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Get started with bulk location targeting in AdWords and Bing

Joseph Kerschbaum
Joseph Kerschbaum
SVP, Search & Growth Labs
4 min read
17 May 2016

Search marketers love getting their hands on as many targeting options as possible. Location targeting is a favorite among SEM pros because you can select exactly where you want your ads to show. The good news is that customers like it, too. According to Google, 72% of PC/tablet users and 67% of smartphone users want ads customized to their city or zip code.

If you have a brick-and-mortar, delivery, or location-specific business, you definitely want to take advantage of this geo-targeting for your pay-per-click ads. So how do you manage hundreds (or thousands?) of different locations without getting lost? Follow our starter’s guide that makes adding location targets in AdWords and Bing a cinch.

Step one: figure out your targeting strategy

Think about where your ideal customers are and where you can best serve them. With location targeting, you can go as broad as a country to as specific as zip code, which is great if your business has physical locations. You can also target a general area using the radius around a specific address. Pro tip: the more granular the targeting, the better results (and less noise) you’ll receive.

Once you’ve figured out which locations you want to target, you’ll want to build your upload sheet. Google and Bing both have master spreadsheets that list all targetable locations and their identifiers (referred to as ID in Google, Target in Bing). You can search within Google’s API or Bing’s API , or download a spreadsheet and use a simple Vlookup formula to pull in the correct identifier.

Keep in mind that if you’re adding city targeting, there are some cities that have the same name (e.g. Troy, Canton). Make sure to verify you’ve selected the right location by filtering in the master spreadsheet or checking during the upload process. Also, remember that AdWords limits you to 10,000 location targets (targeted and excluded) per campaign.

Step two: upload location targeting through the UI or editor

With the UI, you can see on a map exactly where your location target is being added. If you don’t have many locations to target or don’t want to build an upload sheet, you can add them manually here. AdWords does limit you to adding 1000 locations at a time.

Alternatively, you can use AdWords Editor and Bing Editor to upload more locations and preview your changes offline before posting. In AdWords, you’ll navigate to Locations under the “Keywords and targeting” section.

When adding new locations, make sure to select “check changes” before posting, so AdWords can resolve the location. This extra step is important because AdWords doesn’t know when you type in Los Angeles, whether you want to target the city, metro area, or another option.

You may have also noticed the “Location, Negative” section in the tree view. The above-mentioned process can be used to add negative location targeting, i.e. locations where your ads will not show.

Bing is a similar process. In Bing Editor, navigate to Targeting > Locations. Select “Make multiple changes” to copy in your targets.

Note: Bing is different from Google in that you can set location targeting at the ad group level, in addition to the campaign level. If you choose to do so, remember that ad group targeting overrides campaign targeting.

Step three: review geographic performance periodically

Depending on the volume of your account and the latency of conversions, you’ll want to adjust your lookback range to make sure you have enough data to make decisions.

In Google, you can pull geographic reports from the Dimensions tab. Make sure to add a column for “Most specific location” so you can get as granular as possible with your analysis.

Look at your key metrics (e.g. CPA, ROAS) and apply conditional formatting for a quick overview of your best-performing areas. This will help you decide whether to bid up or down on different locations.

Now you’re all set to add geo-targeting to your campaigns!

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SVP, Search & Growth Labs

Joseph Kerschbaum