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Reach More Car Shoppers with Geotargeting

Introduction to Geotargeting

Before we launch into an investigation of how geotargeting can help you reach more car shoppers, we should clarify some terminology. Using location data in advertising has been called many things, including geo-fencing, location-based marketing, and geotargeting. The term we’ll be using most is geotargeting — because it covers a broad range of advertising activities that involve using location data.  


Geotargeting — Delving into the Details:

Geotargeting in advertising is defined as the practice of determining the location of a user online and then delivering personalized ad content to the user based on that location.

Geotargeted advertising relies on location information technology like GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi, and cellular data, and combines this with other user data to deliver another level of personalization to ad content.

If it helps, you can think of geolocation essentially providing another filter when selecting your advertising audience. With audience targeting, you can generally filter by age, gender, language, interest, etc. Geo-targeting allows you to narrow your ad group by location as well.

Here’s an example of geo-targeting an area around Central Park:

Somewhat different from standard geo-targeting is geo-fencing, which allows you to set up a virtual “fence” around an area – like your dealership. When people physically enter that fence (and after they leave it), they can be served your ads. Geo-fencing is particularly effective on apps, which can send push notifications when shoppers enter a specific location.  

With Geo-fencing technology, you can set the boundaries of an area you want to advertise in. If I were Central Park Motors (an entirely fictional dealership), I could run an Ice-Cream-In-The-Park promotion, where anyone browsing on their phone while walking through the park on a summer day would be served an ad for a FREE ICE-CREAM at the dealership right next to the park (if they come in and share a picture of their favorite car on the lot on social media).

If you’re still a little puzzled about geotargeting vs. geo-fencing, you can think of the comparison in terms of “general location” (geotargeting) vs. “real-time location.” (geofencing). Naturally, both are reliant on location, but the technology, tactics, and methods of application are different.


Where Can I Do This?

On many platforms!

No one platform has a monopoly on geo-targeting, so your dealership can make use of this advertising tool where it works best for you. Your options cover nearly all the major advertising platforms you are likely already using, as well as a few you probably haven’t considered.

The level of specificity within these platforms is impressive. Though many platforms allow targeting by region or even zip-code, you don’t have to be that general.  Google AdWords, Bing, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and many online radio and display ad platforms can drill down to within a one-mile or less radius of your targeted location.

You can be incredibly selective in your location targeting. In AdWords, for example, if you want to be very exact about your targeting, you can open up options to narrow to a location based on name, address, or coordinates. You can even manage your geotargeting campaigns to include a specific radius but exclude a certain Zip-Code.

For example, the image below shows geo-targeting set up for a one mile radius around the middle of Central Park, but while excluding the Upper West Side.

With carefully constructed and hyper-specific geotargeting like the above example, you can create highly unique and effective campaigns that are literally tailored to your community.


Strategies for Reaching More Shoppers With Geo-Fencing

Branch Out and Be Bold

One of the benefits of using geo-fencing with your advertising is getting flexible with where and how you advertise. You can target locations all over the map — if they seem like promising sources of sales.

First, if you don’t already know, conduct an analysis to find out which areas among the communities you serve are the highest value for your dealership.

Then, you can branch out and target these areas. No need to waste money, however. You can adjust your bid according to the value of the target area — higher bids for the customers you really want to reach, and lower for those who aren’t as likely to purchase.


Explore Your Options

As we’ve already covered, when setting up location-based advertising, you have a variety of resources to choose from. Don’t limit yourself to a single platform — and consider running complementary advertisements across platforms so you’re delivering a personalized omnichannel advertising experience.

Within these platforms, you have a variety of options for targeting the exact right group. For example, Facebook allows for the user audience to be selected depending on their relationship with that location — living, frequently visited, or taking a trip there.

This being said, don’t feel the need to spread yourself (or your advertising budget) too thin. Focus on the best-performing platforms for geo-targeted campaigns. Test frequently and optimize within these high-performers, and you’ll likely see much better ROI than if you try to be everywhere at once.


Test Your Ads

Keep testing. Change your copy, your locations, your offers, and your images and compare the results. Run two different versions of the same ad in the same location to determine which performs better, or run the same ad in two different locations to see which area is of higher value.

Your basis for these tests should ideally be solid information (the percentage of sales that originate from that neighborhood, the proportion of service customers that zip-code represents, etc). Do your homework and look for insights to help inform these tests. That being said, don’t ignore your gut. If you think you’ve got a killer idea for a geotargeted campaign but don’t have the data to back it up (or disprove it), try it out. Sometimes trying something based on hunch turns into creative and intuitive marketing.  


Advertise Beyond New Cars

Carefully explore your data. Don’t overlook the areas that consistently deliver business to your parts and service department(s) and buy used vehicles. These often have better profit margins than new car sales in any case, and if you have a chance to win over service customers (particularly if you can steal them from your competitors), your dealership is well situated for however long the current drop in new-car sales turns out to be.

You can also target auto repair shops and parts stores with ads for discounted prices, better service, faster service, better reviews, or a wider selection of goods. Get creative with these often-neglected areas of dealership advertising.


Consider Your Surroundings

The surrounding community can provide excellent inspiration for your dealership’s geo-targeting efforts. The geography, businesses, services, and situations near your dealership (or within your area of business) can all kickstart unique and effective marketing campaigns.

If you like, you can steal our idea for Central Park Motor’s Ice-Cream-In-The-Park promotion. Hopefully you can give it a better name! But there are hundreds of opportunities that are unique to your area. Maybe you are located by the fairgrounds — use this in your marketing, and capitalize on huge crowds coming into town for the event.

For example: “Planning to drive all the way from [User Location] for the 76th Annual Anycounty Fair? We’ll make sure the trip was worth it. Get a $500 out-of-towner discount on all vehicles in July!”



Geo-targeting is yet another way that advertising is becoming increasingly focused on offering hyper-relevant content to car shoppers. With geo-targeted advertising, your dealership can communicate connection to the user and show your dedication to understanding their unique situation. As geo-targeting technology continues to improve and expectations for location accuracy rise, you can be sure to see exciting changes coming this way.