Targeting Intent in Adwords

Targeting used to be simple. If I wanted to hit it, all I needed to do was see it, take aim and boom. Target hit! Every time. Ok, maybe not every time. I am in advertising and not professional athlete so that probably says something. However, I’m surprised at how quickly something that used to be so simple has become so complex.

A couple of months ago one of my clients who only serves the greater Northwest started receiving a lot of traffic from outside the region. People from Texas, Florida, New York all started calling and filling out their forms en mass. It was really quite perplexing as the account had been running for years without this issue and we hadn’t changed any of our Google geo targeting settings.

When we investigated further we discovered that the visitors were typing in terms that we had in our campaigns (duh) that were triggering our ads even though they were outside of our geo targeted area. “Wha?” I asked myself being a proud English major. I had always thought that if you were outside of a targeted area, then you wouldn’t see ads that weren’t targeted to you. Ah, but here is the kicker. These visitors were using location modifiers that were still triggering our ads! For example, “Seattle mortgage” or “Spokane home financing” would both show our ads in Florida because they were using keywords that indicated a geographical preference that was inside our targeted area so it didn’t matter where they were actually sitting when they typed that in. And this makes sense. If I’m in Seattle (which I am) and I’m looking for a hotel in Hawaii (I wish), then I would expect to see ads for hotels in that area.

Ok, so not only do I need to worry about just targeting my ads to specific areas that my client serviced, I now needed to concern myself with the intent of the searcher!? Oi, this is getting complicated!

So how do I get people outside of our region to stop seeing our ads even if they use keywords indicating their interest in this area (strange I know, but when my client called them they really weren’t interested in a mortgage in Seattle even if they had typed that in)? We thought about adding “Seattle” or “Spokane” to our negative keyword list, but then you would be cutting off a lot of legitimate traffic as well. We also looked at excluding people based on their IP address, something that is a lot harder than it sounds since many people have IPs that have a location nowhere near to where they actually live (hello AOL, my old friend.) So, we are back where we started.

Luckily, there is an app for that. Ok, not an app. It is more of a setting, but setting just doesn’t have the same ring to it… So, in Adwords on the Settings tab click on the Advanced Location Options under the Location and Languages section. This brings up Targeting and Exclusion methods. From here you will have several options of either including or excluding visitors based on their physical location and/or search intent. Here is a picture of what I’m talking about:

Adwords Advanced Targeting

Here is where you’ll find more advanced targeting in Google Adwords

So, now you know you have some options other than just geo targeting to consider. And knowing is half the battle. If you ever find out what the other half is, I would really like to know. It has been bugging me since I was a kid.

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