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Facebook Ads: Why are my ads showing to people outside of my target location?

Facebook Ads: Why are my ads showing to people outside of my target location?

Facebook Ads location targeting seems pretty straightforward on the surface.

An example of Facebook targeting everyone in a 40km radius around Sydney, Australia.

However, you're not always going to get the results you expect when it comes to location targeting.

Your options with Facebook Ads location targeting:

  • target locations by specific postcode/s
  • target locations by town, city or country names
  • target exactly that location
  • target in a radius around that location.

Who you can target in the location:

  • target people who live in that location
  • target people recently in that location
  • target people recently travelling in that location
  • target everyone in that location (all of the above).

A hypothetical

You're setting up a Facebook Ad Set. You decide:

I'll target 40km around Sydney.

I only want to target people who live in Sydney.

You track the campaign for a few weeks, and you notice a handful of contacts coming through from the Facebook Ad that are outside of your location targeting. If you use HubSpot or a similar product, you might pick up on this by looking at the IP city or postcode (if they have provided that information through a form) on their contact record.

You've just spent some money to get this lead, and they're not even in your target location! If you are advertising for a location-specific business or service, you would probably determine that lead is unqualified (you can't travel to them or they are out of your service area). You also don't want to waste time calling or following up with them.

Why did I get a lead outside of my location targeting on Facebook?

This issue was brought to our attention when a client reported they were seeing out-of-area contacts coming from Facebook Ads. Their services are location specific, so collecting leads out of area is not useful for them.

After double and triple checking our location targeting was correct, we contacted Facebook support. The information Support provided lead us to believe location targeting is more complex that we originally thought.

To determine location for ad targeting Facebook uses a range of sources, including but not limited to:

  1. Currently city from profile
  2. IP address
  3. Data from mobile location services
  4. Aggregated information about the location of friends

The response from Facebook Support

Facebook may have to predict the location of a user in some cases, or rely on the information they have added to their profile (which may be out of date or incorrect). This can lead to your ad being served to someone out of your target location, and it's exactly what we were seeing with our client.

A specific example

An example of a Facebook user with Current City set as Sydney

In this example, our client was targeting people who live in Sydney. We had a contact come in from Canberra (he supplied his postcode on a form) and decided to investigate why he was seeing our ad. We managed to find him on Facebook and discovered his Current City was set to Sydney on his profile. This is probably why Facebook decided to show him our ad.

Could Facebook have known he didn't actually live in Sydney? It's possible his IP address would have told a different story, but in this instance Facebook decided to go off his Current City data.

Should Facebook even rely on Current City as a location factor for advertisers, when a user could put false information, or leave out-dated information on their profile? The problem with this is some users may also use VPNs (masking their true IP Address) or won't use location services on their devices. Facebook needs something to go off, and Current City seems like the obvious choice.

Is there a fix?

There is no fix on the Facebook side on things. This is how their location targeting works. It may improve in the future.

It's something to be aware of if you are running location-specific ads. If you weren't previously aware of it, now you are - and we count that as a win. The more you know about the platforms you use for marketing the more equipped you are to optimise your strategy and adapt to these little hiccups.

So, how to adapt? While you may have hoped Facebook would do this for you, we need to implement further qualification methods on our ads, forms and landing pages to identify out-of-area leads. More on how to do that below.

In a perfect world for advertisers:

  • Facebook users would keep their location up to date on their profile
  • Everyone would have location services active on their devices
  • IP addresses would not be blocked or masked by VPNs.

Obviously that's not a realistic solution. People like their privacy online, and Facebook is actually doing a pretty great job overall with location targeting.

How to deal with unqualified or out-of-area leads

Facebook (and other platforms) might end up wasting some of your ad spend costs on out-of-area leads. Let's use qualifying criteria to make sure we don't waste our time/money on following up those out-of-area leads.

Here's a few suggestions:

1. Make it clear on your Facebook Ad, landing pages and forms that your offer or service is location-specific.

Spell out the postcodes or suburbs you service, or the radius you will travel out to from your office location. You'll probably still get people enquiring or signing up out of your area, but at least you've made it clear from your end.

2. Send automated follow up emails to out-of-area leads.

HubSpot, MailChimp, MailerLite and other services can achieve this. Follow up new out-of-area leads with an automated message. Inform them they are not within your service areas and that they shouldn't expect a follow up. Try your best to be helpful with resources and information in the automated follow up, but don't spend any manual time following up unless it's a special circumstance and you can accommodate them.

You can implement this very efficiently if you spend some time. Here's a quick outline (I'll use HubSpot as an example):

  1. Create a smart list 'In-Area Leads' with the following criteria:
    • Postcode contains/equals (insert your service area postcodes here)
    • Suburb contains/equals (insert your service area suburbs here)
    • If you're running a larger operation you could use State contains/equals, etc.
  2. Create another smart list 'Out-Of-Area Leads' with the following criteria:
    • Not a member of list 'In-Area Leads' - this should pick up anyone with a postcode or suburb NOT in your specified areas.
  3. Set up a workflow for the 'Out-Of-Area Leads list:
    • Set it to send an automated email letting them know they are outside of your service area. Provide a useful resource or suggestions for next steps.


If you are running Facebook Ads promoting a location-specific business or service, you may be generating some out-of-area contacts or leads. Unfortunately there are limitations in the Facebook location targeting algorithm (just as in other platforms).

Qualifying these leads further after they've clicked on your ad will hopefully reduce time and effort wasted on out-of-area leads.

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