How To Seriously Improve The Google Display Network

I want to start this post by saying that I think the Google Display Network (GDN) has a lot to offer advertisers. Problem is that in its native format, it often just does not deliver. My favorite ways to use GDN are for remarketing or for campaigns that utilize managed placements. The love of remarketing should be obvious. I love managed placements for two main reasons:

  1. Control over where ads display
  2. I don’t have to go through search placement reports

It was while going through search placement reports that I started a little running list for myself on ways that GDN could seriously help out advertisers, as I find when I run campaigns that are not solely using managed placements, I run into the same frustrations regarding placements. I know that much of what I am about to describe would represent loss of clicks and their subsequent dollars for Google, but if they actually care about the internet as an ecosystem, I can live in hope that some of these things could possibly happen…

Have More Categories Available For Exclusion

I find that there are categories that I would like to just wholly exclude that are not necessarily part of the available categories you can choose from now for that level of exclusion. Currently, here are your choices:


I often wish there were more categories that could be excluded. Or that the relationship between categories here and topics or interests were better defined. Some things seem to appear in both places. To eliminate exposure on those types of sites, must I have both applied? Or is one (category vs. interest) sufficient? For me, it seems like even with category exclusion, things get through pretty regularly that to me should clearly be in the category bucket?

Note that some of how this works will be changing in 2018. Here is the AdWords help page about the topic. Most of the changes that will be coming with this are simply recategorizing things. But there is one major exception to take note of:

GDN new social network exclusion

Emphasis in graphic is mine.

This part is really interesting to me – particularly that there has been no announcement about this that I am aware of, this just showed up in the exclusion area.  I am not happy that it won’t be a blanket placement type that can be excluded any more. Advertisers want and need to be able to exclude entire categories of sites from their advertising. Taking this one away could be the breaking point for advertisers if there is not something else put into place that can essentially provide the same kind of exclusion capability.

What AdWords seems to fail to understand is that going through placement reports is the single biggest task for an advertiser or their agency/consultant to do and it has to be done regularly. This, would seem as it is presented, to make that job harder and even more time consuming. For a part of the platform that is already maligned for not producing cost effective results, this seems like a bad choice for advertisers, for Google it likely means more placements, which means more impressions which either leads to more clicks (more $$) or fewer clicks and there for lower CTRs resulting in higher CPCs (more $$). Whew!

Don’t Show Ads On Foreign Domains (Based On Geo Targeting Of Campaign)

This one drives me nuts. If I am targeting the United States (or much more likely certain part(s) of the United States) don’t show my ads on sites that have foreign extensions. Even if someone is in my physical location (and I am assuming targeting is set to “in my targeted location”) I probably don’t want my ad showing up on sites that are of a foreign origin. At a minimum, give me – the advertiser – the option to say no thank you to this if you don’t want to make it the default.

And I’m referring to sites that are clearly of a foreign origin – such as if targeting US, I wound not want my ads showing on sites that had domain extensions clearly for other countries, such as .ru, .ca, .jp, .uk, etc. This should not be hard to make happen?

Don’t Show Ads On Sites In A Language I Am Not Targeting

In this same vein, if I am targeting English as the language for my ads, please do not show them on sites that are not in English. I feel like knowing a site’s content’s language is a pretty basic part of site indexing for Google and it should be a default to exclude sites that are not in my campaign’s target language(s). Or again, at least an option I can select.

Let Me Build Shared Placement Exclusion Lists As I Exclude Placements

When I find crappy sites, it would be so much more efficient if I could not only exclude them from an ad group or campaign, but also start compiling them into shared lists I could apply to other accounts. Yes, I can copy exclusions from the excluded list and then paste them into a new or existing shared list, but it would be nice to not have to take that step, but to be able to do it from the Edit drop down while options are checked.

Add A Default “Excluded/Added On” Date To The Placements Table

When you’re dealing with placements, in a non-managed capacity, you are probably dealing with A LOT of placements. Latest campaign I launched? Racked up over 3,000 placements in a matter of days. I have been doing a lot of excluding. It would be so helpful to see, without having to switch out of the workspace and into change history, when a site was excluded. Yes, I know I can do this with labels, but having the interface append this information without needing to create tons of labels would be awesome.

Provide Some Type Of Site Preview Function Within Placement Section

I have made this request before, but having to copy URLs and then paste them into another tab is time consuming. Multiply that times thousands of placements and it really adds up. Even just having the ability to mouse over the URL and have a little thumbnail popup would be enough for me to be able to eliminate at least half of the sites I end up excluding. Being able to then just click on the URL to have it auto-load in a new tab would also save me time. There is so much inefficiency in GDN management as it has to be done right now.

Make GDN Better – Please!

I’m sure you have your own ideas about how the Google Display Network could be better and I’d love to hear them. GDN definitely feels like a part of the AdWords product that has not gotten a lot of love, time or attention. Which is a shame, because it could be great. With Google’s reach, if the system were better it could be a worthy competitor to advertising on social media. Right now, at least for my client mix, advertising on social is almost always a significantly higher priority than advertising via GDN (except for remarketing).

I really want it to be better. After working on accounts with general GDN advertising (not remarketing or managed placement campaigns) I have really come to realize that there is an entire gigantic section of the web that is made up of sites that have ok, but mostly syndicated content, that exist solely to run Google ads on. Certainly Google knows this and if they really wanted to develop their GDN product into something that advertisers would prioritize, they could get serious about culling their network of sites running Google ads. I’m not talking about clearly objectionable sites, I’m talking about the tons and tons and tons of sites out there that are all essentially the same. It’s exhausting to go through placement reports. I would be thrilled if Google split the network into premium placements and everything else. I know it won’t happen, but a girl can dream…

What about you? What would you love to see different in GDN? What are the things that drive you the most crazy about it? What do you love about it? As always, sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).

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