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Mobile Targeting with Google Display Ads

The Display Network within Google Ads (AdWords) has always enabled advertisers to expand their online reach by placing text or banner ads across a wide network of additional websites, primarily for branding but to also drive clicks to a site. Display ads have always worked in a completely different way to search and need to be managed separately through standalone campaigns, and changes that are now coming for mobile targeting make this even more important.

Generally display ads attract a low clickthrough rate since ads appear alongside content that online users may be reading or viewing, and they may not be interested in the advertised product or service at the time. However, with the increasing use of mobiles, and in particular mobile apps, the clickthrough rates have been seen to increase, notably through the impact of ‘fat finger’ clicks on a small screen, when users don’t intend to click the ads, but do on the small screen and therefore incur a wasted click and cost to the advertiser.

Until now, advertisers had the option to use the “adsenseformobileapps.com” placement exclusion which allowed a blanket exclusion of app inventory. However, from September 2018 Google has announced that this will be removed as part of the changes that are designed for “simplifying targeting and exclusion controls for Google Display Network ads on mobile devices in order to make it easier to reach the growing base of mobile users”. Google also says that “as a result of these changes, you may see a significant increase in mobile apps or mobile web traffic (depending on your current settings).”

Many search marketers have greeted this announcement with disappointment, since mobile app clicks tend to be poor quality and expensive, with increases in clicks and spend from these tools having already increased over the past few weeks. Google is now saying that they are proving more simplified device targeting, so that the options will be consolidated into 3 device types: computer, mobile and tablet. If advertisers previously targeted by certain mobile categories, such as Mobile app, Mobile app interstitial, or Mobile web, all mobile placements will now be targeted.

This would appear to be a backward step in terms of targeting control for advertisers, and possibly a way for Google to make more money from display clicks. The only option will be for advertisers to either opt in or out of mobile or tablet targeting, so that it will be a case of all or nothing. Google has posted guidelines on what advertisers should do after this date, but essentially the controls come down to the various targeting criteria rather than the type of device, and if apps are targeted, the high traffic / expensive ones will need to be add individual as excluded placements.

Google also recommends moving the display network bidding to one of their automated systems, based on a Target CPA or ROAS, which will be good if this works and may required a 50/50 split test first to verify how this option will perform. However, any reduced level of targeting and spend control for the advertiser is not likely to be popular, but it will be a system that will need to be worked with, or stopped completely.

If you’d like more information about this change to display network targeting, please contact us for details.