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Challenge 4: Target Practice

Can you improve the aim of your online advertising campaign? Reach your #smallbiz customers using AdWords location targeting. 


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To help you get started, here are a few additional resources: 


Meet your coaches for Challenge 4 of the Small Biz Games. Google Small Business Advisors @Tierra W and @Colin Donohue are here to help you get on the right track. Have a question? Ask away! 


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Put your skills to the test by completing all of our #SmallBizGames challenges:

  1. Starting Line Challenge
  2. Ready-Set-Go Challenge
  3. Warm-Up Challenge 
  4. Target Practice Challenge
  5. Crowd Pleaser Challenge
  6. Going Pro Challenge
  7. Stats Challenge
  8. Judge's Score Challenge
  9. Marketing Heavyweight Challenge
  10. Strong Finish Challenge


Colin Donohue Badged Google Partner
August 2016

Thanks @DalilahA!  This is a great topic, and I look forward to hearing questions and experiences from small businesses and sharing ideas. 

As an Adwords consultant there are many (many, MANY!) things I see that people do wrong in their accounts, or that they could do better.  So this conversation is extremely important, and can make the difference between a profitable Adwords campaign, and a "crash and burn". 


The first and worst mistake I've seen is not setting location settings at all! 

While YOU may know the service area for your business, Adwords cannot know unless you specify it!   Sometimes people will leave their geographic targeting as the default "All Countries and Territories". 

no geo no money.PNGNo Targeting Means No Profit Usually

Colin Donohue Badged Google Partner
August 2016

The problem is that you may be targeting only US customers.  Or only customers in your state or city. 

Adwords is a global service.  If you don't tell it where you want your ads to show, they will show literally all around the world!!!

This is especially a problem as you may have $2 CPC (cost per click).  But if you don't set your location targeting, you may be serving ads to Uzbekistan.  The clicks may be $0.20 CPC and you may be really excited about ALL THE TRAFFIC you're getting.  But none of it will convert!  If you serve ads to customers who never will buy from you, you will waste pretty much all your money. 

The ads will serve to the $.20 market (depending on your settings) because it's the cheapest traffic, so you may never get a click in your target market. 

So what's to be done?  Target-Target-Target!  The more you focus your targeting, the greatest chance you have of hitting the bullseye! 

Colin Donohue Badged Google Partner
August 2016

So how best to target? 

There are several ways to target who sees your ads.  I strongly suggest you get to know them or pull in advice from someone who does.   I'll focus on geographic targeting as it's the most basic. 


Country, State (Province, etc.), City



This is the most straightforward targeting.  If you are in Ohio and only want to target Ohio customers as your service is focused in the state (for example legal services), you go to your settings and select "let me choose".  When you type words in the box it will give suggestions, and you pick which apply. 


let me choose.PNG

One interesting thing is when you choose a city, you have choices to make.  If you choose the actual city, you are selecting only what is in the political boundaries of the city.  Often many people live in suburbs around the city, so you may be well to target the DMA or Designated Market Area.  Often you want to look for, and select, these DMAs as they are really the greater metropolitan area, rather than just the city center


Note in this example, if you chose just "Columbus" rather than Columbus DMA you'd miss over a MILLION people in your city's market area. Many cities have much of their population outside the political limits of the city, so keep this in mind!  In Baltimore, the DMA has 140% more population than the "city" because of how political lines are drawn, and the movement of wealthier families into the suburbs. 




Colin Donohue Badged Google Partner
August 2016

Finer Grain, Fabuluous Targeting


One of the things I love about working with Adwords is it really gives you a lot of tools to do your job well.  The deeper you dig, the more opportunity you find.  If you root your business deeper in good practice, you'll grow a healthy harvest. 

I will share some examples of finer-grain targeting but I suggest you go into your Adwords account and play with the "Let Me Choose" box and see what narrower locations are available to you.  

If you really want to geek out on this stuff, you can dig in HERE and dig into the data available. But warning, you may lose your amateur standing!  

In some regions (like the US) you can target specific Universities, Airports, neighborhoods and congressional districts.  It's powerful stuff.  
geo options.PNG


As an example, if you knew which areas of Baltimore you wanted to target, you could either specify the areas you want, or do bid modifiers (more on that later).

You can target people in the city limits.  Or the folks in Baltimore County which tends to be more suburban.  Want to target the downtown? You can! Target just that neighborhood!  Or want to focus on passangers at the BWI airport?  Sure!  Why not! 









