Improve Your Display Campaigns with Anonymous Placement Optimization


If you’ve run an AdWords Display campaign you’ve likely seen the placement ‘’ in your Placements report. If you’re like me, you’ve also wondered what the heck that placement is, especially if performance is bad and not meeting your account goals.

What is the Display Network placement?

When I reached out to AdWords support to inquire about this placement, I got the following explanation:

“Some publishers who’ve partnered with Google via the AdSense program, and provide us with the slots for placing your ads on the Display Network, choose to offer these placements anonymously and not disclose their site names to advertisers for various reasons.”

I already knew that this placement accounted for anonymous sites, which certainly isn’t ideal, and many have speculated they’re listed anonymously because they are low quality sites. What I didn’t know, however, was how AdWords went about reporting this data.

How is data reported for the placement?

When I went digging into one of our client’s Display campaigns, I could see that there was only one listing for each ad group. The CPA goal for this particular account is $100. Here’s an example of the type of performance disparity I saw between two ad groups:

I almost went to exclude this placement for the top ad group, since CPA was $353 and goal is $100, but then I thought to myself — if this is aggregate data, then won’t performance change as additional anonymous sites are added to this line item? That lead me to wonder if there was a way to see performance for each of the anonymous sites individually. Luckily the answer is yes!

How to segment the placement

The AdWords support specialist gave me the helpful tip to segment this placement so that I could see performance of the anonymous sites individually. To see the broken out data, just click the checkbox next to the placement and choose the ‘See details’ button, then ‘Selected’:

After that, you’re taken to a screen with the data listed per anonymous site. There, you can either exclude the placement(s) entirely or add a bid adjustment where you can increase or decrease by a certain percentage:

Once I segmented the data, I found that the most a single anonymous placement had spent for that low-performing ad group was $55, and the site that had converted did so for a $22 CPA. So even though the aggregate site data didn’t look too hot collectively, I was able to drill down and optimize at a more granular level instead of excluding all the sites completely and potentially losing out on leads from future anonymous sites.

Exclusion Exceptions

The only campaign type thus far where you can’t exclude these anonymous sites at the campaign or ad group level is for the new Smart campaign. The only way to exclude the anonymous sites, or any site for that matter, for a Smart campaign is to add them to an Account level placement exclusions list. To create an Account level exclusions list, head to your Shared Library, then choose ‘Account placement exclusions’:


Ultimately, dealing with anonymously-listed websites isn’t ideal. The lack of transparency into site quality is unfortunate, however, the ability to segment these anonymous sites and see their individual data definitely helps with the optimization process and providing clients with lower cost leads.

What has your experience been with Google’s anonymous sites? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Photo taken by Scott McLeod.