Does Google Really Know Where You Are?

Google g logo 2015 1920 800x450These days, technology is pretty awesome.  We have powerful computers in the form of phones that can fit neatly in our pockets.  Tech like that is way more powerful than the technology that went into space back in the 70’s.  But now, we can do practically anything we want, regardless of where we are, without being confined by cords and limits.  Because we have smartphones, and a majority of people these days have one, we can not only be connected anywhere we go, but we can also be located, regardless of where you are.

Services like Google can keep tabs on your location, so long as you have your phone with you.  This is what’s now known as geo-location.  The idea behind real-time geo-location is a double edged sword in my mind.  On one hand, from a technological point of view, the concept is pretty awesome.  If you’re lost, use the GPS on your phone to find out where you need to go.  Do you want to find the local stores that’s selling the products  you want to buy?  Use Google Maps.

But from a privacy point of view, it’s pretty scary, too.  It seems that since you can be tracked at any time you have your phone on you,  I’ve always had bad thoughts of people using technology like this to track me down, especially when I don’t want to be found for one reason or another.  But hey, all good things have their not-so-good sides, right?

Despite the advances we’e made in technology, like geo-location, it isn’t always perfect.   spoke with other marketing professionals who were trying to make sense of geo-location settings within Google AdWords.

Most of the time, Google’s ability to locate you is usually pretty accurate.  But, as with technologies, geo-locations isn’t always THAT accurate all the time.  If you wanted to serve ads in Los Angeles, you would obviously target people who Google identifies as living in Los Angeles area.  In this case, you would want to exclude those NOT being in Los Angeles.

Even though it seems that I’m saying the same thing twice in the previous statement,  there seems to be some errors that have can be made by Google.  First,  you’ve got what is called the false positive.  Basically, Google would potentially identify a person living in Los Angeles, but simply isn’t.  Secondly, you’ve got a false negative.  The targeted person IS in Los Angeles, but Google believes that that person ISN’T anywhere near Los Angeles.

I’ve experienced similar situations, not with ads themselves, but simply with the geo-locationing of Google Maps.  Maps would tell me I’m at one particular location in my neighborhood, when I know I’m nowhere near there.  In that situation, I just think, “silly, silly Google.  You’re crazy!”

There are many times when search marketers will rely on Google to serve ads to users within a geographical area, but the question that comes up is, “is Google’s location data always accurate?  Search Engine Land contributor, , has written a post that reports on the results of a survey designed to answer this question.

Check out Steve’s post b following the link below.

Search Engine Land:  Does Google Really Know Where You Are?