Geotargeting is the method of using location-based targeting to connect your audience with powerful, personalized messaging based on their region. We asked an expert for tips, tricks, and best practices.

Here you’ll find:

Companies using location-based technology see an 89% increase in consumer engagement across all channels. So it’s no wonder that so many businesses are implementing geotargeting in their campaigns.

Think of geotargeting like invisible fencing for a pet. It’s a way to keep your searches within a certain area by putting up invisible lines (aka Google Ads settings).

To reap the rewards that geotargeting offers, you need to have a firm grasp on its nuances. That’s exactly what this guide will help you do. 

 What is geotargeting?

Geotargeting is essentially location-based targeting. It’s a marketing strategy that involves delivering tailored content, advertisements, or other offers to people who are based in a specific geographic location. 

Geotargeting can work in a few ways, but typically, it relies on data from GPS coordinates, IP addresses, or Wi-Fi connections to determine the person’s location. 

Apps like Doordash and Uber Eats rely on self-reported real-time location while others use information from the GPS in your phone. Regardless of the way it’s reported, your geolocation can be used by a variety of advertising platforms, including Google and Facebook Ads. 

This audience-targeting approach helps you create highly relevant and localized messages for your target audience, which could increase engagement and conversion rates. 

 What is an example of geotargeting?

Here’s an example to help you better understand how geotargeting works.

Imagine you own a coffee chain with locations across the U.S. With geotargeting, you can send offers and promotions for your new seasonal iced coffee drink to people within a 10-mile radius of your stores during the hot summer months. 

Using geotargeting like this can be an essential booster in your local PPC campaigns

However, this is not the only type of business that can benefit from geotargeting. This type of targeting helps businesses ensure that their digital marketing efforts reach the right people at the right time and place, increasing the chances of conversion.

geotargeting example

 Geotargeting best practices: 5 strategies to success

To truly harness geotargeting’s full potential, you need to follow best practices. Here are some examples of how to implement the best strategies for geotargeting

1. Define clear objectives

Set specific goals for your geotargeting campaigns. Whether it’s increasing foot traffic to your store or driving online sales in a specific region, having these kinds of clear objectives will guide your strategy.

For example, suppose you’re a clothing retailer with both physical stores and an online presence. Your goal is to boost in-store sales in major cities. You can set a clear objective such as “Increase foot traffic by 20% in our New York and Los Angeles stores within three months.”

This will help you to keep your campaign focused on the right outcome and guide your decision-making. It will also give you a measurable goal to help you understand whether your campaign succeeded. 

2. Combine your audience segmentation

Location-based marketing focuses on segmenting your audience based on location. But also consider other factors like demographics and behavior to create highly personalized campaigns.

For example, a restaurant chain  might want to segment its audience based on location and dining preferences or favorite types of cuisine

3. Use geo-exclusion when necessary

In certain cases, it can be equally important to exclude certain locations from your campaigns as to include them. 

For example, if you offer a service that is only relevant to your target locations, such as snow removal, you will want to exclude certain areas that don’t get much snowfall. 

4. Stay compliant with regulations

Be aware of privacy and data protection regulations that govern geotargeting. 

Ensure you comply with laws such as GDPR (if you are targeting audiences in Europe) or CCPA (if you are targeting audiences in California) to protect user data.

5. Conduct A/B testing

Experiment with different messaging and offers to identify what resonates best with each location. A/B testing helps refine your approach over time.

For example, let’s say you run a travel agency and want to promote your vacation packages. Test two variations of your ad copy: one that highlights adventure activities for nature lovers and the other focusing on cultural experiences for urban travelers. 

You can then analyze the performance data to see which resonates better in specific locations and put more budget into the one that performs well while also benefiting from new audience insights. 

 Geotargeting vs. geofencing: What’s the difference?

Before we go into more detail about geotargeting, we first need to clear up a common misunderstanding. Geotargeting and geofencing are two terms that can sometimes be thrown around interchangeably. However, these are two different types of targeting. 

While geotargeting and geofencing share the common goal of targeting users based on their location, work in two different ways. 

