How Google AdSense Geotargeting Works
Jedi Master of the Search Engine Forum World, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable points to a discussion going on at Webmaster World on Google AdSense and Geotargeting. After reading, I found the explanation quite valuable, especially after living in Japan up until 3 weeks ago.
While web surfing in Japan and visiting English language sites, I would be served advertisements by Google AdSense targeted towards the Japanese, or International, audience – in English and relevant to the site I was visiting.
If I were to view a site which was in Japanese, and be served a Google AdSense ad, the AdSense ad would still be served to me in English, while relevant to the content on the site, and my web surfing patterns and behavior. Same if I were to visit a site in Portuguese, I would still be served relevant advertising, in English.
On occassion, would an ad be shown in the language of the site I was visiting, but not very often. I lso noticed some glitches where Chinese was served from time to time.
Why? My guess is that my Windows platform and browser is in English and 99.9% of the sites I visit, which Google is tracking, are in English.
Can I say the same for other advertising networks? No, for the most part all other ad networks (especially Advertising.com) which served me geotargeted advertising served those horrible US Visa Lottery Application ads, in Japanese or Portuguese. Being a US Citizen, these ads were a waste of time and money for the advertiser.
Back to the Webmaster World discussion, WMW member AdSenseAdvisor posts a bit on how geotargeting works within Google AdSense:
Geotargeting is based on the IP address of your users. So, say one page of your site is about Spain, and a user from Japan is viewing it. That user will see AdWords ads targeted to 1) a Japanese audience and 2) the text based content of the site. The advertiser chooses which countries they would like to target. A user in Canada might see a different set of ads.
So, your Japanese readers MAY see ads specifically targeted to ‘Spain’. However, they may also see ads for ‘Portugal’ if these are the highest paying ads available for a Japanese audience that are also relevant to the page content (i.e., travel in Iberia).
Regardless, the highest paying ads available at any given moment for any geographic audience will always appear on your site. And ‘highest paying’ isn’t solely determined based on bid price, but on quality score as well — meaning how the ads actually perform (see http://adsense.blogspot.com/2006/02/ad-rank-explained.html for more information about ad ranking).
When viewing a travel page from Spain, the Japanese and Canadian visitors will see ads for hotels in Spain as long as the Spanish advertisers configured their ad to show to users not just from Spain, but from other countries such as Japan and Canada. The advertisers control the targeting in this case.