Reducing Irrelevant Impressions/Clicks in Google Display Network

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After a few days of running a Google Display Network campaign in AdWords, you may notice something concerning. If you wander over to the “Placements” tab (from the “Display Network” tab, click on “Placements”) you can see all the places your ads have shown. Some of these are websites, but you’ll probably notice that a lot of them are games and mobile apps.

At first glance it may seem that there’s nothing to worry about, as some of these game and apps are getting great click-through rates. But these app and game placements warrant closer inspection.

Mobile apps/games are a big culprit of unintentional clicks, especially from kids games. You’ve probably accidentally clicked on a banner in a game yourself, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that kids do it all the time (especially younger kids that can’t read). This can look great in the stats (lots of clicks means the campaign’s doing well, right?) but the visits aren’t relevant to most campaigns.

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If you’re selling holidays, power tools or clothes then clicks from a “Dora the Explorer” game probably aren’t the customers you’re trying to attract. Even from many seemingly normal apps, it’s hard to tell if any are genuine clicks from interested people or just accidental clicks (I’d bet people using a flashlight app to see in the dark probably aren’t saying “Ooh, 20% off power tools!” – they’re probably trying not to stub their toe). Because of this, I generally take the following steps to make sure my ads don’t show up on games and apps (using that budget to attract more relevant clicks instead):

If you don’t want your ad to appear in apps/games:

  1. From the Display Network tab, click on Placements and go to “Campaign Placement Exclusions” at the bottom of the page.
  2. In the “Placements” section, paste and Save.
  3. Under “Site Category Options”, exclude “In-game” & “GMob mobile app non-interstitial”.

excluded adwords categories

It’s probably also worth excluding the “Parked domains” category. Parked domains often result in click-fraud, as they are just placeholder websites where someone has registered a domain but hasn’t put any content on the site yet. Genuine visitors shouldn’t be ending up on these pages. You can also exclude other categories if they’re not going to attract relevant visitors for your campaign.

Finally, you may also notice a placement called “” showing up with a lot of impressions but not many clicks. Some websites don’t let Google identify them in the AdWords placements tab (eBay is a good example) so it’s impossible to know which sites your ad has shown on. Because these sites are all lumped together it’s worth keeping a close eye on “” and excluding that placement if the stats aren’t looking too great. Better to know where your money is going rather than throwing it at anonymous sites.

If you want to reach certain categories of apps, or if you know certain apps you want to target, you should create a Display Network campaign devoted to mobile apps. More info on this is available at

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