Google Ads Location Targeting: Complete Guide & Best Practices

You’ve heard the phrase “location is key”, and this applies to advertising on Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) as well. Location targeting, or geotargeting, is a way for you to define exactly which geographical location(s) you want to show or hide your ads.

But it’s not as simple as that. By fully utilizing this feature based on your data, you can maximize the return on ad spend while reducing any budget waste.

For example, you may see impressions or clicks from outside of your targeted locations. It’s not that your ads aren’t working properly. There are various settings and options you can choose to make sure your ads do not show there anymore. We’ll go over that in a bit.

This guide will start with the basics of location targeting and walk you through how to fully take advantage of it.

Feel free to jump through sections using the table of contents below.

Table of Contents

What is Location Targeting or Geotargeting?
What are the location targeting options?
What is physical location vs. location of interest?
How to include target locations in Google Ads
How to exclude target locations in Google Ads
How to use location bid adjustments
Location targeting for local business PPC
How to pull data reports on your location targeting performance
Google Ads location targeting best practices

What is Location Targeting or Geotargeting?

Google Ads allows advertisers to select specific geographic location(s) to target or avoid. By either including or excluding certain locations, you’re telling Google exactly where they are showing or hiding your ads.

Location targeting is just as important as having a good ad copy, landing page, or bid because your campaign can’t perform well if you’re showing up in irrelevant locations where you can’t provide your products or services. Or your campaigns may not be as profitable if you’re targeting locations where those audiences are less likely to convert.

Because your location targeting strategy may be different from other advertisers, you need to select the right locations to target, location settings and options on your campaigns.

Whether you’re a small local brick-and-mortar boutique store or an e-commerce shipping nationwide, location targeting is relevant and worth spending time on.

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What are the location targeting options?

In terms of Google Ads, a “location” is defined as any country, areas within a country, a radius around a location, or location groups.


Google Ads Location Targeting country

You may target an entire country. It’s best if you use one campaign for every pair of country and language.

For example, although both the US and the UK speak English, you should have two separate campaigns for each country. And if you’re targeting two languages in the same country, that should also be two separate campaigns.

This option is ideal for anyone selling or servicing nationwide.

Areas within a country:

Google Ads Location Targeting Areas within a country

This can be any area within a country which may include states, provinces, regions, cities, etc.

For example, if you’re only servicing Southern California or targeting a few western states to advertise to, you can either target a set of zip codes you service or the states you’re trying to reach.

This option is ideal for any business that’s not targeting the entire country but a wider area than a simple radius from specific locations.

Radius around a location:

Google Ads Location Targeting Radius around a location

This is for any business targeting people in a close proximity to their physical business location(s).

 You may enter a business name, address, or coordinates and specify how far you want the radius to cover.

For example, if you have a brick-and-mortar store, you can reach more people by using the radius around your shop so people that are accessible to your location can see your ads.

This option is ideal for any business with a physical location looking to bring in foot traffic or requiring customers to come in.

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What is physical location vs. location of interest?

While setting up the location targeting, there is one very important step that is often missed.

In the earlier example of your campaign still getting impressions and clicks from outside of your targeted locations that lead you to believe that your location targeting is not working, you may have a gap here.

When you create a new campaign or in your existing Campaign Settings, you’ll see a Locations section.

Google Ads Location Targeting Target options, physical location vs. location of interest

Under “Target” is where you choose between physical location and location of interest.

People in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations

This is Google’s default and recommended choice.

This option includes all people that are not only physically in your targeted locations but also interested in those locations.

For example, if someone is in Canada but often searches about the US, then he/she would see your ads targeting only the US with this option selected. If your business only ships to the US states, this person is considered irrelevant.

People in or regularly in your targeted locations

This targets people that are physically in the targeted location at the time of the search or on a regular basis. 

If you do not wish to advertise to anyone outside of your service area, then this would be the ideal option.

People searching for your targeted locations

This is for businesses that are only targeting people that are searching for the targeted locations regardless of where they’re physically located.

Travel-related businesses, for example, would want to select this option as their customers can come from anywhere.

Depending on the nature of your business and your target audience, targeting the physical locations or locations of interest can be a huge difference in performance and cost.

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How to include target locations in Google Ads

This is where you’ll include all locations you’re targeting.

You may use the location name, address, state, county, district, zip codes, and etc. See Google’s location target types by country.

In your campaign, go to Locations, then Targeted tab.

Click the pencil icon.

Click Select for all locations you want to include.

If you have more than a handful or have a list of locations readily available, you can use the Add locations in bulk option to copy/paste the list. Click Search to see your available options.

In the results, click Target for each location or Target All to add. 

Google Ads Location Targeting How to include target locations

For the Radius option, enter the location name, address, state, county, district, or zip codes and specify how big you want the radius to be. Click Target to add each location.

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How to exclude target locations in Google Ads

This will allow you to specifically exclude certain locations from showing your ads.

For example, if you are targeting Nevada but do not wish to advertise in Las Vegas, you’ll exclude that location here.

In your campaign, go to Locations, then Excluded tab.

Click the pencil icon.

Using the same methodology as when adding target locations, enter all locations you’d wish to exclude. Click Exclude on each location to confirm.

To do this in bulk, click Add locations in bulk and enter all locations to exclude. Click Search to see your available options.

In the results, click Exclude for each location or Exclude All to confirm.