Colin Donohue Badged Google Partner
August 2016 - last edited August 2016

Bump Up Your Bids for Best Prospects


Sometimes you find you don't want to exclude locations, but you think you may get better sales from certain areas.  Maybe I have a store in the 10012 area code (wouldn't that be nice!  It's a client, not me).  I'm doing an "in-store" promotion and I want to attract customers.  So I target people on their mobile devices (maybe out running errands), and bid much higher for customers closer to my location.  If someone's 5 blocks away they are MUCH more likely to stop into the store than someone across-town.  

 geo local location blanked.png


So for folks in the zip code of the store I'm willing to bid much more, so I add  a "bid adjustment" of +300% which costs me $1.64.  For general traffic in NYC I'm OK with getting some traffic but only if it's cheap. So I bid it down -80% and am only paying $0.33/click. 

As you evolve your marketing you can see patterns, and bid more aggressively where you're making money, and reduce bids in areas where you're less profitable. 

Even for national campaigns, you can target certain zip codes for more aggressive marketing.  Typically I'll do this when clients have an existing client list.  We'll pick the top performing zip codes, and bid more aggressively there. 

If you monitor these things, your Adwords can be continually improved through time.  

Once you know areas where your prime customers are, you can be much more aggressive but still profitable. 

bid high win well.PNG

Colin Donohue Badged Google Partner
August 2016 - last edited August 2016

Can I Target by Income in Adwords?


This is a question that comes up a lot.   The answer is "yes and no".


Google values privacy, so does not collect personal information like income.  To be honest, many platforms ( not to name names, **cough**book) data like income is somewhat suspect.  

To allow general targeting of income groups, Google has developed targeting based on median income zip codes in the U.S..  So basically, you can easily target areas where people are at, above, or below the average income.  It is by zip code, so there is a lot of variation, but it's neat to be able to target at the zip code level for different decile. 

How Do I Do It?

First, "level up" your location targeting, and unlock the "Advanced" targeting tools. Select "Advanced Search" (note, things look different in different accounts sometimes)

advanced locations.PNG
Next selection "Location Groups" as the type of targeting you want to use, then "Demographics". 


This allows you to target by top 10%, next 10%, the 10% below that etc. with one category for below 50% median income. Select and add. Note, you need to indicate the country. Last I heard it was only available in the US. 

income tiers.PNG


It's important to keep in mind that "more income" doesn't mean they will be your most profitable customers.  You need to monitor, and optimize it over time. 

As a tool, though, it is incredibly useful. It's not practical to manually manage the 43,000 zip codes in the US. This tool allows you to manage groups already segmented by income.  Thanks Google! 



location demographic.PNG



Colin Donohue Badged Google Partner
August 2016

Running Rings 'Round Your Competition


A lot of the location targeting I've shared falls into the category of "advanced".  The main consideration is the basic targeting, but I know some folks have very specific needs, and will only succeed at Adwords if they really target the locations where their best customers are. This often can be the difference between a campaign that loses money and one that makes profit! 

Maybe I'm sharing too many "tricks of the trade" here, but I am a sucker for sharing information and helping people.   The last tool I'd share may be useful for folks who have physical locations.  It's Radius Targeting.  You literally can advertise to folks within a certain distance of your business.  

To use this, go to the Advanced Location Targeting we got to above, and instead of Location Groups you can use "Radius Targeting".  You choose a location you want to target around, and you can set a radius that is useful to you.  Does your average customer drive 30 miles to buy your service?  Set that radius.  Do your best customers come from the small 5 mile radius around your business?  Target a 5 mile radius! 

Do you serve customers from 100 mile radius but make more annual sales from folks who are closer as they stop in more? Set a 100 mile radius, but then bid adjust (see articles above) the closer circles.  Maybe 30 miles you want to bid 50% more, and 10 mile radius you want to bid 100% more (twice as much).  You run your campaign, monitor what is producing sales for you, and optimize as you go! 

Make sure you "Add" the location that you want.  Then hit "done" and you're good to go! 

A few more of the tricks up the marketer's sleeve are targeting airports, universities, congressional districts, and other designations. 

Like they say of Texas Holdem, Adwords "Takes minutes to learn, and a lifetime to master". 

Luckily, you just need to be good enough to make money, not be the best player in the world.  Only a few poker players win consistently, but by applying the tools Adwords offers and paying attention and optimizing, MANY business can make money on Adwords who did not at first.