The Google Ads Display Setting You Need to Disable

When it comes to Google display campaigns, you most likely have a specific audience in mind for targeting. If you’re setting up a remarketing campaign, you definitely have a specific user that you want to serve your ads to – someone who has brand recognition and has been on your site.

There is an automated targeting setting that is buried in the setup for a display campaign that can allow Google to expand your targeting and serve ads to users Google deems “likely to convert”.

I often feel like Google hides these automated features that are enabled during campaign setups so that it’s similar to finding a button on the cockpit above.

Not only is this frustrating, but this feature can also be expensive and compromise the quality of your conversions (if you get any).

I’m going to walk you through how to avoid this feature when setting up a new campaign as well as how to double check the settings on your display campaign to ensure this automated targeting feature is disabled.

What is Google’s Automatic Targeting Option in Display Campaigns?

According to Google Ads Help, “Automatic targeting helps to optimize your targeting across the Display Network, letting you reach people your targeting wouldn’t otherwise reach, at around the same cost per person—automatically. Think of it as a simple, high-impact add-on that supplements the targeting you’ve already set up.”

This setting is meant to increase reach on the “positive targeting” and the settings you have selected for each ad group.

This option is available as “conservative” or “aggressive”.  When using the fully expanded option, Google tells me that the weekly estimate is an additional 470K impressions than when using manual targeting.

When it comes to remarketing campaigns, Google says that ads will be served to other users who interested in similar products, with aggressive targeting expanding into broader topics.

Let’s take a look at how to review performance for this setting.

Reviewing Automatic Targeting in Display Campaigns

If you want to review the automatic targeting performance before disabling it, head to the Audiences tab for the ad group in question.

At the bottom with the performance summary data, you’ll see a line for Automatic Targeting.


As you can see, this targeting was NOT working for my campaign, spending over $300 and generating no conversions. My ads are specifically targeting folks who have brand awareness as well as a very specific need, so it’s no wonder that performance is poor.

Let’s talk about how to disable this setting when setting up a new campaign as well as how to remove this targeting from an existing ad group.

Disabling Automatic Targeting in a New Display Campaign

In this instance, I’ll be talking specifically about setting up a remarketing campaign, but you can use these same steps to create a regular Display campaign and remove the automatic targeting.

Create your remarketing campaign and adjust settings as needed until you get to the ad group setting portion.

Ad group settings are where you want to disable automation.

As you scroll down, you’ll see a small box called “Automated Targeting”, expand this.

You’ll see that it’s automatically set to “conservative automation”. Select “No automated targeting” so that the targeting you have set up is the only targeting used.

Set your bids, create at least one ad and save.

Let’s hop into how to make sure this setting is toggled off if you’re using an existing Display campaign.

Reviewing Existing Ad Group Settings

As it was in the campaign set up, this setting is at the ad group level so you’ll have to review each ad group individually.

Navigate to the ad group settings page.

To see the automated targeting option, you’ll need to click “edit ad group targeting” to see more options. (Of course, it’s buried so that it’s harder for you to find and disable.)

Make sure the toggle is all the way left which indicates no additional impressions will be served to any users outside of your indicated audiences.

Make sure to save.

You’ll need to repeat this for all ad groups.


I’m sure for someone, somewhere, this setting has helped pump up the results they were seeing (maybe), but for most of my clients, this is not something we’ll ever look to include.

I hope this was helpful so that you can make sure your ads are being served to the audience you picked out, which is obviously your most relevant audience.

Have you tested this feature? We’d love to hear in the comments below!