Have you been considering using geo-targeting for your business but are unsure how it works?

We’ve got good news for you: you’ve come to the right place!

If you’re keen to learn more about this marketing strategy and how it drives conversions, we commend you. Conducting your own research shows sound business sense, as you should never implement a strategy you don’t understand or know enough about.

Below, we’ve put together a guide explaining everything you need to know about geo-targeting within digital advertising and how you can use it to drive conversions via search engines and social media networks like Facebook.

Geo-Targeting Definition

So, what is geo-targeting? In a nutshell, geo-targeting is an online advertising strategy that helps you find potential customers based on their location. One notable difference between geo-targeting and some other forms of geo-marketing is that geo-targeted ads usually use a potential customer’s IP address as opposed to the GPS location.

Now, an IP address usually only gives a broad impression of where a potential customer is located. It can locate a browser many miles away from the customer’s actual physical location. So what is the advantage of using an IP address for geo-marketing?

The advantage usually lies in 2 areas:

  1. Scale: Geo-targeting can cover an extremely wide area such as a city or a state and target IP addresses in that region. Other forms of geo-marketing tend to be more useful for extremely localized results (see below: geo-targeting vs. geofencing).
  2. Limit by consumer criteria: Geo-targeting advertising aims at individuals within a defined radius. These individuals tend to have certain interests or belong to a specific demographic. These people will see geo-targeted ads, rather than determining probable consumer interest using proximity to a location.

This geo-targeting definition is fairly broad, as many strategies involve geo-targeting advertising. Let’s take an in-depth look at some of these.

Geo-Targeting vs. Geofencing

Geofencing is another geo-marketing strategy but is tailored to a far more selective area than geo-marketed ads. The main difference between geo-targeting vs. geofencing is that geofencing specifies a “barrier” around a certain area. This strategy is used in areas like:

Stadia: This strategy would market a product to an audience in an area like a sports venue. Geofencing sometimes uses its audience’s GPS location as opposed to IP address for relevance.

Colleges: Pretend you’re advertising a coffee shop that offers student discounts. You might decide that when considering the benefits of geo-targeting vs. geofencing, the latter is the better option. This would help attract visiting students as well as those living on campus.

The benefits of geo-targeting vs. geofencing depend on your business, and the strategies can be complementary. The best advice is to consult with a digital marketing agency that specializes in paid media to learn which would best suit your business.

How to Use Geo-Targeting on Search Engines

Below, we’ll cover a few techniques for using geo-targeted ads to reach your customer base. The effectiveness of these depends on what type of business you run. Check out some examples of the kinds of businesses that could benefit from each type of geo-targeting advertising.

1. Radius Marketing

You can use this geo-targeting definition to target potential customers within an area defined by radius. The minimum radius for geo-targeted ads on search engines is 1 mile, with a maximum limit of 500 miles. This makes it an excellent marketing tool for advertising to a large area such as a state or city.

geo-targeting by county

Examples of businesses that could benefit from radius marketing are:

Location-based services: Say you operate a business that provides services such as roof repair or HVAC installation. You’ll want to target a large area to increase your customer base. Radius marketing for many location-based services also has the advantage that you don’t need to be too specific when defining your audience, as many people could need these services at one point or another.

Community colleges and other local educational institutions: Geo-targeted ads using radius marketing can increase the reach of your institution. This helps you to draw prospective students from a wide base, including students who may not have considered your institution otherwise because of distance.

2. ZIP Code Targeting

ZIP code targeting is similar to radius marketing but works off a ZIP code rather than a broad radius. This strategy has advantages for some campaigns over defining your audience within a radius because people outside the ZIP code may not be eligible for what you’re promoting.

Here are some examples of campaigns that could benefit from this technique:

Businesses selling luxury goods: ZIP code targeting allows you to choose a neighborhood based on factors such as average income or demographics. This strategy is valuable for businesses selling luxury goods such as sports cars or high-fashion clothing. It allows you to save money on marketing compared to aiming at a broader, less well-defined area.

Political campaigns: When you know which voters you need to focus on for any type of political campaign, it’s extremely useful to market by ZIP code. You can use ZIP code targeting combined with geo-targeted search engine marketing to tailor your campaign to the voters you wish to attract, which has long been the goal of political marketing campaigns.

3. Intent Targeting

This form of marketing specifically pinpoints potential customers with a history of searching for information relevant to your business. You can combine this strategy with location-based strategies for a highly effective campaign.

Businesses that could benefit from this strategy include:

Hospitality businesses. If the area that your business is located in sees numerous visitors from another location, you can aim your ads at individuals in the other location with a search history that suggests interest in your area. For example, a lakeside hotel in a beauty spot like the Rocky Mountain National Park might set up an intent-targeted campaign aimed at residents of a nearby city such as Denver who had recently searched for accommodation in the area.

Touring businesses. Whether you’re a performing artist looking to sell out venues or a business traveling to showcase its products, you can use intent targeting to alert locals to your presence. Aiming your ads at people who search for local results in your industry is a great way to increase your visibility and conversions, especially if you’re not so well-known.

