Are Geofencing Ads Right for Your Business?

Dan Goldstein and Adam Rowan

You know that digital advertising has come a long way when personal injury attorneys can use online advertising to get the attention of potential clients in the immediate aftermath of an accident. According to Gizmodo, injury law firms across the nation have started using “geofencing” to deliver targeted ads to the smartphones of patients receiving treatment in local emergency rooms.

These geofencing ads are bold. They are also not universally beloved, especially in the midst of ongoing controversy about how advertisers, Facebook and major tech companies use consumers’ private data.

Many business owners might see these stories and get scared away from geofencing. But the fact is that businesses in many different industries can: 1). benefit from targeted advertising strategies, including geofencing; and 2). implement these strategies ethically.

How Does Geofencing Work?

Just like real estate, geofencing is driven by location, location, location. First, advertisers identify a small, clearly defined geographic area corresponding to their ideal consumers. When consumers enter this digital perimeter, they receive a targeted mobile ad on their smartphones. Retargeting enables businesses to send follow-up ads for up to 30 days.

The physical parameters of a geofence are virtually limitless, big or small. The attorney advertisers in the Gizmodo story took full advantage of the latter by creating campaigns to target prospective clients within a single building. What these campaigns fail to take into account, however, is inefficiency.

What NOT to Do

Based on the available information, these law firms created geofences that targeted anyone with a smartphone at the specific hospitals. Obviously, not every patient in the emergency room is there as a result of a car accident. Furthermore, some people are on the premises just to see a family member in post-op; they likely resent the intrusion of irrelevant ads during visiting hours. This is to say nothing of the ads that the doctors, nurses, orderlies, parking attendants, janitorial staff, and other employees receive on their phones, all of which are irrelevant to them.

Yes, these geo-fenced ads do reach a lot of users. What they don’t do is reach a lot of qualified users. The vast majority of the people listed above have no interest in hiring a personal injury lawyer.

Ads that don’t result in conversions lead to poor ROI. Considering the large number of unqualified users these ads must be targeting, the lawyers and law firms investing in these campaigns are probably seeing fairly low click-through rates and few qualified leads.

Generating Better Leads through Geofencing

For now, the controversy around this type of geofencing is overshadowing the ineffectiveness of the particular campaigns. Sadly, what’s even less apparent is that businesses in nearly any industry, from personal injury attorneys to ice cream parlors, can conceivably benefit from geofencing campaigns. It just requires better implementation than this infamous example.

The key is personalization to the consumer. A common successful strategy with geofencing campaigns is to target consumers in and around specific venues for concerts, sporting events, and other special occasions. These ads work because they reach a high volume of consumers with the right mindset in the right place at the right time.

Geofencing is a great strategy for building a brand and earning business from people who have an express interest in your service or product. Concertgoers and those attending sports events, for example, are likely to convert if they see a relevant, timely ad for a product or service that aligns with their reason for being at a specific location

Although it’s important to “strike while the iron is hot,” advertisers who use geofencing don’t only have the one shot to earn business through locally targeted ads. With most geofencing campaigns, ads recur on consumers’ devices for up to 30 days after they enter the geofence. Advertisers control how often the ads repeat, as well as the messaging.

All of these factors take into account consumer behavior, not just the location. In doing so, the consumers who receive the ads are innately more qualified.

Is Geofencing the Only Option?

Digital advertising offers countless opportunities to target ads to consumers. Geofencing is just one way to do this.

Businesses that invest in multiple marketing and advertising strategies that directly serve their interests and goals see more success than businesses that use only one kind of paid advertising campaign. The location- and time-sensitive nature of geofencing make it ideal for branding, but other strategies offer an alternative for tapping into your customers’ interests without requiring them to be in a specific place.

Display and pre-roll video advertising, for example, both use the online behavior of consumers to deliver relevant and engaging ads.

With these advertising strategies, consumers see ads based on their search history and/or the websites they visit. When the users go to specific websites or search terms that are relevant to your business, they see your ads displayed on websites within an advertising network and/or at the beginning of videos on YouTube.

These strategies also include the ability to remarket after the initial impression. We have found that approximately 70 percent of consumers reached by a retargeting campaign convert into leads for our clients.

Instead of building a targeted ad campaign to reach people in a certain location like geofencing, these behavioral and content targeting strategies use the consumer’s own actions to indicate that he or she is the suitable audience for the campaign. ROI for these ads is high, and personalization to the consumer’s behavior is the reason why.


Obviously, paid campaigns are an effective way to target ads to consumers because your business can identify and pursue consumers who demonstrate an interest in your product or service. Geofencing is in the news right now, but don’t lose sight of the multiple options available for enhancing your brand and generating leads.

Geofencing offers granular, location-based targeting for users on mobile devices, but consumers are so much more than where they go. That’s why strategies targeting consumers on multiple fronts – behavior, browsing history, search history, location, and more -- improve returns across paid campaigns.

Dan Goldstein is the president and owner and Adam Rowan is the content specialist at Page 1 Solutions, LLC. Page 1 Solutions is a full-service digital marketing agency serving attorneys, plastic surgeons, dentists, and ophthalmologists throughout North America.

Your comment will appear on this page upon moderator's approval