Traffic Trends: Taking a Look at Geo-Targeting

Stephen Yagielowicz

The world is a big place.

Whereas traditional advertisers could easily focus on reaching local clientele through display ads such as roadside billboards and other signage, as well as print advertising in local newspapers and magazines, or even local TV sponsorships, changes in media have brought a greater reach — from national TV networks, to cable and satellite TV advertising.

Geo-targeting allows us to pinpoint a customer’s current location and tailor the message and the medium directly to them. Our adult mobile campaigns incorporate multiple location data sources to target consumers not just in the right locations, but also at the most opportune times. —Carmen, Bitterstrawberry

It is the global reach of the internet, however, that has been the biggest game-changer over the past few decades.

While many marketers might wish to blanket the earth with their advertising, discriminating sales pros readily realize greater profits by focusing on prospects that are able to understand their offers and the benefits of those offers — and have the ability to pay for them.

This requires audience segmentation based on both their language and available payment mechanisms — and for adult consumers, a legal ability to purchase such products and services. This is where geographic targeting comes into play.

Although the concept isn’t a new one (direct mail campaigns have long been run based on a recipient’s postal ZIP Code), bringing geo-targeting into the digital age is not as simple as it seems, especially when the bulk of today’s internet access is carried out via mobile devices. Let us take a closer look.

At its most basic, online geo-targeting (at least on the desktop) is a simple matter of comparing a users’ IP address to a large database of IP addresses, which reveals which internet service providers own which “blocks” of addresses. This is usually enough to identify users by their exact country of origin, or by their region within that country in the case of more localized ISPs, rather than national or international ones.

This approach is adequate for targeting profitable countries while excluding those that are less so, and can be refined by also discriminating by the browser’s default language setting, so that for example, it becomes possible to target Spanish-speaking users in the U.S., or even American expats living abroad.

Today’s geo-targeting techniques can drill down far more tightly than the national level, however, by relying on a variety of other user ID signals. For example, Twitter allows advertisers on its platform to target users at a much more granular level — with American users identified by state, as well as by being in one of 200 metro areas, or 12,000 postal ZIP Codes — with similar targeting across 20 other countries.

A single ad campaign can target multiple locations; and can do so accurately because the company includes metrics such as the language selected by users when creating their profile, as well as the languages a person uses on the social media service, allowing the targeting of multilingual users.

Twitter’s self-service ad option targets Afrikaans, Bahasa, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish and Danish speaking users — illustrating both its global reach and localized advertising power.

A Twitter ad rep notes that while geo-targeting can put a campaigns in front of a very specific audience, that specificity limits the campaign’s reach.

“Maximize your campaign performance by only using geo-targeting when necessary, and using the broadest type of geo-targeting necessary to meet your goal,” the rep explains. “For example, if you want to reach users in California, your campaign will see greater reach when targeting California at the state level rather than specifying every city or postal code in the state.”

Google’s AdWords program offers similar functionality, along with options for targeting points of interest as well as users within a specified radius of that point or other location, and for other factors, such as household income — with the company noting that as with purchasing real estate, profitable advertising is a matter of “location, location, location.”

“Location targeting helps you focus your advertising on the areas where you’ll find the right customers, and restrict it in areas where you don’t — which could help increase your return on investment as a result,” explains a Google spokesperson. “Regardless of how great your ad is, it probably won’t perform as well if it doesn’t appear in the right places.”

Google knows about “the right places.” While geo location specialists such as MaxMind rely on public data about ISPs, as well as in-house data gathering by pinging servers and triangulating their locations to uncover the exact whereabouts of an IP address, Google enjoys a considerable advantage when it comes to drilling down past the city or postal code level. The company’s “Street View” vehicles are not only out photographing everything in sight — but reportedly grabbing IP addresses and Wi-Fi data tied to specific addresses and households as it combs the streets of the world. Google currently reports that it has done so across seven continents, including 65 countries — having recorded data from 7 million miles of travel.

Your Wi-Fi data and IP addresses are most likely included in that count.

Mobile companies also know exactly where you are, using their ability to employ triangulation between cellular towers to locate users with great accuracy — a practice often demonstrated in the media when criminal suspects, lost hikers, missing persons and more, are located with ease. You also see it in the ads you are shown on your mobile device — from the closest pizza to a limo ride to Spearmint Rhino, mobile savvy marketers are reaching prospects whenever they are close enough to make a possible sale.

App publishers and mobile marketers in particular can benefit because of access to a phone’s location services, which provides an extremely high level of geo-targeting accuracy.

Carmen,’s managing director, told XBIZ that through geo-targeting, marketers have more information than ever before about their target audiences.

“Geo-targeting allows us to pinpoint a customer’s current location and tailor the message and the medium directly to them, ”Carmen says. “Our adult mobile campaigns incorporate multiple location data sources to target consumers not just in the right locations, but also at the most opportune times.”

Carmen is quick to note, however, that geo-aware ads and time targeting are not everything.

“The key is to pay attention to your users’ habits in order to understand how to make advertising more relevant,” Carmen reveals. “We engage the user by creating our own custom creatives, banners and landing pages, in more than 20 languages, which is a vital part of the sales funnel that help us maximize the conversion rate and increase up to 50 percent the income on the same amount of traffic.”

Carmen credits BitterStrawberry’s in-house ad department, research into user behavior, and the firm’s dynamic banner server, for providing the ability to constantly optimize the company’s creatives; making them among the most efficient tools on the market.

“We all know that the mobile advertising market is evolving together with the rest of the mobile market and infrastructure and we need to evolve with it,” Carmen explains. “Geo-targeting will remain the base, but if we want to stay on top, we will have to innovate.”

This innovation is currently seen in certain mainstream markets, where beacons for proximity targeting and sensors are being linked with mobile advertising, but for the adult market, Carmen believes that the push to augmented and virtual reality will be the next step.

“With virtual and augmented reality becoming more popular, we’ll also start seeing its effects in the mobile advertising industry,” Carmen concludes. “This will be powerful given the immersive nature of both of these formats, which will have a huge impact on the mobile advertising landscape, but we are looking forward to it.”

Thomas Skavhellen, chief brand officer for PlugRush, told XBIZ that the current trends in geo-targeting the company sees include more and more traffic from mobile in the Latin American and Asian countries.

“Africans are also stronger in the mobile space at the moment,” Skavhellen says. “At PlugRush, it has been really easy for our advertisers to buy traffic from a certain geo, but we see a bigger trend for also targeting mobile carriers.”

By targeting specific mobile carriers, one-click payments may be ac-cessed and special offers presented.

“The carrier payment offers are still a gold mine in our industry,” Skavhellen adds “and here we offer our clients to upload their IP-lists for their carriers to target for the right traffic.”

Skavhellen recommends that advertisers track as much data as they can about their conversions, and then try to buy more of the same traffic from the same geos, devices and browsers.

“The more you know about what is working,” Skavhellen told XBIZ, “the better you know what traffic to acquire.”

As the internet becomes an increasingly mobile marketplace, geo-targeting will become easier and even more important — with creativity and technology leading the way. Geo-targeting is no longer a matter of running simple banner ads that promise viewers a date with “a girl in your town,” but a necessary step in turning a website’s visitors into cash.