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SEO: The Answer to Google’s New Zip Code Targeting Policy

SEO: The Answer to Google’s New Zip Code Targeting Policy

by Hayley Campbell

The goalposts for digital advertising success are constantly moving. The cost of keywords changes from day to day. Fluid factors (like the ones that make up your ad quality score) push your ad ranking up and down. And now, Google has introduced new zip code targeting rules designed to prevent businesses from targeting their audience by location.

Unfortunately, some advertising rules can make it difficult for local businesses to compete with large corporations and franchise chains. 

In this post, we’ll unpack Google’s newest personal advertising policy changes and show you how to stay competitive despite the new zip code targeting restrictions. 

What Are the New Changes?

In August 2020, Google announced it would be rolling out new ad targeting restrictions in October to combat inequality in the United States and Canada. This stressed-out many Knoxville business owners, as the new rules removed the option for advertisers to target customers based on gender, age, marital status, and zip code – a strategy that had previously helped them compete with big businesses in the area.  

For reference, here’s the core excerpt of the announcement: 

“On October 19, 2020, Google will update its Personalized Advertising Policies to introduce new targeting restrictions. In an effort to improve inclusivity for users disproportionately affected by societal biases; housing, employment, and credit products or services can no longer be targeted to audiences based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP code.”

Who’s Impacted by the Zip Code Targeting Change?

Since October, a number of local Knoxville businesses and products have been impacted by Google’s new policy changes, including:

  • Real estate agents
  • Credit unions
  • Car dealerships
  • Car rental businesses
  • Phone rental businesses
  • Apartment complexes (and other multi-family buildings)

What’s the Fallout of Google’s New Zip Code Targeting Policy?

As many local businesses are now ineligible to narrow their advertising scope by zip code, they’re faced with the reality of larger advertising spends, less impactful marketing, and smaller ROIs. 

And for many, this is unsustainable. Not only are corporations more well-known than local businesses, but they can also consistently spend more on digital advertising. 

How Do Affected Local Businesses Adapt?

To cope with these changes, local Knoxville businesses need to look at marketing in a new way. They need to use different “targeting” strategies and branch into new marketing channels to reach their audience. 

Arguably, the best way to do that is by using search engine optimization tactics (SEO) in paid and organic search.

With PPC ad campaigns, you can start by adding zip codes, place names, and local jargon to standard keywords to hone in on your niche market. Here are a few examples of how this might look:

  • Knoxville burger joint
  • Knoxville pediatric dentist
  • Apartments near University of Tennessee
  • Whittle Springs cars

At the same time, you can add location-specific keywords to the headlines and body text of organic content to drive traffic to your blog or website. For example, a credit union might use the keywords, “Knoxville credit union,” in the headline of an article discussing the best credit union options in Knoxville. And a real estate agent might write a blog post about housing options within each of Knoxville’s zip codes or neighborhoods. 

Regardless of your marketing strategy, the use of location-specific keywords helps local searchers find your business organically. 


Google’s new policy can feel overwhelming to successfully navigate. Luckily, optimizing your ads and content for search engines is a really easy way to adapt your marketing. And by working with a Knoxville SEO agency like Slamdot, you can capitalize on even more SEO strategies designed to help you rank on SERPs