DEFINITION of 'Geo-Targeting'

Geo-targeting refers to the ability for advertisers to place their marketing materials in a specific region or locale. In digital advertising specifically, geo-targeting is just one of many tweaks that an advertiser can make to ensure that its messages and ad campaigns reach a particular customer in a particular market. In addition to geo-targeting, online ads can be targeted by additional demographic information like age, gender, hobbies and so on.

BREAKING DOWN 'Geo-Targeting'

Like most advertising techniques, geo-targeting predates the internet. Local papers, radio and television programs have long been used to reach customers in a particular region with ads. These advertisements were customized for the local audiences where possible, a process that we now call optimization. Digital technology has simply made this practice more widespread. The major innovation that has increased the effectiveness of geo-targeting is the addition of other data points beyond simple location.

Examples of Geo-Targeting

All sorts of companies in all sorts of industries can make use of geo-targeting.  By refining the ad copy to include the city name and a reference to the current weather – for example, including the words “start sleeping cooler” in an ad during periods of hot weather – Purple Mattress, an ecommerce bedding brand has been able to generate higher click-through rates by online shoppers. In an effort to update its aging "Let's Go Places" campaign,  Toyota incorporated city-specific information into each of its Google ads, encouraging consumers to go to places and attractions near them.  Whole Foods targeted ads to the smartphones of consumers visiting nearby supermarkets, encouraging them to come to a nearby Whole Foods nearby exchange for better deals.

The Power of Geo-Targeting

Geo-targeting is virtually a necessity for businesses advertising online, since they cannot assume – as one can with traditional media, like newspapers or radio – where their audience is located. Luckily, this powerful tool is not hard to implement. For example, a small outfit like a pizza parlor with a finite delivery range can purchase online ads that only appear in the browsers of people with an IP address within the neighborhood. Geo-targeting also increases the opportunities for A/B testing. For example, a Japanese-speaking immigration lawyer in the U.S. may choose to run two separately geo-targeted campaigns: one locally for people looking to bring family over or maintain status in the country, and another one in Japan targeting people looking to emigrate.

Even national marketing campaigns can benefit from geo-targeting, as regional differences create opportunities to test multiple messages and refine them as a campaign continues. Geo-targeted experiments has been used successfully by businesses, charities and even political campaigns. Factoring out cultural and ethnic variations, there are still subtle regional differences in something as universal as language. A campaign for donations might be better served by using a “donate” button in one area and a “support” button in another. Similarly, customers might respond differently to the phrase “book your trip” than they do to “buy your ticket” or “schedule your trip.” The same goes for the look and feel of the advertising copy and other content.

Simply put, where a customer is in the world is an incredibly important data point in created targeted ads. That said, it is just one data point on an ever-growing list that can be used for ad-targeting techniques.

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