The Nuts and Bolts of Local Search and Geo-Targeting

As briefly mentioned in the introduction to this series please note that when Local Search is discussed this specifically relates to Google Local Search. MSN and Yahoo also have their own versions. However since Google is so dominant in the search marketing space the focus is on Google’s systems.

Google Knows Where you Are

When you do a search on Google your geographical location is pinpointed with a reasonable degree of accuracy. This is what Google says in this regard:

“When possible, we determine the user’s general physical location based upon their computer’s Internet Protocol (IP) address. An IP address is a unique number assigned by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to each computer connected to the Internet. This applies to regionally or custom-targeted ads as well as all ads shown on Google.com.”

How Does Google Decide Which Ads You as a Searcher Sees?

Google uses a variety of ways to determine which ads should be shown when you enter a search term into Google’s search box.

If you are searching on google.co.za then Google will show ads that the advertiser has chosen to be exposed in the South African web space. It does not matter where the searcher is… eg a searcher in USA searching google.co.za will see ads targeted to South Africa.

Similarly if I visit google.co.uk and do a search then I will see ads targeted to UK searchers.

On the other hand if you are in South Africa and searching Google.com then Google will determine your location by IP address and show relevant ads targeted to that location. In this case the searcher would see ads targeted to South Africa even though the search was on Google.com

If you want to see which ads are shown in a different country for a specific search term while searching using Google.co.za then add the string gl=(country code) at the end of the string in the URL bar. For example if gl=uk is added to the string for a South African search then the ads will change to reflect UK targeted ads.

In essence this means it doesn’t matter whether you search in South Africa using Google.co.za or Google.com you will see only ads targeted to South Africa.

Something else however is very important to understand… what you and I see for the same search at the same time is not always the same.

Geo-Targeting with Google Adwords

There are two ways of geo-targeting using Adwords:

1. Include a geographic modifier into the keywords bid on. For example “luggage Bedfordview”. In this case a searcher in Cape Town could see an ad if the keyword “luggage Bedfordview” was used.

2. Select a region for which keywords and ads are targeted. For example bid on “luggage Bedfordview” but restrict the targeted region to say 50kms around Bedfordview. In this case “luggage Bedfordview” ads would not be displayed to a searcher typing the search query from somewhere outside of the targeted region

The first type of geo-targeting would be useful for a hotel in Bedfordview for example because the hotel wants to draw customers from around the country. On the other hand the second type of geo-targeting would be far more suitable for a Bedfordview plumber whose clientele would come wholly from the regions around Bedfordview.

Custom Targeted Ads: This is IMPORTANT:

If a person who lives in Bedfordview types the single word luggage into the Google search box it is quite possible that the ad corresponding to the keyword “Bedfordview luggage” would be shown even though Bedfordview was not in the search query. This is done by Google reconciling the searcher’s location (IP address) with the searcher’s intent… ie Bedfordview location and a “luggage” intent.

This type of targeting will become more and more important as mobile search starts to play a greater role. Modern mobile phone and PDA’s have built in GPS systems and somehow Google is able to locate the searchers exact position at an instant in time and then show ads that are especially relevant to that location at that point in time.

A good example might be as follows:

A person driving through Bedfordview is running low on fuel. He stops and types “fuel” into the mobile phone. Google immediately displays all local petrol stations in the immediate vicinity along with directions on how to get there. However this information would be limited to those petrol stations that were listed on Google Maps.

If your petrol station is not to be prominently found on Google Maps then goodbye business.

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