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What is geotargeting?

Geotargeting allows marketers to customize a user’s digital experience based on their location. This technology is powerful because it enables us to create and display more relevant messages to potential customers based on where they spend (or spent) time. We’re not just saying that because geotargeting technology is shiny and new. Data suggests that geotargeted mobile display campaigns deliver click-through rates two times higher than industry benchmarks.

Location-based targeting is an opportunity for both local businesses who only serve one area, and national and regional brands who offer different products, services or experiences based on location. Adding geotargeting to a digital campaign lets businesses spend their ad budgets on users in and around strategic physical locations. Many platforms, such as Google Ads and Facebook, allow advertisers to layer more targeting on top of geographic data, like demographic and behavioral information.

Even if you aren’t ready to implement geotargeting in your digital marketing mix, you can keep an eye on how geography affects your brand online. Your digital marketing tools, like Google Ads, Google Analytics and Mailchimp, are constantly tracking where the people who interact with your digital platforms are located.

Analysis of user location from Mailchimp

Analysis of user location from Google Analytics

Ads that speak to residents or visitors of a specific location have always been a part of marketing. Think about local newspaper ads, out of home ads (like billboards) and local partnerships (such as Toronto’s CityPASS). Now, the technology exists to mimic these tactics on users’ computers and phones.

Geotargeting works differently depending on which device a user is on. On a computer, platforms like Google Ads, Facebook, Mailchimp and WordPress use IP address to determine a user’s location. The mapping of IP address to location, which is based on the address’ internet service provider (ISP), usually comes from a specialized provider like MaxMind’s GeoIP or the platform’s own technology. You can see the GeoIP technology at work when you test your own IP address!

Test of MaxMind GeoIP technology

On a mobile device, these platforms rely on device ID, GPS signal and WiFi connection for location data. Customized experiences are based on a user’s current location and the places they visited in the past.

On some digital platforms, user intent can also affect a potential customer’s experience. For example, if a searcher shows interest in a specific location, they may see a location-specific ad or landing page, even if they’re not (and never have been) physically located in that zip code, city, designated marketing area (DMA), etc.

Geotargeting vs Geofencing

Geofencing is a type of geotargeting that uses a mobile device’s GPS or WiFi to deliver ads based on a very specific “fenced” area, rather than a broader geographic region.

Geotargeting vs IP Targeting

IP targeting uses a list of IP addresses to deliver ads to specific households or offices. Geotargeting reaches groups of IP addresses based on location. It’s kind of like using placemats rather than a tablecloth. Or, for a more marketing-related analogy, IP targeting is similar to sending direct mail to specific addresses, rather than entire zip codes. This targeting method raises greater privacy concerns than geotargeting.

Geotargeting in Digital Marketing

Facebook Geotargeting

Facebook gives advertisers lots of options when it comes to building geotargeted campaigns. Users are targeted based on their physical location, both past and present.

Google Ads Geotargeting

Google also offers location-based targeting. The biggest difference is that Google includes both people in and people interested in your targeted locations.

Targeting options on Google Ads

Mailchimp Geotargeting

Your audiences can be segmented based on location in two ways. If you ask for a street address or region when subscribers sign up, you can use that information. Mailchimp can also detect location based on IP address as long as a user regularly interacts with your emails.

Creating geographic segments in Mailchimp audiences

WordPress Geotargeting

If you want to change the experience a user has and the information they see on your website based on their location, you need to incorporate geotargeting technology into your website. For example, we built SHIELD Security Systems’ website to dynamically insert regional copy and local contact information based on where a user is browsing from using MaxMind’s technology.