How to Prevent Google Adwords Text Ads from Appearing Outside your Geotarget

January 11, 2009

Simple logic would tell you that if you targeted your campaign to…let’s say the state of New York that you would not receive clicks from “out of state”.

However, if you were bidding on: ski shop New York City, Adwords would show your ads, most likely worldwide, if someone is searching on your keyword. The logic behind this approach...

The logic is: this is best for the advertiser and the surfer, so they are “doing you a favor” by showing your ads outside your geotarget.

There is indeed some good logic to this thinking, although I’d prefer to be able to “opt out” of this kind of “expanded service”, for whatever my reasons may be.

Luckily there is a loophole which will “force adwords” to only show your ads within your selected geotarget, in this case New York State. Solution: Instead of targeting the state of New York, target all regions within New York.

Within the geotarget settings… click on Browse tab… drill to New York State… deselect the top level New York, and then select all regions within New York.


Here is a transcript of a chat I had in which I was a bit irritated with this lack of transparancy re: geotargeting…

Dan: i noticed an anomaly in my log files...

Dan: on dec 28th i had a click from london, england

Dan: which is outside of my geotargeting for xyz Search Only Campaign

support: I see. There are actually several reasons why you may receive clicks from outside the region you're targeting. They're all outlined in this article called, "Why am I receiving clicks outside my targeted area?" And it's at this link:


support: Do you have a moment to look that over?

Dan: i see the case is related to the last option...

Dan: the searcher searched from which is the local domain here

Dan: i see there is a solution to this problem as well

support: Yes. So the reasoning is that we want to get you as much relevant traffic as possible and since the user is searching on the appropriate domain, there's most likely a good reason for them to be searching for your business. (For example, at times people travel outside the country and search on the domain they typically use at home.) And that's traffic the system doesn't want you to miss.

support: And you can certainly try that solution if you'd like.

Dan: why don't you stop "doing me favors" ok?

Dan: an advertiser should be able to limit their ads to a country, without being tricked like this, jeez.

Dan: who is the client, the surfer or the advertiser, come on man.

support: I apologize for the frustration, but you can certainly target the regions within the countries you're targeting if you don't want users from that domain to see your ad.

Dan: that just isn't too transparent, get with the program man. stop shafting your clients, ok?

support: That's certainly not our intention. We don't want to prevent your ad from showing to people who may be interested in using your services.

Dan: if i say i want my ads only to show in x, why would you "do me the favor" and show them in y, without asking my permission first?

Dan: who is the client?

Dan: is the surfer paying for these clicks?

Dan: if adwords wants to do these kind of "favors", why not offer these clicks for free?

support: You're certainly the client. And because we don't want our clients to miss out on relevant traffic, we enable these ads to show for users searching on appropriate domains. If you're not interested in that traffic, you can target the regions within the countries you're targeting individually.

Dan: i never agreed to pay for clicks outside my geotarget, did I?

Dan: … So,Ii see the loophole which would allow me to target only the country i already targeted in the first place!

support: This is the same way that the system's ad serving has always worked. And we do expect you to pay for relevant traffic.

Dan: you expect me to pay, even though you never notified me in advance that there would be clicks from outside my geotarget?

Dan: so you are saying that the system has always shafted their clients in this way, nothing new?

support: We've always made that information available through our help center and resources such as chats. It's certainly not our intention to cheat anyone. We want our users to find relevant results and our advertisers to take advantage of that traffic.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I have done local marketing where i target a radius of 35-45 miles around a business in NY and recieve lead after lead coming from California, Florida etc. Its really annoying.

Richie Rich said...

hi Dan - Great post going to have a play with this from a UK perspective as its a common occurrence on some of my campaigns

The Visible Dentist said...

Excellent -- I was having this same exact issue with an Adwords campaign I set up for a client. Originally the ads were geo-targeted for a 50 mile radius of the client's address, but stats show clicks coming from all over the USA. I'll definitely going to follow your suggestions and see if that helps. Wish me luck!

John Barremore
Houston, TX

coolingstar9 said...

I am new and just start using awords for promoting. I target it within my country Singapore.
Wow, so many things to learn about adwords, sad to say my ads still never shown after two days.
Nice post, i learn something, have the nice day.

Anonymous said...

Perfect! I was very confused and find a way to block how to. In economical view, Google want to spend more money on Ads, and naturally it is automatically open to ....

Upesh said...

Hi Dan,

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Re geotargeting, just out of curiousity, did you experience it while geotargeting and the exclusion list was active? or was only your geotargeting active?


PPCPROZ said...

Upesh, no, there were no exclusions in this example.

Joshua Guffey said...

Thanks Dan.

This is a really annoying problem. I agree with you that this seems inappropriate and not geared to the advertiser's best interests.



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