Location Map View

Google Ads location targeting is often poorly understood, and just as often poorly executed. Like most Google Ads targeting there is no “one size fits all” setting. Instead, there is a range of different options to suit your individual business goals.

Today, we’ll look at the different ways you can implement location targeting. We’ll drill down into some advanced settings and optimizations.

Splitting Locations Into Different Campaigns

This method involves creating separate (often duplicate) campaigns that each target different geographical locations. The major benefit of this method is that you can adjust your budgets independently for each target location. But this method also has a number of drawbacks. Most importantly, by spreading out your ad spend you will have smaller data samples and thus fewer opportunities to optimize across other dimensions such as keywords, ads, devices, extensions, and so on. Also, if you create say 4 campaigns instead of 1, you’ve just quadrupled your management effort – forever.

With the advent of location bid adjustments, this method has been largely depreciated. Here are some examples, however, where this method still holds up:

1. You must run or keep track of budgets by territory
2. You have specific services/products/offers for different locations
3. You will run keywords/ads in different languages
4. You will run shopping campaigns for multiple countries (each shopping campaign must target only one country)

Outside of these unusual circumstances we strongly recommend you don’t build duplicate campaigns that simply target different locations.

Targeting Multiple Locations In One Campaign And Applying Bid Adjustments

In Google Ads, it is an easy matter to target a large area such as the United States by inputting “United States.” But, you could, for example, also add each US state individually as a long list of items. So, what’s the difference, and why do all that extra work? In Google Ads, you can set bid adjustments for each location you’ve added as an individual target. If your target is simply “United States” you cannot set up bid adjustments by state. If, however, you’ve created a list of US states, you can set bid adjustments for each state independently.

This applies to any location target, whether you use named places, radius targeting, postal/zip codes, or anything else. The major benefit of this method is that you can tweak your bid adjustments as data rolls in. And because all your other targeting is contained in one campaign you will be able to optimize across other dimensions more quickly and efficiently.

Alright, great, so why not break down location targeting in all campaigns this way; heck why stop at states when you could add every major US city? Simply put, diminished gains. Let’s say you buy 300 clicks per month and yield a 5% conversion rate (15 per month). Doing some simple math, that gives us 15/50 states = 0.3 conversions/state each month. Obviously, the real stats are going to be disproportionate but realistically we might have to wait 6-12 months before seeing any actionable trends. In this example, even splitting up the country into states is probably too segmented to garner an advantage.

How much to segment locations?

How much you segment your locations is going to depend upon the volume of clicks you plan to buy along with your conversion rates. The good news is you can always go more granular later on. Our recommendation is to start simple, wait and see.

Importantly, you don’t need to set up any specific target locations to see reports on how each area performs. In this way, you can cherry pick high and low performing locations and ad them ad-hoc as you discover them.

If you’re in this camp you should add a geo report to your monthly Google Ads review & analysis. If you’re targeting “United States” run a report by state. When you’re targeting “California” run a report by city, and so on. If/when you see actionable trends you can add just those specific areas that can benefit from a bid adjustment, or go ahead and segment your entire target… up to you.

Locations Report

The point is, building in your location targeting to one campaign, rather than building multiple campaigns will allow you to optimize much more effectively.

Location Targeting At The Ad Group Level – With Keywords

Targeting locations in keywords may seem counter-intuitive since you’re already targeting locations with the campaign location setting, but there are many good reasons to do this.

Let’s say you offer home painting services and work in Toronto and the surrounding areas. You have targeted these areas in your campaign and selected the “people in or regularly in your targeted location” option since you don’t want to work outside of this area (we’ll cover this advanced setting a little later).

You could build one ad group and use keywords like home painting, exterior painting, painting services, etc. But, you should also consider creating ad groups for each of the major areas by name that you cover. The rationale, in this case, is that you are competing in a high demand, high competition market. There is a high volume of searches in this niche so you should consider some precision targeting, and that includes your locations.

For example, “Toronto home painting,” “Toronto exterior painting,” “Toronto painting services,” and so on. Obviously, you’ll be using modified broad match or phrase match here as appropriate, and your ads will include the location qualifier. At the very least, you might want to create one geo-based ad group with keyword insertion on location keywords… don’t forget that if you do that to only include phrase match and exact match keywords in that ad group. Otherwise, garbage user queries will be inserted as ad text.

The bottom line is that location-based search terms almost always convert better than general terms because they have greater specificity. You will, of course, need to strike a balance between having enough specificity while also not diluting your budget across too many ad groups/keywords; right-sizing is key here.

How To Set Up Locations In Campaigns

Now we’re going to cover some of the features built into the campaign location settings; some you may know and some you might not know – keep reading. We’ll use some examples here to make it clear how you choose each option.

