This article has been significantly updated to reflect changes that will be clarified in the Google Ads help center.

When Google Ads (formerly AdWords) uses the word “simplify,” waves of concern ripple through the paid search community that the opposite will be true, controls will be lost and campaign performance will be affected negatively. The latest torment is coming from Google’s move to “simplify” targeting controls in display campaigns.

Per an updated help page:

Starting in September 2018, Google is 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. 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 paid search managers say they have not seen positive results from ads in mobile apps and have reasons to block them entirely. Until this update coming in September, the primary way to keep ads from showing in most mobile apps is to exclude the domain “googleadsenseformobileapps.com.” That trick will no longer work. Nor will the “G-mob mobile app non-interstitial” content exclusion be  available. Controls are now located under the Devices section of campaign Settings of the new web interface.

There has been lots of confusion about the changes (including by this author) because of conflicting help center wording around device simplification. That is currently being updated to reflect what will start to roll out in September, namely that there will no longer be possible to block mobile apps or mobile interstitial from display targeting. You’re either all in or all out on mobile once this change takes place in your account.

If you’re considering app targeting, there are several ways to get granular. As more app inventory becomes available — Google just announced a deal with game platform Unity Technologies that integrates that inventory into AdMob, for example — and formats evolve, Google says it’s seeing greater parity between app and mobile web ad performance. (I know, that may not be what you’ve been seeing and may sound just like Google’s argument for combining desktop and tablet back in 2013, before reversing itself.)

Advertisers will be able to refine targeting exclude by Topics, Content exclusions, App Category and individual placement. For example, there is a Topic called Games that then has many sub-topics beneath it that can be targeted or excluded in a campaign, as shown in the screenshot below.

If you know ahead of time which apps you want to target or exclude, without waiting for them to show up in a placement report, you’ll need to format them appropriately based on the operating system. For more details, see the “Exclude individual apps from Display campaigns” section of this help page.

About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Associate Editor, assisting with the day to day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.



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