location targeting

When 50 States Do Not Equal 1 United States

A common trend for those that managed pay-per-click (PPC) accounts before the launch of enhanced campaigns was the presence of 50 individual state campaigns instead of one national campaign. In 2013 along with enhanced campaigns came the ability to add bid modifiers by location. At this time the recommended method to handle location bidding became combining into one campaign and utilizing the bid modifiers. We still come across what you may call the pre-enhanced campaign method here and there and, in almost every case it does occur, it likely results from the client providing services in at least 45 states but not all 50 states.

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One would think that the only difference between running 50 individual state campaigns and running one national campaign would be the time it takes to manage the campaign(s) and combined data for faster optimizations. One advantage to running 50 individual state campaigns would be that you get significantly more granular bidding where the geographic bid modifier from enhanced campaigns could fall a bit short. Yes, you can increase all bids in Florida by 50% or decrease all bids in Indiana by 25%, but what if some keywords performed significantly better in Indiana and some keywords performed significantly worse in Florida? You're stuck raising or lowering all of your keyword bids. Okay, maybe we should just break up all the states into their own campaigns?

Not so fast! What if this caused your cost-per-click (CPC) to rise and your available impressions to fall? Would you still do it? In most cases, probably not. Because we have done this a half-dozen times in the last few years, and we know that running one national campaign while excluding those few states that you don't cover gives you significantly more impressions and a lower CPC. Here’s one example from a mid-sized account that spends about $150k/month on Google Adwords.

This is what you get when you take 47 state campaigns and convert them to one national campaign with a total of three states excluded:

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Pretty impressive? Cost-per-click dropped by half and impressions tripled. The simple explanation for this result is Google's ability to identify location and open up to those that are "unspecified" by state but not by country. After some investigating, we found that less than 1% of the impressions didn’t have an identifiable state. So where did all of the new impressions come from? Our honest answer? We have no idea. Each time we made this change, although the results weren’t astonishing, we have seen consistent, significant increases in impressions and decreases in cost-per-click.

Here's another example of an account we took over last year. Although the cost-per-click didn’t drop dramatically, we saw a significant increase in impression volume:

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