Google’s location tracking is better now than ever before

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In April 2015, I wrote about Google’s progress in steadily tracking more and more user locations to ZIP codes. As ZIP codes are the most granular location type which populates the “Most specific location” field in AdWords geographic reports, the share of traffic that Google assigns to ZIP codes in this field gives advertisers an idea of how well Google is doing at figuring out searcher locations.

At the time, Google was showing strong progress in its location tracking:

Fast forward to today, and Google is tracking more searchers to ZIP codes than ever before. However, most of the progress made only applies to traffic, while search partners are continuing to lag in terms of the share of searchers tracked to a ZIP code.

One big, huge, ginormous caveat

The most important thing to keep in mind with this analysis is that it is based on the locations that Google itself reports. This means that if Google were to, say, expand the use of modeling to infer searcher location to apply to users whose locations it is less confident in, we might see a rise in the share of traffic tracked to a ZIP code without any change in what information Google is actually getting.

As such, the trends shown here could be the result of updates Google itself made in assigning and reporting searcher location, rather than Google actually obtaining more granular information on searcher location over time. They could also be the result of a combination of Google changes and more granular information.

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Andy Taylor is a Senior Research Analyst at RKG, responsible for analyzing trends across the digital marketing spectrum for best practices and industry commentary. A primary contributor to the Merkle | RKG Blog, Dossier, and quarterly Digital Marketing Report, his 4+ years of experience have seen him master and provide valuable insights into topics that extend across paid search, comparison shopping engines, display advertising, SEO, and social media. Prior to coming to RKG, Andy worked as an event organizer for a political campaign and dabbled in freelance writing. A graduate of the University of Virginia with a degree in Economics, he likes to spend his free time watching documentaries and selling homemade ice cream sandwiches at farmer’s markets with his girlfriend.


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