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For anyone using geo-targeting; There is a problem.

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# 1
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Sorry in advance if this gets a little winded.  If you are using geo-targeting, there is a problem in AdWords that may deliver your ad to the wrong target.  I have identified the problem to Google, worked with their team members to replicate it and spoke with a manager-level rep as to what may be done about it.  Long story short, Google acknowledges that their algorithm change can adversely affect some geo-targeting campaigns.  They do not plan on doing anything about it unless it is determined that it affects a larger audience.  I am posting to make people aware of the problem which will hopefully lead to some sort of correction.

 

Here's how it my account.  I have a campaign set up for every state in the continental U.S.  Under Location Options (advanced), I have  "People in, searching for, or viewing pages about my targeted location" selected for each state campaign.  I have each state selected as the target area and I do not exclude anyone.  These campaigns have been set-up for nearly 4 years and have run without issues.  I check to make sure their geo-targeting is working by using Ad Preview or I VPN to a certain state and do a search for my keyword.  

 

Around the beginning of October, I was checking to make sure my Utah campaign was running correctly.  I typed in "utah Keyword" and was delivered the ad for the state I am located in (Missouri).  I then used a VPN connection to show my location as Utah and searched for 'Utah Keyword" and "Keyword."  Both pulled up the Utah ad correctly.  I also searched for "New York Keyword" from Missouri and it worked as it should.  I checked every state campaign and about 20% didn't work correctly.  All campaigns use the exact same location settings and keyword variants.

For some reason, search intent (People searching for) is not working correctly.  Search intent should always trump the user's location and in the past, it always has.  For example, if you are in Boston and you want to look for a NYC cab company, you do not want to see ads for Boston cabs.  

I contacted Google and sent them some screenshots.  The Google contact was puzzled at first and admitted that the results didn't look right.  He met with the tech team and asked for more screen shots.  This went on for about 10 days, 25 emails and 5 phone calls.  At the end, Google said this was an intentional change in their algorithm and that it was intended to give better results.  They admitted that it didn't work for my campaigns because they were very granular (specific).  I can't imagine my campaigns, which target at the state level, are even half as granular as campaigns targeting specific cities, counties or DMAs.

If you are geo-targeting and you have campaigns where intent should trump location, you may want to test your ads.  I have found that in addition to our campaigns for environmental training, it also affects a friend's campaign for plastic surgery and medical spas.  Type in "laser hair removal los angeles" and see if you get a local ad (to you) in the mix of the L.A. ads (which should be there).  

I have seen higher impressions, lower CTR and higher bounce rate since these changes occurred.  I figured out that if I change some of my main keywords to broad-match modified (in lieu of phrase match), I can beat the algorithm change in most cases.  Why?  I have no idea and neither did the rep from Google.

Google essentially took away some of the control we had with our location settings.  They readily admitted that the new algorithm change would "decide" if intent should trump search location.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work in all cases.  Please ensure your geo-targeting is working correctly and raise your voice if it is not.  

 

2 Expert replyverified_user

Re: For anyone using geo-targeting; There is a problem.

Top Contributor
# 2
Top Contributor

So, can you" pinpoint" the issue:

  1. Are you saying that targeting by intent is not always working when Geo targeting at a state level?
  2. What was the reason given by Google?
Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
Did you find any helpful responses or answers to your query? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer’

Re: For anyone using geo-targeting; There is a problem.

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# 3
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1. Targeting by intent is not always working at the state level with my campaigns. My friend has an account (mentioned above) that targets at the city level for plastic surgery. Targeting by intent is not working for this campaign either.
2. They said the algorithm change weighs both intent and location and decides based on numerous factors including search history. Previous to the change, search intent would always take precedence. Now, it is sporadic. It wouldn't be so bad if it was constant. I could work with that. For my campaigns, it affects some states and not others. And some cities within the state act differently as well. For example, "Buffalo New York Keyword" should pull up the New York ad based on my settings. And it did. But if you type in "Syracuse New York Keyword" it would not pull up the New York ad. It would pull up the ad for the state from where I was searching.

Re: For anyone using geo-targeting; There is a problem.

[ Edited ]
Top Contributor
# 4
Top Contributor

OK; Let me escalate the case to a Google's Geo targeting specialist to comment.

Please remind me if we don't get an answer within a week

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
Did you find any helpful responses or answers to your query? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer’

Re: For anyone using geo-targeting; There is a problem.

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# 5
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Just a friendly reminder to see if you heard anything from the geo targeting specialist.

Re: For anyone using geo-targeting; There is a problem.

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 6
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Did you get an answer to that? Acutally i can see similiar behavour on a higher Level (Country Targeting).
For example i can see French Ads in Italy and also Italian Ads in France (at least sometimes)
This didn't happened before (we already use Modified Broad Match) but since Janaury i can see this behaviour sometimes.

We excluded the regions and with that it stopped but im curious why it happened anyway.

Re: For anyone using geo-targeting; There is a problem.

[ Edited ]
Follower ✭ ☆ ☆
# 7
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No, I never received an answer. I love using AdWords, but this is a big set-back
for people using geo-targeting. Most people just don't realize there's
a problem because it's inconsistent.
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Re: For anyone using geo-targeting; There is a problem.

Top Contributor
# 8
Top Contributor
I escalated the topic again to a specialist.
Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
Did you find any helpful responses or answers to your query? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer’

Re: For anyone using geo-targeting; There is a problem.

Google Employee
# 9
Google Employee
Moshe,

Thanks for escalating this topic. I've asked our AdWords Support team to follow-up with the Community member on this issue. Please expect to be contacted shortly by a specialist.

Re: For anyone using geo-targeting; There is a problem.

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 10
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
Hi John,

is there an Update on that?