Display advertising is a powerful tool for brands to grow awareness for their products or services. It allows advertisers to target users based on audiences and locations to deliver relevant messages throughout the buying process. However, as evidence by where some of these ads appear, this audience and location targeting may not be as accurate as one might think. Thousands of dollars and impressions may be wasted on invalid traffic over the course of an advertising campaign, and placement exclusions are one way advertisers can take back control.
Why audience & location targeting isn’t 100% accurate.
According to Google, “audiences are made up of segments, or groups of people with specific interests, intents, and demographic information, as estimated by Google.” These audiences are created using a number of different signals as users browse the web to categorize them in certain audiences. As mentioned before these audiences are estimated by Google and are not always 100% accurate.
If you have ever been curious about what audience categories Google thinks you fall into, you can head to https://adssettings.google.com/ to see exactly what Google estimates your interests and demographics to be. For instance, Google thinks I am 18-34 years old, a male, and enjoy automobiles which is all correct. Google also thinks I have an interest in Kuwait, am planning on moving, and enjoy playing on Xbox which is all incorrect. These preferences can also be skewed when multiple people use the same devices such as friends or family members.
This targeting has become even more complex with the rise of VPNs to mask user information. As an example, someone in the UK might use a VPN and appear to be in the US and trigger a display ad targeting users in the US. Multiple VPN users can also share a single IP address. This means that internet browsing habits from a specific VPN IP address can vary day by day, and user to user.
These are a few of the reasons why advertisers see their ads appearing in almost humorously uncharacteristic places across the web. For example, a construction company that has their ads appear on ugirlgames.com, or a retail chain based in Oregon and Washington that has their ads appear on the news sites of over a dozen countries in nearly as many different languages. These are just a few real world examples our team has seen over the past years and have fixed for clients.
How placement exclusions help prevent wasted spend.
There is still a lot of value in targeting audiences in specific locations even though it may not be 100% accurate and that is where placement exclusions can help. Placement exclusions tell Google-specific domains, YouTube channels, or mobile apps not to appear on. By not appearing on these irrelevant or low-value placements it allows for more of the ad budget to be spent on higher value placements.
To get started it is recommended to create a placement exclusion list. This can be done in the tools and settings section of Google Ads. By creating a list, it makes it easy to apply exclusions each time a new campaign is created. To fill the list start by analyzing where ads are currently appearing. This can be found in the Where ads showed section under Content in Google Ads. Note placements where ads should not be shown and add them to the placement exclusion list. This task can be done weekly, biweekly, monthly based on how much budget is allocated to display ads. There are also community-created exclusion lists online that can help add to an exclusion list, however, with how quickly the internet changes these may not always be up to date. Another option to locate exclusions is proactively search for them. For instance, if an advertiser knows they don’t want ads to appear on children’s YouTube channels they could research popular kid’s channels and add them to an exclusion list. This method of identifying placements can be inefficient as there are many possibilities to exclude. Overtime the exclusion list will grow naturally and less exclusions will need to be added to the list. It can also increase the growth rate of the list by sharing exclusions across multiple Google Ads accounts.
The use and upkeep of placement exclusions are often one of the most overlooked tasks as a search engine marketer, however, the results and potential savings of using these lists can not be denied. Using placement exclusions to optimize display advertising is a key tool in a marketer’s skillset that turns good results into great results.