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Reviewing Anonymous Placements in Google Ads

If you’re running display ad campaigns in Google Ads, you may have seen listings for anonymous sites in the placements reports. These have been around for several years now, but can be confusing or unhelpful in terms of reviewing the coverage of your ad campaigns – so what are they and how should you manage them?

The placements report in Google Ads will show data for sites marked as ‘anonymous.google’ in a display ads campaign. These have been appearing for several years now and may encompass some high volume impressions and clicks in some campaigns, but otherwise provide very limited information. Google has previously explained these as being publishers who “choose to offer these placements anonymously and not disclose their site names to advertisers for various reasons”.

These ‘various reasons’ can be hard to determine, but can be that some well-known and high profile sites don’t want to reveal the specific data about their ad displays (such as ebay or Sydney Morning Herald), or – more concerningly – they could be low quality sites who don’t want to reveal their domain name for that very reason.

The difficulty with these anonymous placements is that, as an advertiser, you don’t know where your ads are appearing, and also, when you are trying to target new placements you can’t see the details of sites that could be good advertising targets for your ads.

The best, or only, way to manage these placements (other than blocking any anonymous sites from showing your ads) is to look at each site and review the key metrics to see if they seem to be working well or not. The standard placement report will just show the anonymous placements as a single line, but if you select the tick box to the left of the listing, and then choose ‘view details’ in the blue edit bar above, you can see the figures broken down by each individual anonymous site.

This information is still not ideal but it’s the best you can get in the current reports, including in Google Analytics where you can also view some extra data in the display targeting reports in terms of visitor quality through bounce rate and pages / session for these sites. However, the whole anonymous thing leaves you, as an advertiser, a bit in the dark about the visibility of your ads on these sites.

If a site performs particularly well, it is possible to then move the specific anonymous listing into a managed placement adgroup, but you will still be none the wiser as to which site does perform well for your ads, and why! You are also more limited when searching for sites to target your ads on, as the anonymous sites will not be offered, so you really need to find these through some broader targeting, such as keywords, topics or interests.

So in summary, the lack of transparency into these anonymous sites that carry Google ads is unfortunate and frustrating, and so you have to use the best tools and data available to segment this information to try to improve the optimisation process and target lower cost impressions or leads.

If you’d like more information or help with understanding the anonymous sites in your Google display ads campaigns, please contact us now for details.