Complete Guide to AdWords Geotargeting & Local PPC


Unless you have plans for world domination, your pay-per-click ads don't need to be seen by everyone on the planet. It's much more likely that the products and services you’re advertising will be limited to a handful of countries, cities, or even city blocks. This is where geotargeting comes in.

Geotargeting, or local PPC, is an AdWords feature that lets you target your ads to only appear to customers in a certain location, or set of locations, that you specify. For businesses that rely on foot traffic (like restaurants), proximity (like used car dealerships by city), and deliveries (like an e-store that ships to certain countries but not others), geotargeting is an absolute no-brainer.

With geotargeting, you won’t squander your ad budget on wasted clicks from people who are outside your target area, and you’ll increase the chances that the people clicking on your ads are actually eligible to receive your products and services. In other words, geotargeting is essential if you want to make the most efficient use of your limited advertising spend.

In this guide, we’ll:

  • Review the setup process for geotargeting
  • Explain how to manage a geotargeted campaign
  • Share some tips and best practices for maximizing local PPC

Let’s get started!

Geotargeting Setup

In AdWords, select the campaign you wish to target, and click on the Settings tab. Scroll down to the Locations and Languages section, and click on edit under Locations.

AdWords Geotargeting Settings

By Search

Click the Search tab and start typing in your desired location, and select it when it appears on the drop-down menu of relevant matches. Options include country, region (such as state or province), city, postal code, and even certain airports.

Google AdWords Geotargeting Guide

Reach refers to how many people could potentially see your ads if you select that location.

There are three choices you can click on for each location:

Add (adds that location to your list of targeted locations)

Exclude (prevent your ads from appearing to this location)

Nearby (generates a list of nearby regions that you might consider adding as well)

When you select a region, AdWords will display a map with the targeted area highlighted.

Local PPC Guide

If you have multiple regions selected, they'll all appear on a list. Under the Selected locations tab, click on Show locations to see a larger map with all of your regions highlighted.

AdWords Local PPC

Advanced Options

By Radius

Click the Radius tab. This allows you to select a distance radius around a location of your choice, which is also called proximity targeting. Enter a location into the box, and that becomes the center of the radius. Specify the distance around the location that you wish to target by typing a number into the next box. The drop-down to the right of the number lets you specify whether the distance is measured in miles (mi) or kilometers (km). For example, you could specify 10 miles around the radius of a restaurant to target ads to customers who are searching within that area. (Combining this geotargeting functionality with your mobile-optimized ads could be powerful, since mobile searchers, especially in your area, tend to be ready to convert.)

In the example below, the ads will target a radius of 20 miles around Boston.

Geotargeting Radius

You can also create a custom radius by clicking the blue map marker icon to the left to select it, then clicking on any spot on the map to create the center of the radius.

Bulk Editing

Click the Bulk locations tab and you can either type or paste in up to 1000 locations at a time to add, exclude, or remove them in bulk. NOTE: Each batch of locations must be in the same country, and you can select the country code from the drop-down menu on the right.

Geotargeting Bulk Editing

For your reference, here is Google's official list of targetable locations.

Managing Your Geotargeted Campaign

See which locations are generating the most traffic by clicking on the Locations tab under Settings. Here you can view standard information such as clicks, impressions, average cost-per-click (CPC), and average position, as it applies to each of your specified locations.

Geotargeted AdWords Campaign

The Total - other locations row indicates all traffic from everywhere other than the locations you've specified. Unfortunately AdWords doesn't get any more specific about where exactly they're coming from, but if this number is very high you'll want to add or exclude more locations, and follow the best practices listed below to create a more tightly targeted campaign.

Use the Search Terms Report to see which keyword searches triggered your ads. If you notice keywords from outside your target locations are triggering your ads, exclude these keywords by clicking the check box next to them, then selecting Add as a negative keyword. For example, if you run a car dealership in Chicago but your ads are being triggered by searches for “new cars Boston,” add the word “Boston” to your negative keyword list to avoid your ads being triggered by further searches for Boston. To bring up the Search Terms Report, go to the Campaigns tab, click Keywords, then Details, and select All from the drop-down menu to bring up the report for all keywords in the campaign.

Geotargeting Tips & Best Practices

Target the locations where your customers are. If you're an online retailer who only ships within your country, target the whole country. If you're a retail chain located in a specific region, like New England, target those states only, and exclude others. If you're an e-store that ships internationally, target the countries that you ship to. This will ensure that you’re not wasting budget on searchers in areas that your business doesn’t serve.

Excluding certain locations can be just as important as targeting them. For example, if your company only ships products to destinations in the mainland United States, you could set your geotargeting to include the U.S., then exclude Hawaii and Alaska.

Gain regional insights about your customers by using tools like Google Trends to research which areas are most interested in your products or services. Google Trends can show you who's searching for a given keyword by country, subregion (such as state or province), metro, or city. The example below illustrates the top U.S. states that are searching for the term "snow blower." Not surprisingly, they're all states that receive a large amount of snow.

Local PPC Tips

It's still a good idea to include regional terms in your keyword lists. For example, an insurance company in Boston should include terms like "boston insurance companies" and "car insurance boston" – but thanks to geotargeting, you could also include more generic terms like "car insurance," since geotargeting to Boston will ensure that the generic terms are only being seen by local searchers. Here is a fantastic free tool for quickly generating local keyword lists. (Unfortunately, it’s limited to U.S. locations.)

Where possible, try to include the name of your target location in your ad, preferably in the title. If the ad text matches the user's search query, the relevant ad text will appear in bold, which helps the ad stand out on the page.

