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Google AdWords

The Complete Guide to AdWords Location Targeting: Setup, Strategies, and Best Practices

There’s a time and place for everything.

Like taking a selfie, for example. It’s okay when you’re backpacking around the world.


…but not okay when you’re standing in front of an oncoming train.



The same thing applies to Google AdWords. Geotargeting puts ads in front of the right audience at the right place and the right time.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover:

What is Geotargeting?

Geographic targeting, or geotargeting for short, allows you to pick and choose where to place your ads based on zip code, place of interest, tourist destination, countries, and more.

Why target by Geographical Location?

Let’s say you’re opening up a chain of vegan taco shacks. You can target your customers within a 5-mile radius of each restaurant and serve ads that offer a discount to get your hungry neighbors through the door.

But wait – there’s more!

You can take it a step further because targeting based on geographical location helps you reach audiences of different demographics, interests, income levels, and wants and needs.

What are the types of Geographical Targeting?

Radius of Location


Enter a zipcode, city name, or destination name and set a radius you want to reach. You should use this when you own a physical business and want foot traffic of people in the area, or if you deliver to a certain radius around your neighborhood.



You can target entire countries that are relevant to your business. When selling products, tailor your messaging to audiences in different countries by advertising your worldwide shipping or international business offerings.

Areas Within Countries


Go even more granular by targeting TV regions, airports, cities, departments, municipalities and more. Additionally, personalize your ad copy by using the names of the cities and towns you’re targeting for higher conversion rate opportunities.

We cover more of these in detail below.

How to See Where Your Ads Are Being Shown Geographically

If you’re already running ads, you can see where your ads are being shown and the performance of them by location. This helps identify where your customers are and what locations they are showing interest in. Here’s how:

  1. Click on Campaign
  2. Click on Settings
  3. Click on Locations
  4. Below the graph, click on “view location reports”
  5. Select “Where your users were” in the drop-down menu. This defaults to a country level.
  6. Click “Select View” drop down menu to filter by location category

plain big blog smart tip - google adwords - location bid optimization

If you need more help, we’ve put together this video to help you out.

How do you set up Location Bidding?

  1. Open AdWords
  2. Click Campaigns
  3. Select your campaign
  4. Click Settings
  5. Click edit
  6. Enter the name of are you are targeting
    1. You can enter the postal code or country name
    2. When entering a city name, be sure to specify the country as well
  7. Click add
  8. Click save
  9. Do the hokey pokey

Set Location Targeting for Multiple Locations

  1. Open AdWords
  2. Select your Campaign
  3. Select Keywords and Targeting
  4. Select Location
  5. Click make multiple changes
  6. Under “destination” select My data includes columns for campaigns and/or ad groups or Use selected destinations.’
  7. Type your locations or paste your changes
  8. Click process
  9. Click continue and finish and review changes
  10. Click Keep


Exclude Geographic Locations

If your business does not serve a certain region or you just don’t want to advertise in a particular area, you can exclude geographic location individually or in bulk to save some coin.

For example, if you open up a fried chicken restaurant in New York City and you know there’s too much competition in the Lower East Side, you can exclude the Lower East Side and focus on the rest of the Manhattan instead.

Here’s how to exclude areas individually:

  1. Open AdWords
  2. Click Campaigns
  3. Select your campaign
  4. Click settings
  5. Click edit
  6. Type the area you’d like to exclude in search box or click advanced search
  7. Click done and click save

Here’s how to exclude areas in bulk:

  1. Open AdWords
  2. Click campaigns
  3. Select your campaign
  4. Click settings
  5. Click edit and click advanced search
  6. Click bulk locations
  7. Type or paste locations you’d like to exclude
    1. Up to 1000 locations
    2. One country at a time
  8. Click search
  9. Look over the matched results. If they’re all correct, click exclude all matched locations.
  10. Click done and hit save


Advanced Location Options

When targeting by location, AdWords offers three general options:

  1. Target using search intent: target areas that people are intentionally searching for
  2. Target using physical location: Refined setting where you can only reach people who are physically located in the targeted area
  3. Target using physical location and search intent: a combination of both options above

AdWords also offers two exclusion options:

  • People who showed interest in your excluded location
  • People in your excluded location



Best AdWords Geotargeting Strategies

Weather Based Advertising Using Google Scripts

My cravings for orange freeze pops is largely contingent on how hot it is outside and how profusely I’m sweating. In the same way, the weather is a powerful indicator of demand for products, services, and activities.

There’s an easy way to set this up by using Google Scripts and the OpenWeatherMap API. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create a weather-based targeting campaign.

Language Targeting

When targeting multiple locations, it’s important to create geographically relevant ads in the native language of the area you are targeting. Your shiniest and best-in-class product is not going to drive conversions if you send them an offer in a foreign language.

Google sets a default language for each Google domain, which you can target when creating your ads. For example, will automatically be set in Dutch and your ads will be shown if you check off the box to target the Dutch language.

However, if you create an ad in Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, and Thai, ads will be served to anyone searching these terms, regardless of which Google domain they are using.

Adding a Location Extension

Add your business’s address and phone number on your search or display ads for free.

This extra bit of real estate makes it easy to reach you, increases your quality score, and significantly heightens your chances for those coveted conversions.

Learn how to quickly set up your location ad extensions in our tutorial.

Target Commercial Areas

Whether it be a suburban strip mall or a corporate office park, you can target areas with heavy business activity. Go the extra mile by targeting all commercial areas within a certain region and layer it on top of your pre-existing targeting options.

Here’s a tutorial on how to quickly set up commercial area targeting.

Target Airports

Airports are becoming increasingly digital with ever improving WiFi services and even airport-specific apps where you can order your coffee ahead of time.

Targeting airports can prove to be a fruitful endeavor when promoting travel apps, ebooks, or even hotel services to this audience.

Here’s our guide on how to target airports in a jif.

Target by Income

Targeting by income is an effective way to build out customized landing pages for differently priced products and services.

If you own a dealership selling a variety of cars, build a landing featuring luxury cars for people with higher incomes and a landing page featuring mid-range sedans for people making a little less money.

Here’s our tutorial on how to set up and optimize income targeting.

Target College Students

Although the common perception of college students are kids ingesting sriracha, ramen, and cheap beer, college students have incredible purchasing power that will determine which brands will win over the next 25 years.

Here’s our tutorial on how to pounce on the opportunity to target college-aged Americans.

What is your Geotargeting Strategy?

Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to tweet us @AdHawk! We love hearing from you guys.

2 responses to “The Complete Guide to AdWords Location Targeting: Setup, Strategies, and Best Practices

  1. I’m looking at some geotargeting work around certain facilities, targeting people who are visiting them, or have entered the parking lot etc.. What’re your thoughts on that? How granular can the targeting become? Could I geo fence a parking lot?

    1. Hi Mac, thanks for stopping by. You can most definitely target certain facilities, but instead of geofencing, it’d have to be a certain mile radius. The granularity of location targeting really depends on how much data Google has and how dense that population is.

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About the Author

Journeyman of the wild wild west of Digital Advertising. Also doubling as an unofficial Taco Bell ambassador. Tweet at me @JonJmPark