Geotargeting vs. geofencing: What’s the difference & which one is better for apartment marketing?

Jun 28, 2023

Geolocation pin over a colorful radius showing the concept of geotargeting

Gone are the days of casting a wide net in advertising — like running radio commercials or buying billboards — all in hopes to bring in a few viable prospects. In today’s digital landscape, the expectation is that advertising is targeted so that prospects convert at a high rate and that results can be measured.

We often talk to people in the multifamily industry who use the terms geotargeting and geofencing interchangeably. But they’re not the same.

It’s important to understand the difference between geotargeting and geofencing so that you can be sure you’re using your marketing dollars in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Here we’ll explain what each are, why they should be used and when to use them.


Geotargeting is a type of advertising that uses location data to reach prospects with messaging appropriate to their locality and behavior. The ad content seen by these prospects is based on an automated or assumed knowledge of consumers’ location (often determined by the user’s IP address).

Imagine a map that shows where your business is located. Now lay a target down over that map with the center of the target over your location. The rings around the target represent the distance, or radius, from your location you’re looking to target potential customers.

Geofencing creates a virtual geographical boundary that triggers a marketing action to a mobile device when a user enters or exits that boundary, measured by the user’s Wi-Fi, GPS or cellular data information. You simply draw a virtual boundary around a certain location in GPS- or RFID-enabled software.

Visualize a property map of your location, showing the buildings, parking lot, pool area and cross streets. Now draw a line around the perimeter of your property. That perimeter line represents the area that someone must be inside for you to be able to push ads to them.


One the surface, geotargeting and geofencing sound very similar, but they are actually very different advertising strategies. 

Geotargeting focuses on a broader geographic boundary (like a city, country, town, neighborhood or radius around a predetermined location). Then people within that larger area — who also fit the ad requirements of interests, behaviors or demographics — will see that ad. This type of advertising generally builds brand awareness and plants the seed for future conversions.

Geofencing is a hyper-relevant advertising experience, targeting anyone entering a very specific location. These ads have a much smaller target audience and are restricted to a limited area. Geofencing is often used during events to entice attendees to engage with their product during that event.


The most important piece to understand about these two methods of advertising is that they are only available on very specific platforms. Sometimes, those platforms overlap, but often they don’t.

Platforms that allow for geotargeting AND geofencing: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Platforms that allow geotargeting ONLY: Google Search Network (ads, YouTube, Gmail, etc.), LinkedIn and MailChimp.

Pros & cons

Like anything, both tactics have pros and cons.

Geotargeting pros: It increases brand awareness, offers personalization with a less broad range of views, has strong PPC conversion rates, and is flexible with when ads are shown.

Geotargeting cons: It can be more costly than geofencing, there could be a need to have multiple locations with separate geotargets ads, and if users have a VPN on their devices or computers, they won’t see the ads.

Geofencing pros: It targets only relevant prospects due to the hyper-location targeting of the ads themselves, and it tends to be cheaper overall.

Geofencing cons: It’s reliant on GPS tracking, a strong network and a lot of available bandwidth at your location. Additionally, you’re relying on more your customers being impulsive decision-makers (so it’s less likely to be successful for high-commitment purchases), and it tends to be time consuming to set up.

Conclusion for apartment marketers

Both are viable options when advertising your apartment community, however, knowing your target audience and being able to measure results is the key to success.

Geofencing might be great if you’re having a resident event or an open house and want to encourage attendees to use your branded filter or skin.

At REACH, we think geotargeting is best for apartment marketing. We’ve seen the most success with geotargeting because we can target a larger audience, while focusing on those higher-intent prospects through ads that focus on the audiences’ interests and search behaviors.

So, when you’re considering how to spend those marketing dollars, consider your target audience, the platforms they might be on and how they prefer to get their information.

As a final word of warning, geofencing, in its full definition, is not something that’s available through Google Ads. Some companies may claim to be able to do it, but really, they are simply using hyper-localized geotargeting.

Think twice if a marketer or advertiser promises you geofencing ads on the Google Search Network. Because then, they’re promising something they can’t deliver. And that’s not the kind of marketing partner anyone wants.

Learn more about PPC advertising for apartments and multifamily PPC in these linked articles by agency expert Kyle Jones.

Gretchen Walker

Gretchen Walker is the central manager of REACH by RentCafe. She has over a decade of experience in digital marketing and over six years of experience in the multifamily industry. She loves marketing the most when she gets to use data to measure results and make decisions. When she’s not marketing something, you can find her playing with her kids and seeking out friendly competition wherever possible.

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