AdWords Audience Targeting

How Google AdWords Determine Audience Targeting

1) IP Address,
2) Domain
3) Query terms

To understand which of these criteria take precedence over the others, let’s use the example of a user in Berlin searching for a hotel.

IP Address

More often than not, users looking for a region-specific service like a hotel will indicate a particular region either in the query terms they use or by the site they choose to conduct their search on. If they don’t do either, SEM tools will use their IP address to determine from where they are searching.

An IP (or Internet Protocol) address is a numeric code that identifies computers on the Internet, and it is globally unique, meaning that every computer in the world that’s on the Internet has a different IP Address. Most importantly, IP addresses are not randomly assigned: different latitude/longitude points each have unique IP addresses, and these can be used to infer the user’s city, region, and country with quite a high degree of precision. (To test this for yourself, click here to see if an IP address locator can correctly identify where you’re connecting from.)

So, if our user in Berlin gives no other indication of the location he or she is interested in, an SEM tool can use an IP address to find the user’s location on the map, and thus the country code (“DE” for Germany), region code (“DEBE”), and city code (“DEBEBERL”).


Let’s say that our hypothetical user — a German looking for a hotel — still doesn’t query anything more than the word “hotel,” but does indicate the location he or she is interested in by the domain used.

Many search engines — including Google, Yahoo and Microsoft (Bing) — have country-specific sites:, for example, is Google’s search engine for the United Kingdom, is Yahoo’s French site, and is Microsoft’s German site.

Domains take precedence over IP addresses. As noted above, an SEM tool will know that our hypothetical user is connecting from Berlin. However, if that user searches for “hotels” on (Google’s French site), he or she will see ads targeting people looking for hotels in France rather than those looking for hotels in Germany.

Query Terms

Most the time, users will give some indication of the location they’re interested in via the query terms they use. Searches of this type might include:

“hotels in Chicago”
“spas in Phoenix”
“restaurants in St. Louis”
“bookstores in Miami”

When users perform searches like these, it takes precedence over any other criteria in determining their location. To take a last look at Berlin example: if the user conducts a search on for “hotels in New York,” he or she will see ads targeting people looking for hotels in New York, rather than hotels in France (the domain location) or hotels in Germany (the IP address location).