Geotargeting targets users based on their broader geographic location, such as a city or region, and can encompass a wider area. HawkSEM’s SEM manager, Luca DelPiccolo, explains a bit more about what this means. 

“In geotargeting, ads are served to users based on a geographic location, such as a ZIP code or city,” he says.

DelPiccolo explains geofencing is more precise and involves creating a virtual “fence” around a specific location, like a store or event venue. When a user enters or exits this “fence,” they receive targeted messages or offers.

“Using geotargeting, you can choose a radius around cities or ZIP codes, but the minimum size of that radius is 1 mile,” he says. “That is why you would use geofencing to target one specific store.”

geotargeting map

Companies using location-based technology see an 89% increase in consumer engagement across all channels. (Image: Adobe Stock)

 What is geoadvertising?

Now that you know the difference between geotargeting and geofencing, let’s talk about another term that often comes up. Geoadvertising is another “geo” term thrown around in the digital advertising world.

So what exactly is geoadvertising, and how does it differ from geotargeting?

Well, geoadvertising is a subset of geotargeting. It focuses primarily on delivering location-based ads to users. 

Geoadvertising involves creating highly customized ads relevant to a user’s location. The intention is that this will increase the likelihood of engagement and conversion. 

Geoadvertising can be implemented through various channels, including display ads, social media advertising, and search engine marketing.

 What is geotargeting used for?

Geoadvertising is not the only way that geotargeting can be used. 

Geotargeting serves a variety of purposes for marketers. It allows you to refine your strategies and connect with your audience with personalized content. 

Here are some common ways that marketers use geotargeting

1. Localized marketing

If your business has multiple brick-and-mortar stores can use geotargeting to promote store-specific offers, events, and promotions. This will help you to drive foot traffic and increase sales at specific locations. 

Using the location targeting in whichever ads platform you’re using is essential to ensuring you only reach people who are in your target audience. For some local businesses, this could be as small as a few miles, and for others, as big as whole regions.

DelPiccolo encourages us to see that localized marketing isn’t just for local businesses, though. He says, “Any business can use geotargeting to their advantage by identifying geographic locations in which their businesses will see a greater return on spend.”

The example he gives is a flip-flop retailer targeting the coastal regions where performance might be better.

2. Event promotion

If you’re hosting an event, you can target potential attendees by geofencing the event venue. People in the area will receive real-time updates and exclusive offers, which can boost your event attendance.

3. Ecommerce personalization

Your online ecommerce platform can use geotargeting to display products and promotions relevant to a user’s location. This will enhance the shopping experience and increase conversion rates at your store.

4. Restaurant delivery services

A food delivery service can use geotargeting to display restaurants that deliver to a person’s location. This makes it more convenient for customers to order their favorite meals.

5. Travel and tourism

Geotargeting is a great tool for businesses in the travel industry. Hotels, airlines, and tour operators to target potential travelers with location-specific offers and recommendations.

 What are the benefits of geotargeting?

Geotargeting has a tonne of benefits for marketers looking to increase their marketing campaigns’ effectiveness

1. Greater relevance

By delivering relevant content tailored to a user’s location, geotargeting helps you deliver highly relevant marketing messages and capture the viewer’s attention which, in turn, should increase the likelihood of conversion.

2. Improved engagement

Location-based targeting increases user engagement by offering promotions or information that directly relates to their immediate surroundings or interests.

3. Increased conversions

Geotargeted ad campaigns often yield higher conversion rates as they target users who are more likely to take action due to their proximity or specific needs.

4. Cost efficiency

You can optimize your ad spend by focusing your resources on specific geographic areas where your target audience is most likely to be present.

5. Data insights

Geotargeting provides valuable data on user behavior and preferences based on location, allowing for more informed marketing decisions. 

“The benefits of geotargeting are that you can utilize specific consumer data like demographics, interests, and location,” DelPiccolo says. This is compared to geofencing, which “serves ads to anyone within the specific virtual boundary.”

 How does geotargeting work?

