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Mobile App Performance in Google Display Ads

Over recent years the increasing use of mobile phones and the proliferation of apps that carry Google display ads has resulted in a big increase in ad coverage on these networks. However, how effective are they, and how can they be managed to ensure the best performance for the advertising objectives?

Running a display ads campaign in Google Ads is a completely different approach to a search campaign, with the main objectives tending to be brand awareness and reach across a much wider range of websites and apps. Ads will be shown to people who may not be interested at the moment, although the choice of targeting options should make the display coverage as relevant as possible. However, clickthrough rates will be much lower than from a search campaign and any display ad targeting should be managed through a separate campaign.

In recent years the share of mobile app impressions within the display network has rocketed, with a huge number of apps now carrying ads from the Google network (AdSense) so that the app publishers can make money from ad clicks. When you look at the ad placement report for a display campaign, mobile apps can tend to dominate the figures in terms of impressions and spend, so these need to be checked, monitored and edited where necessary.

One of the main concerns about mobile apps can be the high clickthrough rates on the ads, which is unusual for a display ad focused campaign. This may be due to ‘fat finger clicks’ on a small screen, or users clicking on ads to get to the next level or page of the app. It may also be that parents give their kids the phone or iPad to play with, and these young users click on ads unknowing of why they are doing it.

As a result, some apps look to have poor relevancy to the advertiser, or bounce rates and user engagement from the clicks can be poor. Some apps commonly appear in campaigns regardless of the targeting, such as block puzzles and painting or colouring apps. More recently there seems to be a spate of VPN apps where impressions and clicks can be very high for little apparent return.

If you are running a display ad campaign, you therefore need to monitor the Placements report in Google Ads, and the ‘Where ads showed’ section. When you review the websites and apps that are listed, check the ones with the highest impressions, cost or clickthrough rates, and consider whether these best suit your market or brand positioning. If not, you can select the apps and choose Edit to exclude them from the adgroup or campaign.

At a higher level, you may want to consider adding Exclusions to the display network campaign, for broader app categories. When you choose to add new placement exclusions to an adgroup or campaign, you can select the App categories option and choose the ones to exclude – such as the Games or Stickers categories. This can be a slow process as there are currently 141 app categories split between Apple and Google Play apps and no quick way to select multiple categories, so this can sometimes be easier to implement through the Google Ads Editor tool.

As with everything in Google Ads, it’s about reviewing the performance data, testing and making changes to suit your objectives. You may decide to start broad and add exclusions once you see where your ads are being shown, or you can pre-empt the likely areas where the targeting of your ads will not be so relevant, and exclude apps or categories at the outset. Either way, you need to ensure the best use of your budget to reach the most relevant markets through either ads on websites or apps.

For more information about display ad targeting and reviewing the performance of mobile apps, please contact us to discuss, or find out more about our search marketing management services.