Ever stepped inside from a rainstorm, pulled out your phone, and — as if Google was reading your mind — encountered an ad for umbrellas?

In part, the placement of that ad is due to geotargeting: a strategy that enhances marketing campaigns by engaging with people based on their location.

But geotargeting isn’t just a fancy technique. It’s also viciously effective.

If you’re a small or mid-sized business, geotargeting gives you the chance to knock heavyweight national companies out of the arena. (Stick around and we’ll prove it to you!)

It might sound counterintuitive, but if you’re looking to build a global business, you need to start by going local. Really, really local. And geotargeting is the way to get there.

Geotargeting 101

Imagine you’re a Buddhist monk, tucked away at the foot of Mount Everest, some 16,000 feet above sea level. At lunchtime, you slip out of the monastery, charge through the howling winds to the town’s sole computer, and run a Google search to refresh your memory on some long-forgotten doctrine.

Fingers trembling from the cold, you click on the first result, and you’re greeted by a pop-up ad:

“LIMITED TIME ONLY: 20% Off Tommy Bahama Bathing Suits!”

Are you likely to press the “buy now” button?

If you’re anything like us, you probably wouldn’t. Not in that cold, dry, Tibetan climate. Just like that, Tommy Bahama botched its marketing campaign, thanks to faulty geotargeting. We’re here to make sure you don’t do the same.

Let’s jump into the basics.

Geotargeting vs. Geofencing

If you’ve dabbled in the realm of paid digital marketing, you’ve likely heard the terms geotargeting and geofencing. You might have even heard them used interchangeably — but there’s actually a slight difference!

A geofence is like an imaginary line you draw on the map. It defines the geographical limits of your ad campaign.

If you’re selling Oakley sunglasses, you’re WAY more likely to achieve success by placing your geofence around Los Angeles rather than, say, Fargo, North Dakota (or a monastery in Tibet, for that matter).

In a nutshell: Geotargeting is your overall strategy. A geofence is a tool you use to execute your geotargeting strategy properly.

What Platforms Use Geotargeting?

Because geotargeting is a highly effective (and increasingly popular) practice, you’d be hard-pressed to find a major platform that doesn’t offer geotargeting. Here are a few platforms your business can use as a sandbox for geotargeting:

  • Google Ads
  • Meta Ads
  • Microsoft Ads
  • Twitter
  • TikTok
  • LinkedIn

This goes without saying, but we’ll reiterate it anyway: Choose your platform wisely.

Picking the wrong platform is the fastest way to ruin a beautiful geotargeting campaign. After all, you probably won’t sell many light-up Skechers by running an ad on LinkedIn, and you definitely won’t fill your B2B data collection seminar using TikTok!

Here’s the recipe: right audience + right platform + right location = killer results.

So, How Granular Can You Get?

As a rule of thumb, the more you hone in on your desired audience, the more effective your campaign will be. Generally, you can geotarget at five levels of specificity:

  • Country
  • State
  • City
  • Zip code
  • Radius to Pin (the area surrounding a single location)

Pro Tip: You’ll have the option to choose between targeting people who “live in” a location or people who “frequently visit.” Be sure to get that setting right! If you’re marketing to folks who live in a location year-round, your campaign will suffer if you accidentally flip the “frequently visit” switch.

Go Hyper, Hyper, Hyperlocal

To succeed in the realm of geotargeting, you need to go local. We’re talking super, duper, uber-local.

By the end of this article, you should be prepared to sell to customers based on the square of sidewalk they’re standing on. (Okay, maybe not that local — but you get the idea.)

Hyperlocal advertising works. Here are a couple of case studies that demonstrate just how well.

Case Study: SoCO Eats vs. DoorDash

Let’s throw it back to July 2020. Around that time, our paid advertising expert, Anthony Herrera, saw an opportunity: some 50,000 people in the Fremont County area had no food delivery service. No DoorDash, no Uber Eats, no Grubhub — nothing.

So, Anthony did what any savvy marketer would do. He seized the opportunity, creating his own food delivery service called SoCO Eats. Using geotargeting principles, SoCO Eats tailored its services to the right people in the right locations, serving up nearby restaurants that were ready to deliver.

A year later, DoorDash moved in. DoorDash implemented its usual strategy, flooding the region with drivers to reduce delivery costs. Fast forward another year, and DoorDash had exited the market, defeated. When all was said and done, DoorDash’s stint in Fremont County actually increased traffic for SoCO Eats (and reduced acquisition costs, too!).


Well, SoCO Eats already had an iron grip on the area, thanks in large part to geotargeting. When DoorDash dropped in with its cookie-cutter strategy, folks in Fremont County chewed it up and spit it out, favoring instead the established, hyperlocal style of SoCO Eats.

In true “David vs. Goliath” fashion, SoCO Eats knocked DoorDash out of the market, using geotargeting as a sling and targeted campaigns as stones.

Case Study: CrossPurpose

Here’s a quick one. As part of our work with CrossPurpose, a wonderful Denver-based non-profit, Magneti has been revamping its website for improved visibility and doing some PPC work to generate traffic.

When we tied our ads to landing pages that used a generic location (for example, Denver), conversion rates were solid, but not incredible. When we narrowed in on specific municipalities (for example, Englewood, Littleton, and Centennial), conversion rates doubled.

Moral of the story: In the realm of geotargeting, specificity is your best friend.

Pro Tip: Google Optimize allows you to test variants of websites to discover the best one. By personalizing your interactions with your target audience, you’ll increase engagement. By a lot.

Refining Your Strategy

Once you’ve built your assets, picked your platform, decided on a timeline, and established your geofence, you’re ready to launch your first round of advertising. But the battle doesn’t stop there.

Next, you’ll need to measure your impact and fine-tune your approach, using…

The Octopus Model

Every part of an octopus is flexible, shrinkable, and squishy, except for one: the beak. An octopus can slip through any crack, crevice, or gap in a coral reef as long as its beak can fit through. So, the question arises:

How does an octopus know if its beak can squeeze through a small hole?

Instead of jamming itself recklessly into the hole and praying that its beak doesn’t get trapped, the octopus tests the diameter of the hole with its tentacles. It gathers data. Then, that information circles through any number of its nine brains before the octopus decides on a verdict.

As marketers, we need to do the same thing, extending and retracting tendrils of data to inform our ongoing strategy.

For your next geotargeting campaign, try dividing your budget between locations. If you’re a food delivery service in Denver, invest 40% of your money into Aurora, 30% into Lakewood, and 30% into Thornton.

Once your first round of data comes back, calibrate your strategy accordingly.

It’s the only way to determine whether you’ll get stuck in the morass of mediocre advertising — or, in the manner of our octopus mentor, market your way to financial freedom.

The Future of Geotargeting

Believe it or not, location-based targeting is just getting started.

With a little bit of IP Address magic, you may be able to advertise fluoridated toothpaste to someone who’s currently sitting in the dentist’s office, awaiting their root canal.

Or drop a digital menu to a passerby once they’re within 30 yards of your barbecue joint (just close enough to smell the smoked meats), then pull the ad when they step outside of the geofence radius.

As geotargeting grows ever more powerful, there’s never been a better time to combine it with other types of targeting: context-based, behavior-based, population-based, and more.

If you want your next marketing campaign to leverage these cutting-edge targeting techniques, give us a shout. Our team at Magneti is obsessed with results, delightfully creative, and ready to help your company achieve stratospheric growth.

Magneti aims to be the most effective and innovative growth marketing team in Colorado.