Paid Search Geo-Targeting Hierarchy

Location, location, location was once the mantra of successful businesses in regards to brick-and-mortar organizations.  With so many businesses online these days, it would be expected that location may no longer frustrate success; if your business is online, it’s everywhere.  Oh, but not so fast; location very much matters online, and that’s where Google’s geo-targeting solutions come into play.

There are many different ways in Google in which you may geo-target locations.  You can target by country, state, city, zip code, or custom location by dragging points on the map.  You may also target by DMA (Designated Market Area), which is defined by Google as

“Media markets in which people can receive the same or similar television and radio station offerings, as well as offerings of other media types, such as newspapers. DMAs are defined by Nielsen Media Research, and are used to identify specific media markets for those interested in buying and selling television, advertising and programming.”

What if your business could benefit from displaying different messages to someone searching at the state level as opposed to the zip code level, but you want to speak to both audiences?  There are ways to reach to everyone with a different message.  First, you must understand the hierarchy of the geo-targeting capabilities.

Let’s say there are three campaigns set up with the same keywords but different geo-targeting.  One campaign targets at the state level, one at the DMA level, and one at the zip code level; the targeted areas are Ohio, Cleveland-Akron (Canton), and 44304 (our zip code at the office), respectively.

If someone in Columbus, Ohio searches for a keyword that is common in all three campaigns, they will be served an ad from the campaign that is targeting Ohio at the state level.  If someone in Cleveland searches for this same term, they would be eligible for both the state level and DMA level campaign ads.  They would end up being shown the ads from the DMA targeted campaign.  The most specific targeting will take over.  Lastly, if I were to search for this same term while here at the office, I would see the ads targeted to 44304.

This could be an important tactic for some businesses, such as banks and real estate agencies, where audience locations may be specific.  For example, the state level might show them the state headquarters, the DMA might show them the regional headquarters, and the zip code targeting would allow them to see the local branch.

Photo courtesy of davidrossharris.

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  1. Hello. Thank you for the interesting post. I do the marketing for my wife’s interior design business. Most of her new business comes from the internet. Her site is not well optimized, but I am trying to learn some SEO/SEM skills as I go and am about to make several changes.

    I have had some success with GeoTargeted Adwords, although good geotargeting info is hard to come by. My best results have been targeting at the state level using specific town names as modifiers in each add group, i.e. a search for “Interior Design in Westwood” would produce a “Westwood Interior Design” add. My question is, if I add a campaign which is geotargeted more secifically to eastern Massachusetts, so that an “Interior Design in MA” querry produces a “MA Interior Designer” add, are there circumstances where I will end up with more than one add on a SERP, and is this a bad thing?

    As soon as we can afford it we will get some professional SEO/SEM help, but for now it’s all on me. Thanks in advance.

  2. Hi David! To answer your question regarding ending up with more than one ad on a SERP; you will not see this happening. Google will only allow one of your ads to come up from your account. Therefore you may have different campaigns with keywords that could come up for the same search query, but they will not compete against each other, only one or the other ad will show.

    When we are creating geo-targeted campaigns, many times we go about this 2 different ways to tackle it from both ends. We create a specific geo-targeted campaign to the region where the services/products are available and we use broader terms with no modifier. Then we also create campaigns on either a national level or you could narrow that down a bit to state level and we bid on keywords that include town/state names as modifiers, as you discussed. This allows us to reach these people in 2 different manners.

    So in your case, you could select a region just outside your reach and bid on keywords with town name modifiers. We go beyond the serviceable area with this because some people may not be in the area you are selling in, but perhaps they are looking to buy there. Remember that the geo-targeting information comes from their IP address too, so this may not as reliable as we’d like it since that comes from the Internet service provider and not their actual address.

    It sounds like you are on the right track in helping your wife’s site. Good luck to both of you!

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