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How to use location bid adjustments

Location targeting isn’t just including or excluding locations. If this is your only purpose, then you’re totally missing out.

Google allows bid adjustments on your targeted locations on a campaign level to enable specific locations to become more or less competitive by increasing or lowering your bid by a percentage between -90% and +900%.

Location bid adjustments are useful to maximize on your best performing locations and reduce wasted ad spend on the worst locations.

There are, however, cases where location bid adjustments may not make sense.

  • If you don’t have enough data to determine what’s working or not
  • When you have no or low competition and you have good results already

To calculate your location bid modifier, you can use the following formula:

((Avg. campaign CPA / target location CPA) – 1)*100

For example, if your campaign average CPA is $50 (assuming this is under your acceptable CPA) and your CPA for California is $30, then (($50/$30)-1)*100=67% bid modifier for California.

This means that your ads targeting California will bid 67% higher than your current bid, allowing you to become more competitive while still staying within your acceptable CPA range.

Warning! When using location bid adjustments, keep in mind other bid adjustments, such as device bid adjustment and ad schedule bid adjustments, will be added on top of each other.

One of the location targeting best practices is to prepare your campaigns by initially adding all potential locations you may be adjusting bids for. This helps you save time going back and forth between reports and bid adjustments.

For example, if you’re targeting the entire US, add all 50 states ahead of time when setting up your campaign to help you easily review the data and easily make adjustments. If you’re targeting only the city of LA, you can add all zip codes ahead of time for the same reason.

The lists of states, cities, or zip codes can be easily found on Google to be copy/pasted in bulk.

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Location targeting for local business PPC

It’s worth covering a separate section just for local businesses with a physical location where they have customers coming in to purchase their products or services.

For most local businesses, the location setting should be set to People in or regularly in your targeted locations only.

Even if some of your customers travel far to buy from you, you won’t be able to maximize your ad spend targeting a much wider audience that are simply interested in your area.

Also, since you most likely will have the majority of your conversions from Google Ads coming from nearby areas, it’s important to have the following:

  • Ideally radius targeting
  • Location extension with Google My Business account linked
  • Call extension with a call tracking
  • Mobile device targeting

These will help you reach more relevant people that are within a reasonable distance so if they’re interested, they can easily find you through location extension.

Creating landing pages and text ads that include your location (i.e Quick Oil Change in Anaheim) will help making your ads more relevant, increasing your Quality Score, leading to lower cost and better ad positions, not to mention better ad experience for potential customers because they know exactly what they’re looking at.

Google offers a service called call reporting which uses their forwarding numbers to help you measure and track your phone calls made via Google search ads. If you don’t use this feature, there are also other third-party call tracking services available.

Keep in mind a lot of this article still applies to local business PPC. Be sure to look at your location reports, make adjustments to your bids, and continue testing and optimizing your ads and landing pages to get the most out of your budget.

If you’re a local service provider, such as roofing, lawn care, or mobile grooming, then you may also consider targeting specific zip codes you service with a call extension.

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How to pull data reports on your location targeting performance

If you already have a campaign running, you may have gathered data on your location targeting performance already.

Using your own data to make decisions on your location settings and location targeting bid adjustments is the right way to manage your account.

The following reports can help you determine which location settings to choose and how to make location targeting bid adjustment properly.

Geographic report & User Location report

These two reports are found under Locations -> Geographic Report tab.

Geographic report shows data on your audience’s physical location or their location of interest.

User location report shows data on your audience’s actual physical location only.

If your location setting is targeting both physical location and location of interest, comparing these two reports will help you determine if that’s the best option.

Distance report

Found under Reports -> Predefined reports (Dimensions) -> Locations -> Distance, distance report shows the distance range between where your ad was triggered/shown and your business location (the closest business location if you have multiple).

If you have radius targeting or location extension, this will help you see generally how far your potential customers are from your location when they saw your ad. You can use this information to determine your radius distance so that you’re covering just enough area to reach as many people as possible without overspending.

Besides the reports that are available from Google Ads, don’t forget to cross-reference your other first-party data to verify.

Your POS, CRM, or any internal database you have that indicate your customers’ locations will also add value when used together with your Google Ads report.

If you identify any new location that might be of value, be sure to roll it out small to test your theory.

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Google Ads location targeting best practices

To wrap up this guide, I’m including the summary of the best practices to help you take full advantage of Google Ads location targeting.

  • Keep one county and language pair per campaign
  • Use the right type of location targeting: Country, Areas within a country, or Radius around a location
  • Add all locations you may want to adjust bids for down the road (i.e adding all 50 states if targeting the US or adding all major cities in the state if targeting only California.)
  • Choose the right type of people you’re targeting: People in your targeted location, people searching for your targeted location, or both
  • Use location bid adjustments to maximize best-performing locations and minimize worst-performing locations
  • You don’t need to use location bid adjustments if 1. you don’t have enough data, or 2. you have no to low competition and you have good results
  • Use a formula to calculate your location bid modifier: ((Avg. campaign CPA / target location CPA) – 1)*100
  • For any local business with a physical location, create and use your Google My Business account to link your location, and add a location and call extensions
  • If you want to measure your calls made from Google search ads, use call reporting or other call tracking service
  • Utilize geographic report, user location report, and distance report to locate where you’re receiving impressions, clicks, and conversions
  • Cross reference your first-party database, such as POS or CRM
  • When you identify a new potential location to target, start small and test before rolling it out

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