How to Stop Traffic or Clicks Outside of Your Geo-Targeted Locations

Geo-targeted campaigns brought many complications to the advertising industry. The most pertinent being the tendency to waste time and money by reaching people who have no interest in what you're offering.
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Many factors could be at play to explain this absurdity. To effectively use geo-targeting, advertisers need to do a bit of detective work to understand why they are reaching audiences from outside a campaign's geo-targeted location.

Thus, we will first explore how the subtle details some marketers dismiss in their targeting options could explain the frustration of continually dealing with out-of-area leads. Next, we suggest what one should do to get out of this predicament. The insights provided are not limited to Facebook ads or Google Ads but can, more or less, be applied to any web or social media advertising platform.

Why Your Ads Might Be Reaching People in Areas Outside Your Geo-targeted Regions

There are many options for location targeting with Facebook ads. Most people spend a lot of time fine-tuning other details about their ad campaigns while neglecting to consider the location status of the intended audience — leaving it on default. Let's take a look:

  • People living in or recently in this location: refers to people who either reside in or lately visited the selected location.
  • People living in this location: includes people whose home is within the selected area, excluding tourists and fleeting visitors.
  • People recently in this location: includes people who list their most recent location as your targeted region, including others whose devices' IP addresses pinned them to have recently been at your selected area.
  • People traveling in this location: includes people who are not only in your selected regions but are also at least more than 125 miles/200 km from their home location.

Advertisers may end up reaching people who, though recently in the selected location, have already left it, thereby deemed unsuitable for certain offers. A bus tour business, for instance, is better off targeting "people traveling in this location" because they are more likely to take tours than natives of the area.

Examine the details of your campaign and review which targeting option captures the highest percentage of your target market. Traffic or clicks outside of your geo-targeted areas may be caused by your targeting options.

With Google Ads, being keywords base, the key is deciding whether the keywords you're targeting are for:

  • People in, regularly in, or who've shown interest in, your targeted locations: includes residents, frequent visitors, and people that included the location in their search terms.
  • People in or regularly in your targeted locations: includes only people likely to be in your targeted location.
  • People searching for your targeted locations: includes only people using the location you're targeting in their search terms.

The nuances mean that an advertiser who selects Tokyo as the targeted city for their search campaigns could well end up reaching people in other cities. If a marketer in Singapore, advertises their upcoming event with the wrong targeting option — even if they set their location as only Singapore — they may end up reaching people from cities halfway across the world who may have just been researching previous events in the country.

While Google Ads advanced targeting options have limitations — for example, advertisers cannot target hotel ads by radius right now — they are a helpful way to restrict traffic and clicks from regions outside of your selected locations.

What to Do When You're Getting Traffic or Clicks from Regions You're Not Targeting

The first obvious step is to double-check your targeting options for the affected campaigns. If you're not optimally reaching the audience in your intended location, you might have overlooked the options we discussed when setting up the campaign. That's a nice start, but let's go further.

Exclude affected locations

Both Facebook and Google Ads make it easy to exclude regions you don't want to reach with your ads. Location exclusion is convenient for people in places you keep reaching, but who would not be able to access your services anyway. Additionally, if you're continually getting spammed by click farms from certain locations, you can exclude their whole region so your ads won't appear for them anymore.

In your ad manager, zoom in and exclude regions directly on the map — you can use names or postal codes to exclude cities, provinces, or regions.

Implement ad fraud prevention tools

An especially prevalent type of ad fraud is Geomasking. Geomasking is a method that fraudulently portrays low-quality traffic as high-quality traffic, and excluding the affected locations would only temporarily work before fraudsters begin to attack your ads from other locations.

Ad fraud prevention tools arrest suspicious IP addresses from questionable locations and help clean up the devices that match a pattern of an ad fraud scheme. Invest in these anti-ad fraud tools. They are critical not just in protecting your bottom line, but also the integrity of your brand.

>> Related article: Which Ad Fraud Detection Tools Should You Choose?


What percentage of out-of-area leads is acceptable depends on a lot of other things, some of which are usually out of your control. It is imperative to adhere to the best practices described in this article if your marketing strategy is dependent on a particular geographic area. Alternatively, you could experiment with other strategies, including, but not limited to, partnering with the local influencers in the regions you're targeting.

If your target market is not too exclusive, however, then some specks of out-of-area leads, though undesirable, are alright. In one instance, Google even lamented that because location targeting is based on a variety of signals, "100% accuracy is not guaranteed in every situation." In the end, what matters most is whether your campaign returned enough value to achieve the balance between exposure and awareness.

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