“people searching for or viewing pages about my targeted location”).

AdWords Location Options

Using the example above, if you select the physical location only option (“People in my targeted location”), your ads will only show to Google users who are actually in Maryland – no more impressions and clicks from users who might have Maryland-related intent, but are actually searching in California or Canada.



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Feb 11, 2013

Another thing, when people actually travel to India or to some other place and take their laptop, smartphone, or  sign in to their Google account.

Feb 11, 2013

Does this mean that I can set my "targeted location" to Florida (for example), and my settings to "people viewing this information based on my target location", that my ads will reach people outside of my "targeted location"?  Perhaps it's naive, but I feel that I rarely see people from Canada click on my ads once I remove Canada from the targeted locations, but there is a large Canadian interest in this area.  Perhaps it's a bug?

Feb 14, 2013

Thanks for commenting, Ceitel.  That is correct.  Let's say, for example, that you are bidding on the term "condo rental" and you have the settings that you mentioned above (your target location is Florida and your settings allow you to show ads to "people viewing this information based on my target location".  Your ad will be eligible to show to a searcher who is located in Canada IF they search a term like "condo rental Florida". 

Larry Kim
Feb 11, 2013

This question is in the adwords certification exam.

Feb 12, 2013

i value your point sergy

Feb 12, 2013

Great Post Erin you can lose a lot of money if you dont set up your adwords account properly you will betargeting customers who want your service but are not in your customer service area or out of the country.

Feb 14, 2013

Couldn't agree more.  I have noticed that alot of people neglect to review their overall campaign settings when they are troubleshooting in their accounts.  It is amazing how much of an impact the basic campaign settings have on an account!

Michael Kern
Feb 12, 2013

I never new this advanced targeting was available. I often wondered what the heck was going on. Thx

Feb 13, 2013

Very good post, and I personally would like to see more such posts, it's a category "your account leakages". I admit, that I had no idea about above mentioned settings and could not understand why we still have clicks from China, where it should not be. Thanks Erin!

Feb 14, 2013

Thanks for the kudos, Rolands!  If there are any specific subjects you'e like to see our CS Team write about, don't hesitate to let us know.  We are always looking for good topics :)

SEO Company India
Feb 14, 2013

Hi Guys, I lost the keyword ranking of my website after january update so please suggest me,how to recover from this issue. ThanksKevin

Larry Kim
Feb 14, 2013

maybe ease up on the blog comment spamming?  :-)

Feb 19, 2013

Hey Kevin,Sounds like those comment links you're leaving blogs have started to hurt you. I recommend you to test your assumptions on SEO and think more about SEO strategy, not tactics. You want real, interested customers that come to your website, not just any mislead traffic.If blindly do the "SEO" of the past which no longer works, you'll only end up hurting your website.

Raju paliwal
Feb 26, 2013

Do you mean "People in, searching for, or viewing pages about my targeted location" option will show my ads to the people located outside the coutry searching my keywords?  

Mike P
May 03, 2013

Anyone know how Google handles IP-to-geolocation when it comes to serving ads? Not too long ago, my Miami ATT DSL connection was showing up as an Atlanta physical location. A buddy works at a Miami car dealership and his IP is showing up in Jacksonville, 600 miles away.I'm guessing the best thing to do is switch from "people in my location" to "people in, searching for or viewing" and see what the actual performance difference is. It could differ greatly from city to city I guess... Wonder if anyone has already done this experiment.

D. Manco
Jun 15, 2013

That is not enough to stop how the machine geo targets for AdWords PPC or CPM. To stop people from viewing ad from excluded areas you need to add the exlusions in when you build your geo. Think of it as neg geo SEO for paid search.

Mickey Mixon
Aug 22, 2013

This will improve the visibility for clients to see the products and services in the company.

Nov 21, 2014

Heres my problem...I have a photography company in Utah.  I only want people in Utah to see my PPC adds. But how do  know that the people in Utah all have IP address in Utah?  Will I be missing potential customers locatedin Utah wit IP addresses in other states?  

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