How location targeting can affect your keywords
A Google AdWords advertiser ran into an interesting problem recently. He was running ads in a country outside the U.S. and one of his keywords was USA. This caused a problem. Google treats location names in a search query to indicate where the search is to be performed geographically first, not as a topic of the search. For example, if you have a restaurant in New York and you wish to target your ads to only your local area and your want to bid on the keyword Chicago style pizza, you might have trouble getting impressions for that keyword because Chicago is a city outside your target area and the Google search engine might interpret a search query for Chicago style pizza as someone looking for style pizza in the Chicago area. Okay, maybe not the best example but hopefully you understand the idea.
It happens less and less often as Google is constantly improving its search engine, but it still happens. When I worked on the AdWords Support Team I had this problem come up a lot. It happened with country names, city names, and even keywords that were also the names of popular lakes and tourist locations.
How can you know if this is happening?
The easiest way to know if this is happening to you is to use the Ad Preview tool in your AdWords account. If you see a keyword in your account that should be performing well for you but you see it has no impressions for a period of time (I suggest at least a 7 day period but that’s up to you), hover the dialog bubble in the status column of the keyword and a box, like the one pictured below will appear.
You will want to next click on the Ad Preview and Diagnosis link at the bottom of the dialog box. This will open up the ad preview tool page.
Your Ad Preview Tool should autofill with your keyword and settings and all you will need to do is click the blue Preview button and a simulated Google search will be performed for that keyword. This is a simulated search so no impressions will be created for this keyword but you will get real search results.
Once you click Preview you will see a simulated Google Search page with results. You will also see a tab indicating whether or not your ad is displaying. If the tab is red that means your ad did not display and it will tell you why.
If your ad does not show and the reason states that you are not targeting that geographical area this could mean that your keyword contains terminology that is creating a geographical conflict.
How to fix this problem
The only sure way to correct this problem is to add the geographic location to your targeting. In the example above you would add Chicago to the targeting for your New York restaurant. This fix can cost you as your ad would now be eligible to show in places that are not necessary good for your business. Before you do that I would try experimenting with changes to your keyword.
For example you might try +pizza +style Chicago instead of Chicago style pizza. Try a few variations and if that does not work I would call AdWords Support as Google is always upgrading the AdWords platform and they may have come up with a fix or work around for this problem.
If you do add an additional geographic target are to your settings I suggest you try doing so with a decreased adjusted bid amount. I have never personally tried to fix the problem with the lower adjusted bid amount but it would be worth trying.
Remember this problem does not happen often so use the Ad Preview Tool to check for it. Don’t assume that’s the reason you are not getting impressions. More common reasons for no impressions would be low bid amounts, poor quality scores, or a keyword with low volume.