Which Placements Should I Exclude on the Google Display Network?

The display network can be a minefield of good placements mixed in with the bad. At times, the difference between the two is no more than a couple of characters in a URL. It’s hard to know which sites you should and shouldn’t be serving on without looking at each site individually, so when someone asks whether they should keep or exclude a placement, my answer always varies. Sometimes it’s as easy as, “you should exclude these sites,” but usually it’s a bit more complex.

Here are four things to consider when deciding if a site should stay active in your campaigns:

1. Performance

Pretty straightforward here: Is the placement performing well for you? Are you bringing in leads and sales at a CPA you’re happy with? If yes, wonderful! For outstanding sites, it might be worth breaking them into their own manually targeted ad groups so you can best take advantage. If it’s not performing well, you’ve got some decisions to make. Once you’ve got the spreadsheet set up, you can pivot your table in any way needed, depending on your goals, and exclude accordingly.

2. The Placement’s Content

If performance seems OK but you’re still a bit weary of a site, don’t hesitate to open an incognito window and check the site out. Is the content something that interests your audience? Would someone reading this page find your ad relevant and interesting? It can be hard to distinguish what is and isn’t relevant content just by looking at a site URL. I wouldn’t suggest checking out every single placement, as that could take a long time. But for those you’re on the fence about, it’s worth a quick glance.

3. The Placement’s Audience

Another way to evaluate placements is to check out what their audiences look like. Take your list of questionable placements and flip the Google Display Planner on its head. Choose the “show only estimates for my targeting criteria” option on the main screen and load in your sites. From there, you can look at the data Google has for each placement’s audience and see if it’s a match to your own.

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This might not be all the points you use to determine your audience, but it can certainly help you rule out some sites. If your target audience is 18- to 25-year-old women and the site shows mostly 35- to 40-year-old men, that’s probably not the site for you, even if the content seems relevant.

4. Match with Your Brand

Lastly, just because a site has relevant content and is mostly drawing in your targeted audience, it doesn’t mean it belongs in your campaigns. Remember, the majority of Internet users have no idea how ads are shown to them. When they see your ad and brand name on a site, they assume you’re associated with that site. So even though that user is the person actually visiting this potentially poor-quality site, it can reflect badly on your brand. If you notice some of these sites in your autoplacement reports, it’s most likely best to exclude them, for your brand’s sake.

If done correctly, automatic placements on the GDN can be an excellent way to expand your reach into your target audience’s web experience, but it’s not a “set it and forget it” type of targeting. Without proper management, it can get out of control quickly.

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