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An Introduction to AdWords Geo Targeting


By:  MosheTLV and PPCBossman


We've found that by using proper targeting settings in AdWords, that are in line with advertising strategies, we gain greater control over our campaigns by only serving ads to relevant prospects and customers in the locations that we service.  


AdWords currently offers variety of targeting options. The major ones are: targeting by physical location, targeting by intent, targeting by languages, topics and audiences. In this article we will focus on targeting by location and targeting by intent.


Targeting by location:


Targeting by location is the basic targeting method. By using this targeting option, ads are shown to users who are physically located within a geographic area. You can set geographic areas by countries, regions, cities, and in the USA by zip codes. To "geo-target" - just draw a circle around the targeting area or select the targeted area from a list.

Caution: the primary method Google uses to target geo locations is an IP address. IP identification is not perfect in all regions: In some countries you can target only up to a region level, while in others up to city level. Check first how accurate geo targeting is in your country.



Targeting by Intent


Targeting by intent means that a user who runs a search for a product or a service, and includes a geographic modifier, will be shown ads on the service or the product in the specified location, even if they are physically located in a different area. AdWords analyzes the search query and recognizes that a user is looking for the service elsewhere. For example: if a user located in Philadelphia is searching for "tickets for concerts in London" he will be shown ads for booking tickets in London.


Can I target by more than one option?


Targeting by location and targeting by intent can be combined. This should be done with care. If your business does not provide service for out of area residents (e.g you are restricted by law to sell only to local residents), there is no value in targeting by intent. However, if you are in the tourist business, you definitely want those outside your area to see your ad, when they search on Google planing their trip.


What are exclusions?


Many advertisers keep asking what the exclusion option is used for? If targeting a specific region - does it mean that the rest of the country has to excluded?


No, if you target a specific area, there is no need to exclude the rest of the country. If your business covers the country, except one or two regions, you can then target the whole country, while excluding the regions you don't do business in. In short, exclusions are only needed to remove areas from within your targeted regions.


Notes on exclusions:


The same caution that is taken with targeting, should also be applied to exclusions. It's uncommon to find a business that needs to exclude by intent as most businesses would suffice by excluding geo-locations. For example, if you target the US and exclude by geo location Florida and California, those users who are in FL and CA will not see your ads. Now, let's think about a resident in Pennsylvania who might look for your business in Florida. He will get to see your ad, though he is in Pennsylvania looking for your business in Florida. - Is that bad? That depends on your business and your customer base. Some would see it as an opportunity for a new prospective client.


The best way to start:


  1. Map your targeting regions. Write down the geographic locations you want to target.
  2. If you target a large geographic area (e.g a country, some countries...) figure out if sub-regions - within the targeted area - should be excluded.
  3. Determine if targeting by intent would benefit your business: i.e; does it make sense that those outside your region see your ad, if they run a search on Google.

How to set up:


Once you have determined your desired targeting audience, it's time to set the targeting options correctly:

  • If you are a beginner in targeting, It would not be recommended to use the default setting that combines both targeting by location and targeting by intent.
  • If you target by location only - choose on the advanced targeting options : "People in your targeted location" (Remember : this is not the default)
  • If you target by intent :choose "People searching for or viewing pages about your targeted location". Only if you are certain that you want to target by both location and intent - chose the default setting.

To conclude: Targeting is a vital component to AdWords account setup and it is not always an easy task. In another WIKI we will discuss adding languages into the targeting scheme.


Learn more:

Help Center article on Targeting

Help Center article on Advanced Targeting

Another Advertiser's  Perspective on Location Targeting

about Moshe Avichai

We are an online advertising partnership, specializing in Search and Display networks, Global Campaigns, Audience targeting, and AdWords Policy

January 2013

I have a business in michigan don't want people to see my adds but I want other people in other states to see it.  how do I set up my adwords. also I can't get my dimension and geographic to work to see what locations people are clicking on my adds. I tried fire fox and google chrome I am getting a big red banner telling me to log out and refresh. I think the problem my be on my browser settings but not sure. thank you

MosheTLV Top Contributor
January 2013

Hi Denise(anon);

This is a tough one. The only setting I can think of is using advanced targeting:

  1. Target all states, and exclude your state;
  2. In advanced setting: check option #3: "people who search about my location".

Using this campaign targeting setting; only people outside your state, who search about your business in Michigan, will see the ad.


Monique Z
February 2017

Dear @MosheTLV,


Thanks for your detailed articles.  It is exactly what I was looking for.  Does targeting by intent still work? I tried it out and got clicks only in location specified.




MosheTLV Top Contributor
February 2017

@Monique Z;

Yes. Geo targeting by intent does work. I would recommend it only for small locations. For major locations / countries / states / provinces set the Geo  targeting using  location targeting in the campaign settings.

Andrej F
November - last edited November MosheTLV Top Contributor

Dear Moshe,


thanks for this comprehensive text, it's very useful. Me and my partner are setting up startup company in Thailand and would like to target only tourist in Thailand who speak English. It's possible to set up campaign which will show ad only to mentioned targeted audience?


Thanks a lot.


@Andrej F

The simple way would be to geo target users who are physically in Thailand  - option 2 in advanced Geo targeting -  and set the language targeted to English.