In The Trenches, April 25, 2008

In The Trenches is a weekly spotlight of tips, tricks and news about the tools search engine marketing professionals use to give them a leg up on the competition. Today: News from the search engines, today’s in-depth look, “Geo-Targeting On The Engines,” and this week’s free tips and tools.

News from the search engines

Google AdWords: From the Inside AdWords blog: “If you’re an AdWords Editor user, you’ll be happy to know that we’re introducing a new announcement-only Google Group devoted solely to information about AdWords Editor. When you subscribe to this group, you’ll receive product news, helpful tips, and other updates straight from the AdWords Editor team. All posts to the forum will be in English. To subscribe, visit the AdWords Editor forum and select one of the email options.” I went and checked it out. Right now, there’s only one post and it’s just a note that the recent AdWords Editor webinar is available on-demand at YouTube.

One other note I’d like to share is that I learned that “agencies using the AdWords API are now eligible to receive monthly invoices for AdWords API charges rather than being charged on a credit card when a threshold amount is reached.” This was not very “stop the presses” newsworthy, but for all of us that accrue pretty significant charges with our API usage (as with our SEM management tools), I figured I’d pass that along.

Yahoo Panama: Well, it’s finally here. As reported in February, Yahoo has dropped the $.10 minimum bid model and looks to be headed in the Google direction of higher minimum bids based on specific variables. In their blog article Minimum Bids No Longer Fixed at $.10 on April 17th, they state, “Starting today, minimum bids for some Sponsored Search keywords will no longer be fixed at $.10. Throughout the next week, you may start noticing new minimum bids on some of your keywords. Your new minimum bids can be lower or higher than $.10. Content Match minimum bids currently will remain at $.10. We’ll notify you in the account interface when the status of any of your keywords is affected.

The new minimum bids are a little bit like auction house reserve prices, and can be based on multiple factors, such as your keyword quality and the keyword’s value—or how much we think that keyword is worth. Here’s a look at the two main factors: Quality—High quality generally means that your ads are being clicked more often, relative to your competitors. We try to reward quality with higher rankings and lower costs, and now, potentially, with lower minimum bids. Value—We look at a number of things to determine what a keyword is worth: for example, how many advertisers are bidding on your keyword, and what they’re willing to pay for it.”

Microsoft adCenter: Not much news with adCenter. I just received their “Quarterly Insights” newsletter and was pleasantly surprised that all of their most recent newsworthy topics have been covered previously by this column, including the new content network additions, the launch of the adCenter community forum, and open registration to be considered for their pilot programs. I did find a good resource that might be of interest to some SEM pros that read this column, as MSN has compiled some fairly thorough starting keyword lists for a few industries on their website. Some of industries covered are Automotive, Technology, Healthcare, Travel, and Retail. You can go to that page to learn more, but here’s the Automotive general terms spreadsheet so you can see if this has any interest for you.

In depth: Geo-targeting on the engines

Geo-targeting is obviously one of the most important targeting aspects to any SEM campaign. For many of us here in America, it’s important for our ads to only be seen within the United States, as many companies don’t ship or sell outside of the country and any clicks to outer areas would just be wasted.

When targeting internationally, it’s important to customize campaigns to ensure the proper language ads are served to the right countries. I’ve used geo-targeting for a variety of reasons, including segmenting regions of the country with different campaigns in order to control budgets to the most ideal locations or report later to clients who want to see how, for example, their Midwest efforts compare to the South. And yet for another account, the laws varied from state to state for a client’s products, so we were very careful to not show their ads in certain places or risk wasting the budget.

Google’s Targeting by Location describes what Google has to offer—the most robust and best geo-targeting features available in the SEM universe. From the AdWords Help Center:

“You can select any combination of locations to target with your campaign, including countries, territories, regions, cities and custom areas. For example, you could target specific regions within the United States and a few large English-speaking cities in Europe. With our interactive map targeting tool, there are several ways to specify your location targeting:

  • Search or browse for countries, regions, and cities

  • Select a preset bundle of locations
  • Choose a point on the map and specify a radius around it where your ads will appear
  • Target a custom shape on the map
  • Exclude areas within your selected locations

Okay, so most systems can target countries and states, but one of the most intriguing targeting abilities with the Google tool is the “custom shape” aspect. You can click points on the map or enter in latitude/longitude coordinates and create a polygon to target a specific area. Check out the example below… I was able to target just the Washington DC “Beltway.”