Understanding the mechanics of geotargeting is essential to make the most out of this powerful tool. Here’s a simple breakdown of how geotargeting works.

  • Data collection: Geotargeting uses data sources such as GPS coordinates, IP addresses, Wi-Fi connections, and user-provided location info from apps on mobile devices. Many customers will be able to be located through these sources, as 80% of consumers are willing to share location data with apps that provide a valuable service.
  • Data analysis: Algorithms analyze the collected data and determine a user’s location with a very high level of accuracy.
  • Audience segmentation: When a person’s location is confirmed, you can categorize them into relevant audience segments based on that location.
  • Content personalization: You create customized content, advertisements, or offers for each of your audience segments.
  • Content delivery: Your content is delivered through channels such as email, social media, mobile apps, or website display ads so that people receive messages relevant to their location.
  • Performance monitoring: After the content is delivered, you will monitor the performance of your geotargeted campaigns. You can then make adjustments as needed to increase ROI and conversions.

 5 common mistakes to avoid with your geotargeting

Now, we’ve covered five strategies that you should be implementing. Let’s look at the ones you should avoid. 

It’s essential to avoid the common pitfalls of geotargeting to make sure you don’t waste your campaign dollars.

Here are some mistakes to avoid and how to fix them.

1. Overlooking data accuracy

Mistake: Relying on outdated or inaccurate location data can result in ineffective targeting.

Have you ever taken a vacation to Cancun, Mexico, and continued to get ads for restaurants in the city weeks after you returned home? Well, that’s exactly what you want to avoid. 

Solution: Regularly update your location databases and ensure data accuracy by using reputable sources.

2. Neglecting your audience segmentation

Mistake: Failure to segment your audience based on specific locations and being too wide in your targeting can lead to generic messaging that doesn’t resonate. Focus on user experience rather than blanketing your audiences with a broad message.

Solution: Create distinct audience segments based on geographic criteria and personalize your content accordingly.

3. Having poor timing 

Mistake: Timing is crucial in geotargeting. Sending location-specific promotions at the wrong time can miss the mark. 

For example, let’s say you sell winter clothing and you have a new line to promote for the coming winter. You launch your geotargeting campaign for a region that experiences harsh, snowy winters in early September. 

At this time, your target region is still experiencing warm late summer weather. Your campaign showcases cozy coats, scarves, and gloves, but potential customers in those areas find your messages irrelevant and even off-putting.

Solution: Analyze your audience’s behavior and preferences and regional specificities such as weather events and holidays to determine the best times to deliver messages and offers.

4.  Overlooking competitive analysis

Mistake: Neglecting to analyze your competitors’ geotargeting strategies can put you at a disadvantage and lead to missed opportunities.

For example, if you’re a real estate agency operating in a competitive market, your competitors could be running successful geotargeting campaigns to capture leads in specific neighborhoods. 

You may miss out on potential leads and opportunities if you don’t monitor and analyze their strategies.

Solution: Regularly monitor your competitors’ geotargeted campaigns. Analyze their messaging, offers, and audience segments to identify areas where you can differentiate and improve your campaigns.

5. Having inadequate message localization

Mistake: Translating content without considering local dialects, idioms, or colloquialisms can lead to misunderstandings and make your messaging feel out of touch.

If you run campaigns for an international business, you will need to think about how your audiences in different regions speak. For example, if you launching a geotargeted campaign in English-speaking countries, you may think you can keep the campaign the same in each one. 

However, what is considered acceptable terminology or phrasing can vary significantly between regions such as New York, London, and Sydney.

Solution: Invest in proper content localization by engaging native speakers or localization experts who can adapt your messaging to align with the local language.

The takeaway

Geotargeting is a highly effective marketing strategy that will empower your businesses to engage your audience on a local level. 

When you deliver personalized content and offers based on a user’s location, you can enhance the relevance of that campaign, boost engagement, foster customer loyalty, and increase conversions. 

However, to make the most of geotargeting, following best practices such as defining clear goals and using A/B testing is crucial. It’s also important to avoid common mistakes, such as being too generic and not customizing your content for the local language. 

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