The two wide band gap dilute magnetic semiconductors (DMS) Gd:GaN and Co:ZnO are among the most favored materials for spintronic applications. Despite intense research efforts during the last years, the origin of the magnetic order is still under debate. This work reports structural and magnetic investigations on these DMS materials employing several complementary techniques. The X-ray linear dichroism (XLD) has been used to gain element-specific insight into the local structure of dopants and cations. X-ray diffraction (XRD) has resulted in information about the global structural properties. Magnetic characterization by superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) has been complemented by electron spin resonance (ESR) and X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD). This compilation of different techniques has yield new insight in the complex magnetic behavior of these wide band gap dilute magnetic semiconductors.