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How to get the most from your Adwords GeoTargeting

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 30 June 2008 08:24

4 Tactics for Geo-Targeting Your Local Search Marketing Campaigns with AdWords
(Case Study: U-Save Car Rental in Myrtle Beach, SC)

by Brian Carter of Fuel Interactive and

I'm preparing my talk for SMX Local/Mobile in San Francisco at the end of July. (And I’m hoping to get out and do some comedy with the San Francisco Comedy College peeps too!) At SMX Local, I’m planning to talk about the part of local search we do best at Fuel Interactive, and that's Local search marketing with AdWords.

Because of how much search traffic goes through Google, AdWords is a smart place to prioritize your local search marketing efforts. And believe it or not, there are at least four ways to do geotargeting in AdWords. I'll discuss those below using one of our clients, U-Save Car Rental, as an example.

The 4 Ways to Geotarget Local Search with AdWords

1. Geotarget at the campaign level
2. Geomodifiers in keywords
3. Placement target locally-focused sites
4. Local business ads

You may need all of these methods to get the click volume your local advertiser wants. In PPC, we optimize for the best KPI (key performance indicator) possible, such as cost per conversion or ROAS (return on ad spend)… but there's an even more important metric for many new local advertisers- how much can we spend? How many qualified clicks can we get?

Some new AdWords campaigns just don't spend to budget (reach the budgeted ad spend for the month) right away. Local businesses are the clients we most commonly have to "optimize-to-spend". It sounds suboptimal to use spend as your KPI, but until you get good click volume, you won't have enough data to confidently optimize for more sophisticated metrics. This is the one time I love Google's automated campaign optimizer - its specialty is getting you more clicks so that Google makes more money- it usually works for increasing click volume.

Here are four ways to get a good quantity of geotargeted clicks from your local AdWords campaigns:

1. Geotargeting at the Campaign Level

This is the AdWords geotargeting most people think of first. In the campaign settings, you set the countries, regions, states, or cities of where you want your ads to show. In these campaigns, use more general keywords.

If you were advertising a car rental company in Myrtle Beach, SC, you could use very general keywords like "car rental" or "rent a car" if you have geotargeting set at the campaign level. Searchers typing those keywords from Branson, Missouri will not see your ads.

However, it's very important to target the location of your prospects when they buy. In our example, someone vacationing in Myrtle Beach may be planning their car rental from their home in New Jersey. So geotargeting only South Carolina would block these searchers from seeing your ad.

You may be able to make out in the image to the right that U-Save shows up not only in the local business results (see #4 below) but also in the Sponsored Links with "Myrtle Beach, SC" underneath it. This is because we've searched for a general keyword while in Myrtle Beach (here we actually are also geotargeting Myrtle Beach searchers) and found a business located in Myrtle Beach.

2. Geomodifiers in Keywords

A geomodifier is simply the geographic information in a keyword. For example, "myrtle beach" is a geomodifier in the keyword "myrtle beach car rental". You can do this in campaigns with broad geotargeting. If our car rental advertiser has good prospects in the US and Canada, target both entire countries. Have no fear, your geomodifier is here... it keeps your searchers qualified.

In the image to the right, you can see not only two U-Saves in the local results (U-Save has several locations in MB), but also we're #1 in the AdWords Sponsored Links on the right. This makes for pretty dominant mindshare, at least for this keyword.

3. Placement Targeting on Locally-Focused Sites

Create a placement targeted campaign. That means you'll choose websites that serve Google Ads. You can search for sites that focus on your locale, preview them, and decide if their ad placement is prominent enough for you. You can browse categories, or put your local city or state in as a topic to search for sites with, or even list the URLs of sites you'd like to advertise on. For example, suppose you find a placement-targeted site called, you check it out, and it has deals and info for vacationers- this would be the perfect spot to advertise that Myrtle Beach car rental company.

You can also geotarget your campaign if you want... but in our example, the car rental business wouldn't want to limit its searchers' origin - if the site is locally focused, then the prospects could be traveling to your destination soon - so you don't have to specify where they're located when they're making their travel plans.

4. Local business ads

If your business is in Google's local database (if it's not, use the Google Local Business Center to manage your business's profile, a good idea anyway), you can create local business ads tied to your business. Then when people look at local results in Google search, you can show up on the right side under 'Sponsored Links'.

As you can see, for local searches, the local results take up a lot of the above the fold space on Googl e- so more and more people are checking out local results. The volume may not be as great, but you need to be here to be competitive and to get more attention from searchers who are exploring a number of search results and websites while in their research mode.

Important Note: You should create a separate campaign for your local ads. The keywords should be quite general and do not need to be geotargeted, so that means configuring them differently than the campaigns in #1 and #2 above.


Summary of the Geospecificity at Campaign and Keyword Levels for Each of the 4 Tactics:

Finally, let me leave you with this summary reference table for how to target both campaign and keywords for each of these four approaches.

Campaign Strategy
1. Geotargeted Campaign
2. Geomodifiers
Either; usually non-geospecific
3. Placement
.4. Local Biz Ads


Dave; Not only is Brian a search marketing maven but also worthy of joining the FireHorse SEO Comedy troupe - as he's one hellua a funny guy. If your not already, be sure to start reading his blog at Fuel Interactive - I want to thank Brian for taking time out of a pretty busy schedule to share his insights and ride along with us!!


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