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AdWords Geo-Targeting Gets More International

Google recently announced updates to location targeting set to impact international searches. The changes, set to roll out the week of November 11, allow ads to be served across country borders and domains.

Changes to Current Targeting:

Currently, as in the example given by Google, if you were the owner of a hotel in Paris and your geo-targeting was set to Paris, only users on the domain or users physically located in France and searching on the domain would be eligible to see your ad with the search “Paris hotels”.

The update expands upon what already happens within the country level in which a user’s location and search terms are both taken into consideration for both organic and paid results. The update intends to allow searchers for “Paris hotels” to see your ad from anywhere in the world, even if geographical targeting is only set to Paris, France.

In the example below (left), a search from Charleston, SC for “Best Buy Charlotte” triggers Places results for Charlotte, NC and location extensions in the ad point to a Charlotte area Best Buy Location. The example on the right produces similar results although the search was only “best buy” with no location specified. Google knew the searcher was located in Charlotte, NC and used this information when providing results.


By default, AdWords targets “people in, searching for, or viewing pages about [your] targeted location.” The search engine results page example above on the left represents “searching for… [your] targeted location” and the example on the right denotes “people in… [your] targeted location”. Marketers have already begun seeing success with this type of targeting in the US for the travel and tourism and staffing industries. These industries specifically are impacted in part because a target user is often not physically located within a brand’s target area but can trigger for those campaigns by including a bid-upon keyword along with a location within the target area – all without requiring an exhaustive list of geo-modified keywords.

What This Change Means for Marketers

Like most updates for AdWords in recent years, the likely result of this change will be broader reach. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but it does mean extra attention should be paid to geographic and ad scheduling reports as searches from new, international locations and different times of day may begin to appear. This is great news if much of your business is international, as your reach will likely expand.

Future Considerations

What’s yet to be seen is how ad serving will be negotiated when products or services in multiple, international cities begin appearing alongside one another. Surely increased competition and decreased relevancy are a possible result.  With Google’s example in mind, there are nine cities in the United States with the name “Paris”. Will the hotel owner in Paris, France automatically begin receiving traffic from users looking for a hotel in one of those US cities as opposed to planning a trip to France?

Overall, other targeting settings such as language should help to minimize some unintended traffic resulting from this update. Ensure your language targeting is not set to “all locations” and consider adding exclusions for cities with similar names. The Google Developers site has a great tool for searching all targetable locations. A more extreme measure for exclusion would be to change your location options to “People in my targeted location” if it is known that all of your business is generated locally. Keep an eye on “User Locations”, “Geographic” and “Hour of day” dimensions beginning Nov. 11 to stay on top of this change.

[This post originally appeared on Asking Smarter Questions and is republished with permission.]

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Digital Marketing Firm, Levelwing
We offer digital media, social + analytics services
Levelwing is a digital marketing firm offering media, social and analytics services to help businesses market with greater clarity and profitability.