4. Location Extensions

This strategy allows you to display information about your business in your geo-targeted ads. This strategy is extremely effective, as it makes it easy for your audience to locate you. And, location-based searches usually have insanely high conversion rates.

Brick-and-mortar businesses that rely on foot traffic to generate sales can make great use of this strategy. For example:

Cafés and restaurants. By clearly displaying your shop’s location in an ad, you make locals aware of how close you are to them. Restaurants are frequently oversaturated in big cities, and the volume of choice makes customers indecisive. Being the first business to provide a location could easily be the information that converts a searcher into a customer.

Service businesses like car garages. Service industries where the customer won’t have a high level of expertise can benefit from local extensions because the customer isn’t likely to make a highly informed choice.

Geo-Targeting Search Engine Marketing (SEM) — Best Practices

In addition to the variety of geo-targeting advertising styles you can use, you should know how geo-targeting SEM works before placing your ad. Using geo-targeting SEM best practices is important because, without good SEM, your ad may not appear to the target audience most likely to follow through with a purchase.

The rules you should follow when working out your geo-targeting SEM strategy tend to be as follows:

Conduct thorough keyword research: Ideally, you should work with a digital marketing agency that specializes in geo-targeting to perform extensive keyword research. You can understand how important this is by considering location-based services such as health and home service businesses. Keyword research can reveal the most popular search terms locals use (e.g., “restaurants South Minneapolis” vs. “restaurants Burnsville”), and you can change your geo-targeting paid search strategy to reflect this.

Keyword research for search volume and cpc

Answer questions: Your ads should address the information need of the searcher and provide the strongest possible indication that you can answer that information need. You should emphasize that clicking through will provide a simple solution to a well-defined problem.

answer questions with your ads

Know your priorities: Sometimes, your ad should emphasize your location(s) (such as in the location-based services marketing example above). However, remember that the point of these ads is to reach users in a certain location rather than talk to them about it. You may not need to discuss the location too much, but rather focus on the good or service you’re selling. Wording space is limited in ads, and you should consider the information needs of the user and focus on the most relevant area.

Keyword research is almost always the most important part of geo-targeting digital marketing campaigns. As keyword research is highly technical, we recommend working with a digital agency that specializes in SEO and Paid Search/Social to perform keyword research and enable your ads to find an audience that will convert into sales.

Geo-Targeting on Facebook

Geo-targeting on Facebook can be a very effective strategy. The platform allows you to target ads in various ways and the options are fairly clear, but you should have clearly defined goals before you attempt this strategy on Facebook.

This approach is slightly different from search engine geo-targeting. We recommend consulting with an agency that will inform you of the most effective parameters for any campaign that implements this strategy on Facebook. This will allow you to understand what parts of your audience are most likely to engage with your advertising and click through to drive sales.

Below, you can check out an overview of how this strategy works on Facebook:

1. Choosing Your Audience

You can choose your audience based on their relationship with the location you’re advertising to. The options are:

All users in this location: Under this default option, your ads will reach everyone in a location during your campaign, regardless of whether they’re residents or visitors.

People who live here: This option is aimed exclusively at people who live in the area you’re targeting. It’s the preferred choice for location-based services (e.g., creating ads for mold remediation services). It’s also ideal for many retail businesses, such as garden centers and DIY stores.

People who have recently been here: This category includes people who live in a location and people whose most recent location data is in the area. It’s perfect for hospitality businesses such as restaurants or cafés, which want to attract both locals and tourists to their businesses.

People traveling in the area: This option only includes people located over 125 miles from their home location. It’s a great option for businesses like hotels, whose clientele will largely consist of remote travelers.

2. Choosing Your Location

You may define your location by several parameters. The basics include state, county, and ZIP code. However, there are other options available:


-Designated Marketing Area

-Business Address

These are excellent refinements for geo-targeting on Facebook, enabling you to be as specific as you want to depend on the nature of your business.

3. Business Locations Targeting

This option will allow your ads to appear to an audience within a set proximity of your business. This strategy is especially useful for retail businesses and hospitality businesses like cafés that rely on incidental footfall.

Geo-targeting on Facebook is an extremely effective way to drive conversions. Still, it’s best to consult with an SEO agency before you begin your campaign if you want to get the most out of your marketing strategy.

Geo-Targeting Can Help Your Local Business Get Leads!

So what is geo-targeting? It’s knowing where your audience will be and who you need to reach. It’s also knowing the message they want to see as potential customers and putting it in front of them.

Geo-targeting is a strategy that needs to be executed for any local business that also has a website. What does it matter if you operate in Charlotte, North Carlina, and rank nationally for a term that pulls traffic from California and Colorado? Nothing. 

Your website traffic will spike with unqualified traffic that will most likely bounce and definitely not convert.

Understanding how geo-targeted ads can help drive conversions up is essential before you start assembling a strategy. In any case, it’s always best to work with professionals who can perfect your geo-targeting and ads to maximize the effectiveness of your campaign.

We can help you with setting up geo-targeted campaigns. Reach out to learn more!