I try to use my blog to simplify some of the more advanced and “in the weeds” issues in digital marketing.  Digging into the Google algorithm or the constant evolution and shift in all of the options and settings in Google Ads.  One thing that has really hit businesses in the last couple of years is the inaccuracy of location tracking in Google Analytics and Google Ads. Due to the rise of cookies, ad blockers, VPNs, and other privacy tools and laws, it has become much harder for Google, and other tech, to decipher where searchers actually are.  Part of the reason GA4 was forced into being, is the fact that Google had to find a way to track users differently for private concerns. A significant portion of GA4 data is now guessed via AI, and specific location is a big part of that.  To get an explanation of the details of that, you can read more here.

Inaccurate Location Data for Google Ads Location Targeting

Given the issues tracking users above, this has moved over to paid advertising for many local businesses.  Google Ads made a lot of money in the first quarter of 2024. This is despite more and more small businesses finding the ads network frustrating and inaccurate. They have to bid more to get the same traffic, and that same traffic seems to be getting more and more inaccurate.  Part of this is beyond Google’s control, as people are increasingly choosing privacy tools and making laws that don’t allow Google to know as much detail about where searchers are. The trouble is that rather than necessarily acknowledging that, Google simply tells us their data may not be 1oo% reliable or accurate. The more granular or specific your target, the less accurate the data seems to be. This is why it can be very tough for local businesses to target towns, or areas, rather than entire countries.

So what can you do to try be more efficient?

Wordstream did a nice in-depth write-up on tricks to help improve geotargeting efficiency in your small business Google Ads campaigns.  Just want to hit on a few of them quickly below and you can consult their article for screenshots and how-to’s.

  • Negative locations: If you find you are getting leads that are outside your target area, you can add negative geolocations to your Google Ads campaign. In the spot where you choose the locations you want to target, you can also choose locations to exclude. Make a point to add locations you don’t want here.  It is a second line of defense for you against traffic in these areas.
  • Negative keywords: Add location-based negative keywords for the towns, states, or neighborhoods that you are trying to avoid. This can be done in your keywords area, but under “negative search keywords”.
  • Be specific with your selected geographic targets: I have seen some say that radius targeting is more accurate than listing a town by name. I haven’t seen a lot of data to support this yet, but it may be worth experimenting here if you are having a major issue with location accuracy.
  • Campaign Location Options: This is in your campaign settings and Google defaults to showing your ads to people in or showing interest in your target location. Depending on your business model, you may be better served to change this to just people in the area.  I have seen this help businesses significantly.

Google Ads can still be a great source of new business for small business owners out there, but it is getting more complicated and a bit more difficult to target efficiently.  As always, I remind people that the Google support people that are constantly calling to give you suggestions, are not helping you as much as they are helping Google.  I would say avoid them as much as possible and find someone that is independent to help you out. But using some of the tactics above may help you improve your geotargeting accuracy and hep your bottom line. Give us a call if you need help. We have been helping businesses manage their Google Ads since 2006.