3 Tips to Location Targeting With Facebook Ads (Strategies & Best Practice for Local Businesses)

With 1.84 billion active daily users on Facebook, you want to ensure your ads reach the right audience. Using location targeting for your ads is one crucial aspect of that. So, if you’re a local business looking for strategies and best practices, here are three ways how you can effectively use location targeting with Facebook ads.

The top three strategies to location targeting with Facebook ads are:

  1. Set your business’s geographic coverage—the choices include state, city, and zip code
  2. Decide on who within that area you want to reach
  3. Adjust settings to maximize reach without reducing ad spend returns.

Choose the Right Target Audience 

To get started, you need to decide which segment of people you want to reach. Facebook defines these segments by reference to the location you’ll choose later. 

The platform gives you four choices. You can find them above the “Search Locations” field, as shown below.

Click the dropdown arrow to reveal the choices, as follows.

Let’s run through what each one means:

  • People living in or recently in this location. Facebook displays your ad to people living in your target area based on their Facebook profiles. It also displays if their device information shows they’re currently in your target location. This is the most common choice. 
  • People living in this location. Users whose city in their profiles falls within your target area will see your ad. 
  • People recently in this location. Again, Facebook shows your ad to people whose device information suggests they’re currently in your target area.
  • People traveling in this location. Facebook shows your ad to users who’ve checked in at your target area. However, this only applies if they’re more than 125 miles (200 km) away from their home location.

The option you select depends on your business. For example, the second option covers those who live in the location you choose. 

However, if you also want to attract people passing by, say on their daily commute, choose the first option. 

On the other hand, if you’re a car rental business, hotel, or restaurant, a better target segment might be people traveling in the location.

Target the Right Locations for Your Business

Here’s where you define the location you want your ad to cover. Facebook lets you do this in as broad or as narrow terms as your business needs.

When To Use the Default Country Setting

The default location setting in Facebook is usually by country, as you can see in the following image.

That’s okay if you ship your products countrywide or if you provide downloadable products like training courses. 

In that case, setting the location to “country” will give you maximum reach nationwide.

Using More Refined Location Settings

However, if you’re a local business without a national reach, you’ll need to delete the country setting. There’s no point paying for ads to be displayed to audiences outside your geographical reach. 

So, just click on “Edit,” and delete the default. You’ll then see the “Search Locations” option shown below, which is where you can refine your location. 

Facebook gives you various ways to define your location. As you can see from the graphic above, you can do this by:

For a local business, the most appropriate options will often be the last five from the list above.

Set Location by State or City

So, if you want to target a location by state or city, start typing the state or city in the “Search Locations” field. As you do, you’ll see a list appear, and you can select from it.

For example, let’s say you want to set your location to California. Start typing the state in the “Search Locations” field. As you do so, the list will appear, with the state at the top of the list. Below it, you’ll see a list of various cities in the state, as shown in the following image.

Select the state, and Facebook will display your selection on a map. Not only that, but it will also tell you the total potential reach for your ad in that location. Plus, you’ll see the estimated daily reach and conversions. You can see all this in the image below.

Excluding Locations

For some local businesses, state or city-wide coverage may be too extensive.  For example, there may be areas in your state or city where you can’t or don’t want to deliver. 

Again, if that’s the case for your business, there’s no point paying Facebook to serve up your ads in those areas. 

It’s easy enough to deal with this. To the left of “Search Locations,” there’s a green pin labeled “Include.” If you click the dropdown arrow next to it, you can change the setting to “Exclude.” You can see this in the graphic below.

Then, just as you did when selecting locations to include, type in the locations to exclude. 

For example, let’s say you want to exclude Los Angeles from your selected location of California. So, type Los Angeles into the “Search Locations” field, and select it. 

Another way to select locations is by dropping a pin. You can see the option in the bottom right of the map. Just click on “Drop Pin” and then click somewhere on the map.

The excluded area will then show up with a red pin and circle. The pin is the location you chose, and the red circle represents the radius (in miles) around that location. You can see this in the image below.

The location list above the map shows the excluded region is 25 miles around Los Angeles. You can adjust the radius by selecting the dropdown arrow next to the radius. Then use the slider or type in the radius you want to exclude. You can see how this looks in the image below.

Re-Including Locations

If within an area you’ve excluded, there’s a location that your business serves, it’s no problem. The tool is pretty flexible. You can re-include locations within an excluded area. Again, you can do this by specifying a location or by dropping a pin. 

So, below, we’ve dropped the upper pin into the larger excluded area. The upper pin is the area to re-include. 

So, you need to change that location’s setting to “include” using the dropdown arrow in the location line. You can see the dropdown in the main image below. The result of the change is shown in the inset image with the re-included area now blue.

Set Location by Zip Code or Address

If you need to get really specific with your location targeting, select locations using zip codes or addresses.

For example, if your gym is in a large city, even choosing a city as your location may be too broad. If you think about it, people will likely opt for a gym nearest to their home or workplace.

So, instead of defining your location by state or city, specify zip codes in your area as the target location. Or, use the address of your gym.

You do this in the same way as when selecting a state or city. Just start typing the zip code or your address in the “Search Location” field. The following graphic shows you how each of these displays.

And, you can add as many zip codes or addresses as you want. So, for a local store serving small neighborhoods, these controls really help you drill down to your target audiences.

Make Your Target Location As Large as Possible 

As we said above, you don’t want to target an audience that you don’t have any chance of capturing. However, you don’t want to go too small either. 

For example, if you own a local store, you could limit your target audience to people living within a mile. But that’s not going to give you much reach.

Let’s look at an example. Below, you can see the potential reach is only 18,000 people for two Walmart stores. That’s with the location radius set to within a mile of each.

However, minor tweaks can get your ads in front of a larger potential audience, which may give you a better return on your ad spend.

For example, increasing the radius from the locations to 3 miles makes a big difference. In this example, it bumps up the potential reach to 180,000 people. See the image below.

If you’re a small local business, that jump to 180,000 is a significant improvement over using a one-mile radius. Yet, the three-mile radius is still feasible for a local store. 

One situation where you could use a larger radius for a local store might be if you’re selling a niche product. In that case, people may be willing to travel further than usual.

So, it’s worth thinking whether and if so, by how much to increase your target radius if the initial potential reach looks small.


So, there you have three strategies for location targeting with Facebook ads if you have a local business.

As with any successful ad campaign, you want to get your ad to the right audience.  Facebook makes this easy with its location targeting controls. They give you a lot of flexibility in defining the areas you want to target. 

It’s worth spending time to think about your business’s specific characteristics when deciding on settings, especially if the potential reach of your ad at first looks on the low side. This investment of your time will help maximize your ad spend returns. 

If you’d like to know more about Facebook ad strategies, check out my Beginner to Expert Video