Things to consider with Google Ads Geo Targeting

March 31, 2022

Geo targeting is something a novice Google ads user probably thinks they understand well, but there is a bit more than meets the eye!

Things to consider with Google Ads Geo Targeting

  • The settings for positive geo targeting are different from those for negative targeting.
  • There are two types of geo targeting, “physical location” and “location of interest’.
    • These 2 types of geo targeting also have 2 different value trackers that can be used if you are doing reporting work through a BI tool.
    • These two types of geo targeting span both positive and negative targeting.
    • These two types sometimes go by different names.
      • Physical location = user location = presence
      • Location of interest = matched location = interest

  • No targeting method is perfect. If you are using radius targeting (or any type of targeting for that matter) don’t expect everything to work out perfectly. Find other ways to exclude out of market traffic. It would not be surprising to see 10-15% of your traffic coming from outside of the areas you target.
    • Google says “Location targeting is based on a variety of signals, including users’ settings, devices, and behavior on our platform, and is Google’s best effort to serve ads to users who meet your location settings. Because these signals vary, 100% accuracy is not guaranteed in every situation.”

Location Settings

On the positive side of targeting, there are 3 options/settings for geo targeting. The ‘recommended’ option is going to result in a lot of traffic outside of your targeted geo (what you put in the UI) based on the definition. “Presence” will target people that are currently in the targeted locations while “interest” will target people with search interest in that location (such a modified search query, or someone who was recently in the area). 

On the negative side of targeting, there are two options only – “presence” (meaning actually in the geo at the time of search) or “presence or interest’, which is the same definition as the positive side.

Below is how Four15 Digital sets up our geo 90% of the time. You’ll notice we don’t use the ‘recommended’ positive setting because it’d result in more out-of-market spend. But even with the below settings, there is still a chance for getting a lot of traffic outside of our actual targeted geo. This can be reduced by using more negative geos. 

Geo Reporting 

It’s a bit tricky to figure out if ‘interest’ geo traffic is worth buying or not. For example, if you have a commuter who often travels from New Jersey to New York, they will see your ads while in New Jersey, but your campaign is set up only to target New York.

You could make New Jersey a negative state. But should you? It really depends on having proper conversion tracking where you can track the proper events. So, perhaps you get a lot of leads from NJ, but no sales. To decide if you should exclude NJ, make sure you’ve got the info on sales to help make your decision.

Also, make sure you’re using the right geo report — because there are 2 of those too 🙂 

The first option is  “targeted location”. 

This will report the data to you based on your selections. In other words, it’ll really only tell you if you made a mistake. It won’t tell you where users actually are. 

To see where users actually are, flip over to “matched locations”. Here, you can see a whole bunch of extra countries pop up! Sometimes spend here can be quite notable depending on your vertical or other settings.

There are also different levels of targeting granularity. Here is a full list from Google:

Bottom line, there is a lot to consider! And Google’s own language is not consistent across the various reports, making things even more confusing. 

Your campaigns will likely have a variety of positive and negative targets when you’re fully optimized, so pay attention to the various reports and find different opportunities for optimization. 

Most importantly, though, make sure your tracking and goals are correct, otherwise these granular reports are going to just cause more confusion!