Enable location extensions and call extensions in your local ads so that customers will be able to find and contact you more easily. (Location extensions let you display your business's address with the ad, and call extensions display a phone number.)

[MORE: Google AdWords Ad Extensions Cheat Sheet]

And finally, there's an important setting in AdWords that you should change to avoid getting ad impressions from outside your target location. By default, Google targets your ads not only to people within your specified target location, but also to people who are searching about your target location. To change this setting, go to Campaign Settings and click on Location options (advanced). Under the Target section, click "Edit" to open the drop-down menu, and select the second option ("People in my targeted location.")

How to Use Geotargeting

About the Author

This is a guest post by Erin Bell, an SEM and SEO copywriter with Performics Canada, the Search division of ZenithOptimedia (Publicis Groupe). Erin has been writing about consumer technology and interactive entertainment for the past decade, and her articles have been featured on, PC World Canada, Mac World Canada, Microsoft Home Magazine,,,, and others.

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Nov 13, 2013

Some people overlook geotargetting, but it really saves you a lot of money and lets you manage your budget better. It's one of the most important aspect of adwords.

Graham Chapman
Nov 14, 2013

Useful info Erin, thanks.The main problem I have with Geo targeting is the IP location element.From what I understand, Google uses various methods to locate a user and their IP address is one.And of course, a user's IP address is typically determined by their ISP's server location and is most likely not where they are located at all.I did speak to a Google employee about this, but was still not convinced that it's an ideal locating method.I'd be interested on your view of this.Graham

Elisa Gabbert
Nov 14, 2013

Hi Graham, here's a quick tip that should help you navigate this point, on Advanced Location Options.

Graham Chapman
Nov 26, 2013

Thanks Elisa,Yes, indeed, in theory we should be able to target users in our chosen location.But, it doesn't work; certainly not for our application.We are looking to target a radius of around 30 miles where our retail shop is. But if Google is using IP addresses to locate then it's just nowhere near accurate enough.For example if I sit here in the office (right at the center of our trading location), and search google for our type of business: 'kitchen design', or 'kitchen showroom', all the results — both in organic Google Places listings and adwords ads — are London based (where our ISPs servers are located).Simiarly, if a user 300 miles away is using an ISP which by chance is located in our area (there's not many!), they'll get to see our ad.We don't want clicks from random users like this, we want clicks from users in our area.I'm guessing this is a real issue for most local retailers; the IP address locator is good at determining the users ISPs location but not the actual users location.I can't even see why it's an option it's so wildly inaccurate. Graham

Luke Alley
Nov 14, 2013

If I'm following you Graham, this is what you are looking for They address the IP issue you're referring to. 

Graham Chapman
Nov 26, 2013

Thanks Luke,It's an interesting article, but not particularly relevent to us here in the UK without DMA.My main issue is the option to market to 'people in my targeted location'.From what I can gather, Google doesn't actually know my location (see above post for more detail). 

Nov 15, 2013

Thanks a lot for imparting with us with this great information. I really learn a lot. Keep posting!

Nov 20, 2013

I've been away from Adwords for going on 4-5 years and this was a fast/informative refresher on what I needed. Thanks for the update.

Richard Thomas
Dec 04, 2013

Great artcile - I can support Graham Chapman in his comments as I to am a UK user and when I have used geo-targeting like this the results have been poor - the only time it does work in on mobile - where users are identified by GPS locationMaybe its a UK ISP issue? But it dont work here and I have had to resort to adding many negative towns, cities and counties as negative keywords

Jan 06, 2014

Thanks Erin, really helped! Didn't realise it was so simple to set up.

Jan 28, 2014

Hi,need some help.I am running adwords campaigns in a different country for a friend.Is there a method by which I can test searches in the other country and see what appears on the screen?Sorry if this is confusing? Stephen

Partha Sarathi Dutta
Feb 12, 2014

AdWords does allow us zip code targeting however I’m not too sure whether it’s actually benefitting us or not? I mean, this is true that, by using the feature, marketer/advertiser could have better control over their target audience however not sure, how Google is determining the searchers location? Does they calculating on IP addresses or depending on private browsing data? I’m curious, since my ISP may or may not be close to my physical address. Another interesting point is how the other two features - "People in my targeted location" and "People searching for viewing about my targeted location" will be accommodate? On top of that, i heard about the fact that, US zip codes are keep changing frequently (at least true for some cases). And Google till date do not offering this feature outside of US. Why so? If this feature has so many potential then why not for other around the world? Or Google still evealuating the pros and cons of the feature. Also, is this correct they are not covering alll the zip codes? Do we need to use nearby option then? No body wishes to have any sudden adverse effect on their respective campaigns. Having said so, I suppose, this feature is all-in-all not as ugly as it looks like at first impression. Otherwise why Google keep continuing with the feature? \m/

Feb 22, 2014

Hello:This was a very helpful article; however, I am still confused on one point.  I have setup my locations, so why would I want to include my various locations in my keywords?  Is it because of the IP issue?

Feb 11, 2015

Informative article, exactly what I needed.

Jul 26, 2015

I couldn't resist commenting. Perfectly written!

Dec 11, 2014

very helpful thanks

May 08, 2015

Great post and Thank you for sharing

Levko Yaskewych
Mar 27, 2017

In the adwords ad there is a "Location".

I need to know if you are targeting a specific area,
it shows the first 3 locations then puts ...

Can you specify the order of the first 3 locations shown based on the location the ad is showing in?

With more than 3 locations it keeps showing the same 3 locations for all the ads and we have 4 locations and the fourth never shows even in that location.

Jan 04, 2018

Helpful, as it otherwise cause expensive CPC

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