Location Options

There are two options to configure and selecting the right settings for your situation is absolutely crucial. The “target” setting allows you to select who will see your ad based upon locations you’ve added to target while the “exclude” setting allows you to choose which people will be excluded. Exclusions are only required if there is an area within the selected target you do not want your ads to show for. A good example of this is if you are an authorized distributor for products in the state of Texas excluding Houston. You can target “Texas” and exclude “Houston.” Note that you do not need to worry about the exclude setting if you don’t include location exclusions in your campaign.

Google Location Targeting Options

Target Location

Option #1 – “people in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations (recommended)”

This default setting will show your ad to people inside of your target area and people that search using a location-based keyword that falls within your target area. Let’s say you offer an adventure tour in Pheonix. It makes perfect sense to target people that live in the local area and people that live elsewhere that are looking for a “Pheonix adventure tour” because they are most likely planning to visit.

Option #2 – “people in or regularly in your targeted locations”

This setting will show your ad to people inside of your target area and people that are frequently in your target area (even if they are currently outside of your target location). Let’s say you offer home renovations in Pheonix. In this case, you only want this offer to appear to people that are residents of Pheonix. This setting would apply to any situation where you don’t want to provide your services to people that live outside of your target area… home services is a great example. Even if somebody searches for “Pheonix home renos” you probably aren’t interested in them as a customer if they live many hours outside of the city.

This is the setting we use for about 95% of our client campaigns.

Option #3 – “people searching for your targeted locations”

This setting will show your ad to people that include the location in keywords they are searching for. Importantly, this means that somebody in your target area will not see your ads unless they include a location qualifier… even if they type in keywords you are targeting. A good use case for this is if you want to improve your conversion rates without having to expand your keyword strategy; kind of the lazy man’s way to do keyword/ad group location targeting. Use this sparingly though, if you are in a small niche or have a relatively big budget. Remember that most people looking for a plumber for an urgent issue will simply search for “emergency plumber” rather than “emergency plumber in Pheonix.”

Exclude Location

Option #1 – “people in, or who show interest in, your excluded locations (recommended)”

This is the default setting and it will ensure that people in this location as well as anybody that includes that location qualifier in a search term won’t see your ad. This is appropriate for most situations.

Option #2 – “people in your excluded locations”

This setting will ensure that people in your excluded location won’t see your ad. If somebody outside of this location includes the location in their search query your ad may still be shown to them.

Different Ways To Set Locations

There is a huge variety of ways to select locations with the tools Google Ads provides. Which you use will depend upon your particular need. We’ll cover them all here, including some esoteric options.

Named Locations

A pretty simple concept; type in the name of a country, state, province, city, town, region, commonly named area and select from the pop-up list. Enter as many places as you like. Have a long list of places in a spreadsheet or other document. Pop open the advanced search, select “bulk locations,” and paste your list into the box provided.

Zip/Postal Codes

Google supports selecting a range of zip/postal codes for most countries. This can be particularly useful if you used to send snail mail to a particular range of zip codes and are replacing that campaign with AdWords. Or, you might use this in support of a snail mail campaign. Start typing the zip code into Google and select the range from the pop-up list.

Neilson DMA Regions

Neilson ratings are segmented locations where Neilson tracks television watching habits. It is also how TV ads are segmented by location. This will pop-up automatically when you type a matching named area into the location search window. If you’re coordinating your campaign with television spots, this is exactly what you need.

Radius Targeting

This one is perfect is you have a physical store or location that people visit, or if you want to limit your travel range when delivering a service. Set your location and then choose the furthest distance (radius) away that you want to cover. One great trick here is that you can set up different ranges from your location and then apply bid adjustments according to how far it is away, bidding less as your potential clients live further away. This is an excellent way to expand your advertising reach while maintaining a profitable cost per conversion. Google’s “new experience” also supports using a pin for high precision targeting.

Google radius targeting

Areas Of Interest

This advanced search lets select places of interest such as an airport or university name. There are some great specific applications for this such as taxi services (airports) or products for students (universities).

Using The Map

The map will show you the locations you have targeted and excluded. You can click on a selected area to remove it or add “nearby” locations to expand your target area – pretty simple.

Setting Location Bid Adjustments

If you have multiple locations set up you can set up bid adjustments by going to campaign settings and selecting locations. This view will show you various KPIs by location. Bid adjustments are set +/- by %. When figuring out what adjustments to ensure you take several things into consideration:

1. Review a sensible time period – long enough to get statistically relevant data but not so long that other changes have made this data redundant
2. It is best to make small conservative changes over time rather than infrequent big adjustments
3. If your ads are sitting at the bottom of page one, a negative bid adjustment may prevent your ads from running on page one; this is something to be aware of if you’re a low bidder
4. Unless you convert leads into clients at different rates by location the goal should be to get your cost per conversion to align between all locations – adjust bids accordingly

Location bid adjustments


Location targeting in Google Ads can be confusing and as such often leads to mistakes and underperforming campaigns.

We hope that this article will help guide you in mastering location targeting. If you’re ever unsure of something we highly recommend using Google support services. Need help with implementing this, check out our Search Engine Marketing services.