I remember this came in handy for one client who was an attorney. He wanted to target users within 50 miles of his office, but that would have included users in another state because he was close to the border. This wasn’t appropriate because he wasn’t authorized legally to do business in that state. So, with this custom shape tool, we were able to target within 50 miles around his office but not in the neighboring state.

As with most geo-targeting, the IP address of the user is compared against a location database to determine where the user is located. However, Google has two rule-breakers:

1) They consider the Google domain being used (.fr, .de, .kr, etc.). If a user visits, the Google domain for France, she’ll see ads targeted to France, regardless of her current location. And 2) they analyze the actual search query the user submits on Google. If someone enters a search query that contains a recognizable city or region, they may show related regionally or custom-targeted ads. For example, if someone searches for New York plumbers, they may show relevant ads targeted to New York, regardless of the user’s physical location. These are certainly reasonable rule-breakers… what if someone in Boston is searching for Los Angeles shopping opportunities because they’re planning a trip to LA soon. Shouldn’t they be able to see LA targeted ads for a new shopping mall even though they’re in Boston?

Yahoo’s Campaign Geo-Targeting is set at the campaign level. The opportunities are not as feature-rich as AdWords, but you can still target by:

  • Entire Market

  • State, Territory, or Province
  • City and Surrounding Area

You set the market when you setup the campaign; thus, Yahoo smartly gives you the option to choose the entire market. Yahoo also uses the Nielson DMA for “surrounding areas” which, as many old school marketers know, stands for “Designated Market Area.” This is their breakup of the country into 210 specific areas that have been used for years and years. You can order PDFs from Nielson to get a better handle on these areas here. However, I did find some good info here as well.

Microsoft’s adCenter differs from its two competitors, as geo-location settings are set at the ad group level in the “Target your customers” section. Although I like the fact that you can target more granularly at the ad group level than the campaign level, the adCenter interface is tedious and I’ve certainly had afternoons blown just going through a new account load and setting all of the ad groups one by one. Just thinking about it now gets me a little steamed, but, as a best practice, I’d rather have more control than less control. I just wish there was a campaign setting that could be utilized if all of the ad groups are being targeted the same.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft’s feature is less robust than either Yahoo or Google. Targeting is available at only the country, region, or city level; it is not available by U.S. state or postal code. To target at the state level, you have to chose the state and then highlight all of the cities within that state. Once again, another time waster! Unfortunately for Microsoft, this is one of those pain points that SEM pros talk about when they decide not to run on Microsoft for a particular account. I know that there have been times that our budgets have been low for a client and running on MSN is an afterthought due to some of these inefficiencies.

Free tool of the week: Keyword Lizard, a concatenator on steroids!

Keyword Lizard makes it easy to develop huge lists of keyword phrases in just moments. The task is simple; Keywords are entered into two or more input lists, with related words appearing in the same list. With a single click, Keyword Lizard combines the input keywords in every way possible to generate a large list of keyword phrases.”

Check out the example below:


The resulting list includes “blue shirt, black shirt, red shirt, etc.” It even has more powerful tools including removing duplicates, adding brackets or quotes for phrase/broad match options, and even allowing you to use the AdWords powerpost feature to embed bids into the list. The grayed out options in the screenshot above are reserved for the Professional version, which has a subscription fee.

I’ve been using Keyword Lizard for years and years to generate tail lists for my SEM accounts and I think you’ll find it to be very powerful for you and better than the basic concatenate feature of Excel.

Josh Dreller is the Director of Media Technology for Fuor Digital, an agency concentrated in the research, planning, buying and stewardship of digital media marketing campaigns. Josh can be reached at The In The Trenches column appears Fridays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search Marketing Toolbox


About The Author: has been a search marketer since 2003 with a focus on SEM technology. As a media technologist fluent in the use of leading industry systems, Josh stays abreast of cutting edge digital marketing and measurement tools to maximize the effect of digital media on business goals. He has a deep passion to monitor the constantly evolving intersection between marketing and technology. You can follow him on Twitter at @mediatechguy.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.

Comments are closed.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide