Thursday, April 11, 2013

(empo-fioy) Why geographic targeting doesn't work

I'm sure that many of you have tried to view or do something on the Internet and have been prevented from doing so with a message along the lines of "This video cannot be shown in your country" or something like that. Because of contractual obligations, some content is only authorized for use in certain countries of the world, and not others.

Similarly, let's say that you want to buy advertisements via a popular advertising service. Since most people don't want to advertise to the entire world, the advertiser can choose where the advertisements can be shown. So if I have a product that is only available in the United States, I can specify that my ads only be shown in the United States.

Why does this work? Because there are various ways to identify the location of someone on the Internet. If I travel to China, my won't work. When I log on at home, it presents ads for my local geographic area. When I log on at work, it presents ads for..., in that case it presents ads for the location where my employer's servers are. Since we have several offices in the United States, this may or may not be my own local geographical area.

But it could be worse. Look at the story of Dr. Harlan Kilstein (H/T David Cohen), who purchased ads on Facebook that were intended to be shown to United States users. Only one minor problem:

Airtel Nigeria has recently begun offering free Facebook connectivity to its subscribers without using the Internet. Just by dialing *688#, the Nigerian Facebook user has free and unlimited access to Facebook.

Apparently, Facebook’s targeting does not detect Airtel’s Nigerian subscribers who click on ads and subscribe to lists they are interested in.

Ordinarily, this would be fine. For so-called "SEO experts," this would be great, since there are a lot of ad clicks and list subscriptions. But if you really want to make money, there's a big problem. As I noted back in 2010, online purchasing systems that work well in the United States do not work in other parts of the world. Kilstein:

If you buy ads targeting the U.S., it is now very likely that you are getting traffic from Nigeria and other parts of Africa, as well.

These leads are unable to purchase your products or services because most merchant accounts and PayPal block these countries due to massive fraud claims.

So what happens is that a Nigerian (or South African, or someone from another part of Africa) uses Airtel Nigeria to get onto Facebook, sees an interesting ad, but then doesn't buy.

Am really interested but I don't have a credit card to make payment but have Naira (cash)....

Now I don't know if Kilstein even knows what "Naira" is. I certainly didn't until now.

What Kilstein does know is that he's paying Facebook good money to advertise to U.S. customers, and between 17 to 20 percent of his leads come from outside the United States.

And the Airtel Nigeria users are honest users. What of the people who use spoofing and other tactics to mask their true locations?

Of course you can implement other workarounds, such as a "we only ship to U.S. addresses" policy. But there are mail forwarders everywhere.

So how can you GUARANTEE that your product will only be sold to U.S. customers?

There's only one way. Design a product that is beloved by Americans, but that is totally odious to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, I can't think of any such product. A baseball-themed product is a possible choice, but the game of baseball is played in Canada (Blue Jay fever), the Caribbean, and eastern Asia.

Country music has similar issues. I recently saw a YouTube video featuring a Finnish bluegrass band.

And American talk show hosts don't offer a differentiator. Conan O'Brien is beloved in Finland.

So do we give up on geotargeting (geotarding)?
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