Why are Google Ads Showing to People Outside of Your Target Locations?

We all know Google Ads is a powerful channel for driving more leads, sales and high-quality traffic. Then why does sometimes waste money without showing much return? There are many nuances to the system and both beginners and advanced users can easily pick the wrong settings.

One such pitfall is the location settings. Many have asked me why their Google Ads are Showing Outside of their targeted locations. I’ve written this post to answer just that question. I hope you find it useful.

How To See Where Your Traffic is Comming From and Where Your Ads Are Showing

You’ll find useful data about locations in two places. Google Ads and Google Analytics. Here’s how to view this report in each of the platforms.

The Location Reports in Google Ads

You can view locations at the account, campaign and ad group levels. The locations tab is usually inside "+Show more".

The location tab is usually hidden within the show more tab.

You'll find your locations and other settings inside the +Show more tab.

Once you've navigated to the locations tab, you'll be served with the default view. These are the locations you've set your campaign to target. Here you can adjust bids, remove and add locations. Though useful, this view won't show you the locations where users were in when they viewed and clicked your ads. There is an option to switch to matched locations, but Google has very kindly changed matched locations so they don't actually show you where the click came from. Thanks, Google.

The only place where you can view user locations in Google Ads is in a custom report. Look for user location in the fields and add them to the report. I like to view costs and cost/conversion for each location to know when I should exclude certain locations.

Custom location report in Google Ads

Creating a custom report is currently the only way to view your user locations. In this report, I added a campaign filter to view specific campaigns.


Location Reports in Google Analytics

I find it much easier to view Google Ad user locations in Analytics. There are several ways to do this. I prefer going through the source/medium report. Clicking on google/cpc. When you've clicked on Google/cpc you will only see traffic that's come from Google Ads. Then add a secondary dimension for country or city.

Add a secondary dimension to view locations your traffic came from

You can add a secondary dimension to view the countries and cities your traffic came from.

How to view user locations in Google Analytics

Now you can see exactly how many users are reaching your site from each country. Because you've clicked on Google / CPC you've effectively filtered down to only see Google Ads traffic.

Configuring Google Ads' Location Settings to Only Serve Ads Where You Want

Google has 3 settings for locations. Most advertisers think they're going to only serve ads in the locations they picked but Google's default settings will serve the ads anywhere in the world, as long as the user showed interest in the location you've targetted. This means you might have a service that's only relevant for manchester, but your ad is also shown globally whenever the search has a reference to Manchester or any of its neighbourhoods.

To view and change your location settings choose a campaign, click the settings tab and expand your locations. Then click on location options to open your 3 options of targeting.

  1. Presence or interest: Will show your ad to people in the location you've chosen but also to people who've shown an interest in your location. Choose this if you serve customers from other locations to. For most local businesses this setting is a big money waster.
  2.  Presence: Will only show your ads to people in your location. It also shows the ads to people who visit your location regularly.
  3.  Search interest will show your ads to anyone who has shown an interest in your location. Personally, I haven't used this setting much.

Conclusion: Why Your Ads Have Been Showing Outside Your Targeted Locations

It's likely that you've been using Google's default location setting. This means your ads have been running outside the area that you intended to target. It's easy to fix this. I recommend that you check your traffic in one of the mentioned reports after changing the campaign settings. You should hopefully see 95% of your costs coming from locations that you're genuinely interested in targeting. I hope these steps save you money and increase conversions from Google Ads.

About Me

I'm a London based Google Ads consultant with over a decade of experience. I specialise in PPC for lead generation. I run paid campaigns for companies from different sectors and have a large base of clients in real estate. If you're looking to promote your business with Google Ads or if you're seeking some training, get in touch for expert PPC knowledge.

Odi Caspi
Founder - EffectiveMarketing.UK
Google Ads Manager London UK


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