Tips for Geographical Targeting in AdWords

By Megalytic Staff - June 29, 2015

When planning a Google AdWords campaign, you want to make sure you’re reaching the right people. That probably goes without saying, right? After all, rich targeting features are one reason you love digital advertising to begin with. It ensures that you’re only reaching those likely to be interested in your product or service.
Keywords are one important way to target your ads to prospective customers, but it’s not the only way. Targeting by geography can also help ensure that you’re reaching people in the regions that are most likely to do business with you.
For example, if you own an insurance company that only services customers within 30 miles of your Austin, TX office, you don’t want to pay for clicks coming from New York or Seattle. Regardless of how interested Seattle residents may be in working with you, they’re unable to sign on as clients. Spending money to target them wastes your budget.
Or maybe you’re a technology company targeting nationally. Even with customers scattered across the country, you can use geographic targeting to focus on promoting your services to technology hubs located in major metro areas because you know these folks are most likely to become customers.
Thankfully, AdWords lets you target geographic areas with incredible precision. Let’s take a look at the options available, along with some tricks on how to take advantage of them.

Blog Image Geotargeting AdWords

AdWords Geographic Targeting Options

Google AdWords offers a number of targeting options to reach just the geography you want. Whether you want to cover a broad region or hone in on specific neighborhoods, you can use AdWords’ targeting options to reach a highly-specific geographic area.

Take a look at geographic options available for targeting – everything from Country down to Zip code:

  • Country
  • State/province
  • DMA (Designated Market Area, essentially a metro area)
  • Congressional district
  • County
  • City
  • Zip code

That’s not all. You can also set up radius targeting, setting a fixed mile radius around a point on the map. Or, you can target places of interest, such as airports, colleges and commercial centers. You can even target via demographic, reaching areas that fit select income tiers.

Setting Up Geotargeting

So, how can you set up geotargeting within AdWords? First, it’s important to note that geographic targeting applies at the campaign level—you cannot set geography by ad group.

Knowing this, let’s start by setting up a new campaign from the within AdWords. To do so, we’ll select the red “Campaign” button and choose the campaign type we want. For the purposes of this example, we’ll build a Search Network Only campaign.

AdWords Create New Campaign

Amidst all your campaign creation options, you’ll see a “Locations” section that allows you to set up your geographic targeting.

AdWords Add a Geo Targeting Location

Once you start typing, you’ll see locations that match what you’ve entered. For example, entering “New York” matches choices for the state, city, county or DMA. You can choose to add any of these to the campaign.

Next, say that you want to target a radius around your business’s address. This can be helpful for local businesses that service customers at their homes or that draw customers into a brick and mortar location. To set up radius targeting, select “Advanced Search” by the location selection box. Then, from the top of the box that appears, choose “radius targeting.” You can now enter a location (anything from a specific address on the map, to a zip code, to a city) and set a mile radius around that location.

AdWords Radius Geo Targeting

In this example, we’ve chosen to target a 20 mile radius around Columbia, South Carolina. Google shows you a shaded area on the map where ads will be eligible to appear.

You can also mix and match different types of targeting. For example, say we want to target a radius around another location, throwing in a zip code and a city target as well. We can do that.

AdWords Multiple Geo Targeting Locations

Excluding Regions

You can add different locations, but what if you want to target some areas while excluding others? For example, your business services within 20 miles of Philadelphia, but you’re only licensed to do work in Pennsylvania, not New Jersey. If you simply set up a 20-mile radius target around Philadelphia, it will overlap into New Jersey. So, you can choose to exclude New Jersey by typing in the location name and selecting “Exclude.”

AdWords Geo Targeting Exclude a Region

Now, a red shaded area will show where ads are excluded from appearing on your map. The blue area shows where ads will appear, outside of the excluded area.

AdWords Map with Exclusion - Geo Targeting

Demographic Targeting

Somewhat hidden in Google AdWords is the option to target by income tier within a region. This option can be especially valuable when promoting a more expensive product that only those with higher household incomes will purchase.

To set up income targeting, go to the Advanced Search box and select “Location Groups.” Now, choose Demographics from the dropdown.

AdWords Location Groups

You can enter your desired location and choose the income tier(s) you’d like to target from the additional dropdown that appears. In this example, we’ll target the top 10% in New York City.

AdWords Choose an Income Group for Targeting

Now, we can apply multiple sets of income groups. For instance, if we want to target the top 20%, we can add the top 10%, as well as the top 11-20%. To implement its income group targeting, Google essentially pulls Census Bureau data as to where zip codes within a region rank in income tiers.

Seeing & Optimizing Results by Location

Once your campaigns have begun running, you can see results by location to determine performance by region. Go to the Settings tab within the campaign for which you’d like to see stats and select “Locations.” You’ll now see a list of locations you’re targeting, along with results for the timeframe you’re viewing. You can also add or edit locations at any point in time while the campaign is running.

AdWords Geo Targeting Location Stats

We can now pick out data showing how well each location has performed. In this data, we can see that the United States has received the most Converted Clicks, showing the most volume for leads, but South Africa has the lowest Cost/Converted Click, showing the lowest cost for leads.

From this data, we can then apply bid adjustments in the “Bid adj” column, allowing us to raise or lower bids by a percentage. In this example, you can see that we’ve applied a positive bid adjustment for locations that fall well below our target CPA of $30, while applying a negative bid adjustment for New Zealand, which shows a high CPA.

Understanding Location Targeting Options

What if you offer home renovation services in Florida, but your customers include retirees who spend summers in northern states? You can reach people who aren’t physically in a location but are searching for services in that location.

Looking under the Settings tab for a campaign, you’ll find a section for Location Options. Here, you can choose how you want ads to show.

AdWords Location Options for Geo Targeting

  • People located in, searching for, or who show interest in my targeted location : This is the default setting. Leave this on if you market to people who may be searching within your location (e.g., “home renovation naples florida”) even if they live outside of it. However, if this setting is on you may also want to exclude areas you don’t want to target, such as foreign countries where people aren’t likely to be customers.
  • People in my targeted location : Ads will only target those who are physically in your target area based on their IP addresses. You’ll only show to the people IN Florida who are searching for home renovation.
  • People searching for, or who show interest in, my targeted location : Ads only target people who, based on their search queries, are specifically researching your location. If someone’s in Florida and searches just for “home renovation” your ad won’t show, but if they search “home renovation naples florida,” it will.


As you can see, AdWords offers a wide array of options for geographic targeting. You can specify to show ads only to people in regions where you do business to ensure that your spend is highly targeted. In addition, you can further customize campaigns by adding bid adjustments, using income targeting, and setting location options. In addition to ensuring that you’re targeting the region most relevant to your market, brainstorm how you can work in additional geographic targeting features to best reach your audience.