How to Exclude Mobile Apps from your Google Display Campaigns

May 21, 2019

If you are running display ads in Google Ads that means your ads are running across a multitude of websites, YouTube channels and videos, and Apps. If you take a look at performance, chances are that there are specific placements that underperforming and wasting your precious budget. Depending on your industry, you might want to exclude a particular site or app from serving your ads.

In this article we’ll discuss Google’s recent changes to the way users can exclude apps from their display campaigns.

Before 2019, you could simply exclude all apps by adding as a URL exclusion to remove yourself from the app network. Then, Google added a new method where-by you could dig into device settings and uncheck the option to serve on apps.

Google has since removed those options in an effort to expand their display network while, ultimately, giving marketers less control by preventing us from excluding ALL apps. From Google’s POV this could be an attempt to improve their machine learning algorithm. Regardless, it’s still causing a stir in the digital marketing world. In response, users have been left to find their own methods to exclude apps which we’d like to share with the world.

Keep in mind that these methods don’t technically exclude you from ALL apps, but they’re the best we’ve got at this point.

Step 1: Review App Performance

You can review your ads’ placement performance from the Google Ads UI by selecting Placements on the left menu and clicking on  Where Ads Showed:

Google doesn’t let you filter by placement type (seen here under column Type), so you’ll have to download the data in order to analyze which placements are underperforming. Types of placements include: YouTube channel, Site, and Mobile application.  Once you’ve spotted an app or multiple apps you’d like to stop serving on, then the next step is to exclude it. This is possible in the same view but the selected placement will only be excluded from the particular campaign or ad group you’re viewing.

Step 2: Exclude by App

In order to do bulk app exclusions, you’ll need to navigate to Exclusions > click the blue pencil icon > Exclude placements. Here you can select which level you want to exclude: Account, Campaign, or Ad group. You can also search for exclusions by word, phrase, URL, or YouTube video ID and select from an auto-populated list:

*Please note: A common issue with app exclusions happens when the app you want to exclude doesn’t auto populate when you search the app’s name.

To get around this, first you’ll need to get copy the placement’s URL by right-clicking it in the Where ads showed view or by opening your downloaded performance report from earlier and finding the Placement URL of the app in question. From the Exclude placements menu navigate to Enter multiple placements, enter the placement URL, click on ADD PLACEMENTS, then save. Google should be able to identify this and add the app as an exclusion.

In my example, I couldn’t find the Gmail app through the search function so I went this route and the Mobile App: Gmail was recognized properly.

Clicking SAVE changes the exclusion from App Gmail to it’s proper app name of Mobile App: Gmail (Google Play), by Google LLC.

Exclude by App Category

If you’re noticing a lot of wasted spend on placements through a variety of game apps, you can choose to exclude them by their category. Besides games, there are 141 different app categories to choose from. Categories include beauty, dating, finance, parenting, software, and photography to name a few. Excluding apps can be tedious in the UI if you want to exclude your ads from ALL categories because you have to individually click on every app category.

Luckily, with Google Ads Editor you can exclude all the app categories much more quickly. To do this simply navigate to the account, campaign, or ad group of your choice, go to the Manage menu, and under Keywords and targeting you’ll find Mobile app categories, Negative. From here click on Add negative mobile app category and you can choose to apply this at the campaign or ad group level. You’ll be prompted to select a category and with a simple Shift+Left Click you can select all the categories at once! Now all that’s left is to post the changes live and verify they were properly applied in the UI.

We can’t promise that this will absolutely prevent your ads from appearing on ALL apps, so be sure to check in after a week to see if you have achieved the desired results. You should definitely not see specific apps you’ve excluded, but some may still fall through our categories filter. We’ll keep you posted with any new findings.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and results on this new feature. Good luck and happy marketing!