Google Pushing All Display Network Campaigns Onto Apps

As a “Welcome to August” present, Google Ads sent out the following email:

Dear Google Ads Advertiser,
You are receiving this message because your Google Ads account (Customer ID: XXX-XXX-XXXX) contains at least one Google Display Network (GDN) campaign that will be impacted by upcoming changes to mobile targeting and placement exclusion controls.

What’s changing

In September 2018, the exclusion and the GMob mobile app non-interstitial exclusion will no longer be available within Google Ads. Device settings will also be consolidated into three device types: computer, mobile and tablet.

This change simplifies how you reach mobile users across the web and on apps, and it may impact if and how your ads show in mobile apps. As a result of these updates, you may see a significant increase in mobile apps traffic or mobile web traffic depending on your current settings.

Let’s break this down because this short email has a lot going on.

Changes To Google Display Network Targeting

The first change is the removal of as a negative placement. This single placement had the ability to completely stop your display ads from showing on mobile apps. It was actually really handy and I’ve been recommending people use it for years.

The second change is removing the GMob mobile app non-interstitial exclusion. This is found in the Settings of a display campaign (after expanding the additional settings that are hidden by default) under Content type:

And lastly, it mentions that device settings will be consolidated into just computer, tablet, and mobile.

What This Means

In short, this means that any display network campaign will start showing ads on mobile devices and in apps unless action is taken by the advertiser. And Google isn’t hiding it. They say it will be “a significant increase”.

If you thought you could just uncheck mobile app and tablet app in the device settings, they are getting rid of those. The changes seem small, but they are thorough in cutting off your options.

This is troublesome for many advertisers because performance on mobile apps is very different than mobile web (despite what Google says) and very, very different than desktop. Consider:

  • Kids using apps on parents’ phones (I know this happens because of the clicks I have seen from remarketing campaigns for B2B sites where apps like “Bubble Pop” show up)
  • Apps with ads placed very close to clickable areas (taking advantage of fat fingers)

This traffic has traditionally been very poor and excluding it in one simple action was nice. So what do you do now?

What To Do

For many advertisers, the prudent action will be to turn off mobile and tablet altogether. I would advocate using the general analysis that Kirk Williams mentions here:

That’s really sub-optimal, but with such a large change (and very little warning from Google) it may be your best bet.

But let’s say you’re a little more adventurous and you think there could be some benefit from the world of mobile apps. You could approach it like a broad keyword and just watch placement reports like a hawk, excluding apps that don’t perform. Very manual, but could wrangle the beast well enough to get some conversions. You could try this handy script from Optmyzr to find poor placements. It looks like you need to massage some of the data for app exclusions, but it’s worth a look.

Overall, it’s going to be a mess for lots of less sophisticated advertisers. Their display efforts will see very different results and they’ll have to figure all of this out in a post-mortem. There will probably be a lot of app developers/owners who are in line for bigger earnings in September and of course, this will help Google continue to hit their revenue goals and impress Wall Street.

What are your plans for combatting this change? We’d love to hear in the comments!