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How to exclude mobile apps from Google Ads

Have you tried starting up a new Google display campaign in the last few weeks? If you have, you might have noticed that there is no more option to exclude mobile apps from Google display campaigns.

Starting in September Google removed the option to use to exclude showing ads on mobile apps and provided advertisers with a built in option to exclude apps through Settings –> Devices –> Set specific targeting.

Now the option to exclude apps in the settings menu has been removed as well (Simplified device targeting)

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).

• Deprecation of placement exclusion
• Deprecation of “G-mob mobile app non interstitial” content exclusion

This information was definitely not how I wanted to start that week…


Why Google removed mobile app exclusions

While it is understandable that the world is completely focused on mobile and that desktop traffic is declining, there is a lot less logic as to why Google would remove the options to exclude mobile app traffic from your display campaigns.

Why Google removed mobile app exclusions?

Judging from my experience, mobile app traffic is pretty low quality in comparison with standard mobile ads on websites.

The way I see it the reason for this is how apps integrate ads into their freemium models and encourage clicking on ads even though the user has no real interest in the product or service that’s being shown to them.

If you progressed beyond clicks and impressions, you’d better be(!), and are focusing on acquiring high quality traffic and leads then you most likely exclude mobile apps whenever you set up a Display campaign.

So why would Google disable this option for a savvy marketer such as yourself? Think in terms of profits. When you realize that you aren’t the only advertiser who was doing this, you see just how much advertising real-estate was being missed.


How to exclude mobile apps from Google Ads

Time learn a new trick. With the main two options out of the picture, my team and I decided to test a hypothesis. Using placement exclusions you can exclude all categories of mobile apps, one by one. Don’t worry, there is just 141 of them.

Removing app categories, one by one. Right?

Ten minutes later and one right mouse button in utter distress, you have just excluded mobile apps from your Google Display campaigns. Congrats!

But wouldn’t it be great if you could do this in five clicks? It’s great you read this far, because it is possible!

A gift from the »Gods«, Google AdWords Editor (yes it is still called AdWords) is a tool that can help you, and me, when trying to do things in bulk. One of these things is excluding mobile apps.

Thanks to the multi select, you can select all high-level categories of mobile apps in a single go and thus effectively remove all traces of mobile app traffic from your display campaigns.

Quick overview:

  1. Select your display campaign
  2. Go to keywords and targeting –> Mobile app categories, Negative
  3. Select “Add negative mobile app category” –> Campaign-level
  4. Hold CTRL and select all top level options
  5. Click OK and upload your changes!
Okay, maybe it’s a few more than five but you get the point.

If you haven’t adopted Google AdWords Editor yet then dive right in because your professional life will never be the same again!

Anze Hribar

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