Mobile Targeting Definitions Every Marketer Must Know


A number of new terms have come to the marketplace since mobile’s explosion, such as SoLoMo, geo-fencing, UDID, the list goes on. Some of these terms will become part of popular culture, while others don’t even make sense! But the sooner we all get on board with more correct, local-mobile terminology, the better off our industry will be.

We’ll start by highlighting essential industry terms related to mobile targeting, cutting through the overused jargon to handpick and clearly define a number of mobile targeting terms that have become part of the industry landscape for veterans and newbies alike.

Geo-Fencing & Geo-targeting

When looking to pinpoint an audience based on geography, the terms geo-fencing or geo-targeting are used. These different terms are often incorrectly used interchangeably, creating confusion in the marketplace.

Geo-targeting is a broad reference to the method of pinpointing an audience based on their location – ranging from as wide as the state to as granular as an address. Any and all advertising types can utilize geo-targeting to define a location applicable to each campaign. But because mobile has the unique ability to target an audience at a far more granular level than any other marketing medium, geo-targeting has been tossed around within mobile to mean deeper, hyper-local, or even lat/long targeting

Geo-fencing is the more specific application of geo-targeting where a virtual barrier is created around a defined area – usually determined via a geo-targeting strategy. A geo-fence can be as broad as a state, or as hyper-local as a city block and the smaller the geo-fence the more granular the targeting. A geo-fence is used in a mobile ad strategy to trigger the deployment or eligibility to receive certain ads and notifications based on the location of a smartphone user. Geo-fencing is almost always used alongside other targeting elements including demographics, search history, etc.

Location, Longitude, Latitude

When users download mobile apps, there are a number of settings they agree upon regarding their own personal data, and these settings are different for every app. But within the data available for app publishers to collect exists digital gold for mobile marketers.

Lat/Long (latitude/longitude), or GPS as it’s often termed, relies on the device to pick up signals from the orbiting Global Positioning System satellite network. Users opt in to access location-specific content (e.g., maps and movie listings). The detailed information found in lat/long user data allows for mobile ad targeting down to a city block. But because GPS works best outdoors, and users have to activate the feature, it’s estimated that 10-15% of phones are location-enabled at any given time. For this reason, GPS is typically supplemented with other targeting techniques such as cell tower triangulation and/or Wi-Fi access point information as described below.

Wi-Fi ISP estimates a user’s location within the radius of a wireless network access point (e.g., in a home or store). In order to benefit from its targeting capabilities, the user’s device has to be connected to the network. This indoor-friendly geo-location method is accurate at the DMA level and, frequently, on a neighborhood level.

Cell Tower Triangulation identifies all the devices operating within its range. It’s accurate at the market level where there are multiple towers in proximity to users such as dense urban areas. Because mobile carriers control cell data, marketers don’t have access to target on this basis. Cell tower triangulation data is most typically used as a second layer to refine GPS information from a mobile device.

Registration data assigns location according to a user’s account address. Geographic specificity can range from the country to state level, depending on the type of registration data being collected. Like geo-search, registration data is a less targeted and therefore cannot pinpoint user mobility in the same way GPS (lat/long) can.


A Unique Device Identifier (UDID) is a unique, alphanumeric number associated with a device that allows developers to track their own apps. The UDID made headlines early this spring when Apple announced it would start rejecting apps in the iOS App Store that utilize the code.

A 2010 article by the Wall Street Journal revealed that UDIDs are often provided to several outside-app databases upon download. The story sent app providers scrambling to define their privacy policies regarding user data.

With UDID data access fading, app publishers are redefining their own data access points. More and more are asking permission of their users to access location-specific data including lat-long to better track and understand their users’ habits.


As the mobile industry continues to grow and develop its technology and user base, new and essential targeting terms will surely develop as these fade to old-hat. But a basic understanding of these terms is important in speaking to both industry-mates and clients about the unique targeting capabilities in mobile.

About the author

Monica Ho is Vice President of Marketing at xAd. Based in New York City, Monica is responsible for developing and leading the marketing functions at xAd, as well as overseeing the company’s communications and strategically positioning it in the mobile-local marketplace. One of the largest local-mobile ad networks in the U.S., xAd ranks and delivers ads based on nearly 30 relevance factors, including a consumer’s actual location, preferences and search behaviors.

Monica’s tenure in the industry includes 12-plus years of local marketing and advertising, including a solid foundation in online advertising, sales, strategy and account management. Prior to xAd, she served as Senior Vice President of Marketing & Strategy at TMP Directional Marketing, where she helped launch a digital-marketing division called 15miles.

Well regarded in the space, Monica is currently active on the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Local Search Committee and the Mobile Marketing Association’s (MMA) Research Committee. She is also an occasional presenter at industry conferences and trade shows. Currently, Monica lives on Long Island with her husband and two children.