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If you’re anything like me you hear the terms geofencing and geotargeting used interchangeably. Many, it seems, do not think twice as to whether there is a difference and what it is. Which leads me to this post. There is a difference, and albeit a small difference I feel it is important to take a moment to describe it. Also, the new trend of beaconing throws its jargon in the ring and now we have some good questions popping up about what they are, what to use, and why one would work better or differently than another.


This is not a Webster’s dictionary and I’m not going to deep dive into the inner workings of language to define these terms. But below is the top level overview of the terms and key differentiators.


geo radius targeting ads

Simply put a geotarget is a targeting metric defined by a location. Typically this can be seen in a radius around an address, a zip code, or a DMA. Advertisers will use these boundaries to serve ads within an area to target people and devices.


Street by street “fences” are placed around key area to target app users. This is a very specific location and typically not a radius that breaks down an area street by street to target users and device in relation to a key location. A store, for example, could set up a fence around its location so when a prospect is within a few blocks they can be served an ad related to that business.

marketing fencing beacon devices

A beacon is a physical device that will send out a signal within a small area. Some will only work within a few feet whereas other can muster up a 100 foot reach or more. These devices are geared for people who are walking past a store or walking in the door. That person can then be served very specific information about the store they are in front of or just walked inside of.

The Differences

That Target Approach

If your goal is to reach your ideal shopper but you aren’t 100% sure where they are, then you are going to want to start with a geotarget. What I mean by this is, the ideal customer may live 3 miles away from your shop and may have never heard of you or maybe they have never stopped in to visit your store. You want to reach that ideal customer when they are at home, when they are at other stores, and when they are out and about so they can become aware of your store and what you offer. This makes a geotarget ideal because the geography is broad and can reach the person here, there, and everywhere they go within the city or at least the broad area (let’s call it 2-5 miles). You can also target larger regions like an entire city, a DMA, or a zip code. In this scenario you are more concerned about the demographics of your key customer (age, gender, race, interests, etc) than the exact geography.

The Fence

As an alternative to the geotarget, the fence allows a store to place ads in front of a person if they are in a very specific region. This is especially powerful when advertising through local apps like Yelp, Groupon, or TripAdvisor. A person actively using this app around the corner for your store, looking for what you have to offer, can be targeted and advertised to in order to help them find your establishment. On the flip side, if someone is sitting at home wondering what they should do tonight they will never receive your ad. Another downside to a fence is the number of available impressions will be much less than in a geotarget since the fenced area can be very limited.

Beckon, I mean Beacon

Let’s continue to say you own a store and you want someone standing directly in front of your store to turn around and see they you are exactly what they are looking for. Having a beacon in your doorway you can either send a Bluetooth message directly to their phone or pop up an ad in an app they are using (if it is integrated with your beacon). From here you can offer coupons or messages to these people that are within feet of your door.  So in a way you really are beckoning them to turn around and come inside your store.

Putting It All Together

Obviously, you can pick one or many of these tactics to achieve your objective. But hopefully after reviewing this post you will be able to more clearly pick the right tactic for your objective. If you want to get your brand in front of someone then open your radius and target what your prospect looks like rather than just where they are standing. (Without going crazy of course. Your budget will get blown quickly if your geo is too large or nationwide when you are trying to reach people near a local establishment.) If your customer knows you and you want them to remember you are around the corner (like a college bookstore perhaps putting a fence around the campus) the Geofence option makes a lot of sense. And, naturally, if someone is standing right in front of you but may not know you offer a certain product or that you have a great sale going on put that beacon near your door and send some messages.

Of course if you want to talk more about the differences between a geotarget, Geofence, and beacon give us a call or leave your comments below and let’s dive deeper into the world of targeting and tactics!