What is Geotargeting?

a map with pinned locations.

In the time between first connecting to the internet and finding your way to this article, you likely have been the subject of geotargeting. But what is geotargeting, how does geotargeting work, and how is it transforming digital marketing?

a map with pinned locations.

Geotargeting definition

Geotargeting is a marketing strategy that identifies potential customers based on their physical locations. In other words, if two users perform the same search on the internet, they may receive different results or see different ads relevant to their locations. Marketers employ this strategy for several reasons, but principally because it drives conversions, or the number of users who engage with their content. Geotargeting is also sometimes called “local PPC” (pay-per-click) advertising because it allows advertisers to reach those searching for their products who are already in the area.

Examples of geotargeting

With 95% of global companies already using geotargeting in their marketing strategies, according to a report by the Location Based Marketing Association, you may be surprised by the extent of this type of marketing already in use. Examples include:

  • Targeted web advertisements for local brands
  • Customized email notifications
  • Personalized, location-based text messages
  • Personalized landing pages

Perhaps one of the most common examples of geotargeting happens when you perform a search for businesses near you. For example, if you search for “coffee shops near me,” your results will be obtained via geotargeting to ensure they are nearby and relevant to you.

What is the difference between geotargeting and geofencing?

A complementary geo-marketing strategy used alongside geotargeting is geofencing. Geofencing is much more selective than geotargeting and is used to reach a narrow and specific consumer base.
With geofencing, advertisers blanket a defined area — such as a college campus — with content that is of particular interest to that limited consumer segment. By crossing the defined boundary, consumers trigger the ads. For example, college students may have an increased need for rental housing as a new academic year approaches. A student-oriented apartment complex may use geofencing across a college campus to appeal to its potential student renters.

Does geotargeting affect privacy?

Because geofencing is designed based on consumers’ physical locations, privacy concerns should be on your radar as you incorporate this marketing tool into your strategy. At the most basic level, you are asking consumers to trust you with their location data, so be sure that you deserve that trust.

As the focus of privacy laws and regulations continue to shift worldwide, think about what privacy considerations are at play:

  • Geotargeting requires access to a user’s location. If the user declines or withdrawals their permission, the ability to use geotargeting is severely limited. Providing transparency about why you need access to their location data and how it will be used is key. Sample language could include, “Personalize your advertising experience so you aren’t missing out on the latest sales in your area.”
  • Make sure you are following best practices in protecting customer data. Leaky data could destroy trust in your brand and expose you to a host of consumer lawsuits.
  • Pay attention to any updates in state, federal, and foreign laws. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a groundbreaking European Union regulation, may apply if you are targeting consumers in Europe, for example.

With SmarterHQ reporting that 72% of consumers say they only engage with personalized messaging, it’s certain that targeted advertising is here to stay — but changes in law will shape what this looks like. Be sure to keep an eye out for the latest developments in privacy, as this is a continually evolving area.

The benefits of geotargeting

Geotargeting is an increasingly important area of advertising and communication. Let’s examine how this popular marketing tool is benefiting companies and consumers.

  • Geotargeting allows you to establish trust with consumers. Geotargeting allows you to develop strategic communications with your consumers at key points along their decision-making journey. Consistent messaging throughout this process can increase brand awareness and build trust with your consumer base.
  • Geotargeting improves the user experience. Consumers gain an improved user experience by having increased access to content relevant to their needs or interests.
  • Geotargeting helps you to build connections and engage with local audiences. Geotargeting allows local businesses to engage meaningfully with their consumer bases, particularly when conveying offers or incentives for local products or experiences. It also affords foreign companies the ability to establish awareness in local markets.
  • Geotargeting can optimize your marketing budget. The personalization offered by geotargeting can lead to a better return on investment, since consumers are more likely to respond to content relevant to their needs.

Best practices in geotargeting

If you’re ready to leverage the powerful potential of geotargeting, consider these best practices.

1. Location, location, location

Target the area where your business operates and exclude locations outside your radius. If you’re advertising for a coffee shop in Seattle, you won’t want to waste your budget on consumers in Georgia.

Even if you’re advertising on behalf of an online store with no specifically targeted geography, you can still tailor your ads to locations that are more likely to convert. Track which areas are searching with keywords relevant to your business — not only can you find this information by region and state, but you can even get as granular as which cities are searching actively for your product.

For example, if you’re running a campaign for an online retailer of gourmet coffee beans, you may find that more than 60,000 people in Miami are searching for “hand ground coffee” while only 15,000 people are in Washington, D.C. You then know to prioritize your spending on Miami because those consumers may be more likely to make a purchase.

2. Limit your audience

Ad platforms like Google Ads allow you to limit your ads to consumers physically present in your location, cutting out people who are merely searching based on your location. For example, your ad might show for someone searching “coffee shops near me” and not “coffee shops in Brooklyn.”

This further limitation may lead to higher immediate conversions as your target audience has the interest and ability to engage with your company.

Launch your career in geomarketing

If you’re inspired and intrigued by the concept of geotargeting, a career in digital advertising may be a rewarding professional path for you.  Develop skills in search engine marketing, social media engagement, and more in Maryville University’s Bachelor of Science in Marketing online. Whether you’re new to marketing or looking to advance in your advertising career, we’re here to help with a practical, experiential degree that connects marketing theory to real-world career outcomes.


SmarterHQ, Privacy and Personalization Report

Location Based Marketing Association, Global Location Trends Report

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