Common Display Advertising Mistakes – Location Targeting

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Location targeting is one of the most important targeting tactics in a display advertising campaign. Google has made location targeting very easy to set up, or so we thought. On the surface, it seems like all you need to do is plug in a few zip codes and off you go. That’s easy enough, right?

There’s actually one more step you need to take to ensure you’re hitting the right people. It’s called Location options (advanced) targeting, also referred to as Advanced Location Targeting.

Working with Advanced Location Targeting

The “Location options (advanced)” link can be found under the general Location options section. Click on the blue link to expand the advanced targeting options.


You’ll notice that the option “People in, or who show interest in my targeted location” is set as the default selection. For most local businesses, this is NOT the way to go.


What does “show interest” targeting mean? Google explains:

Your ad can also appear for anyone who shows interest in your targeted location. People can show interest through content that they view online, if they were recently in a location, or other methods.” – Google’s Understanding Advanced Location Options

Translation: Even though you set your geographic targets, your ads will still be displayed to users OUTSIDE of your geographic targets.

Wait, what?

Because you have the “show interest” option selected, all the user needs to do is show some sort of interest in your targeted geographic location and they’ll be eligible to see your ads.

Examples of users who qualify for “show interest” targeting

Geographic Target: Nashville

  • A female from Montgomery, Alabama who drove through Nashville on the way to see family in Kentucky.
  • A male from Phoenix, Arizona who looked up the Tennessee Titans schedule.
  • A female from Manchester, England who performed a search to see which musicians were in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

As you can see, it takes very little to qualify to receive impressions by “showing interest.” The 3 users don’t actually live in Nashville and they’re stealing quality impressions away from the true target audience you were hoping to hit.

The Fix

Click on the setting “People in my targeted location. By selecting this option, you truly target consumers within your geographic location and exclude everyone who lives outside of it.


Businesses that should never use “show interest” targeting

  • Dentists/Doctors
  • Contractors/Roofers/Plumbers
  • Churches
  • Insurance Agents
  • Banks/Credit Unions
  • Bail Bondsmen
  • Heating & Air/Appliances
  • Fitness Centers/Gyms

When “show interest” targeting is okay to use

  • Resorts/Hotels
  • Tourist Attractions/Tourism Bureaus/Chamber of Commerces
  • Major Sporting Events/Festivals/Concerts
  • Real Estate/Condos/Apartments/Student Housing
  • Casinos/Gaming


Advanced location targeting should never be overlooked when selecting your display advertising campaign settings. Doing so could result in wasted impressions and ad dollars down the drain. Remember, if you’re a local business that ONLY wants to advertise to users within a certain geographic location, fend off those outsiders by choosing “People in my targeted location.