Auditing your display campaign is something that when I started out in the PPC world, I had no idea why or what to do. “It’s getting tons of impressions! Why stop the campaign from doing it’s thing? Don’t we want to get our brand out there?” Now I’m a seasoned newbie and understand the importance of being diligent on display campaigns and that auditing is my very best friend in search.

So Why Audit Your Display Campaigns?

According to Google, the Display Network reaches over 90% of global internet users expanding across 2 million sites. TWO. MILLION. SITES. Those numbers are so massive that I can’t even begin to comprehend what that looks like, but this gives me all the more reason to audit and to stay on top of those placements.

Auditing your display campaign, especially for places that your ad has shown, makes it easy to reduce wasted spend, gather quality data, and narrow down your target audiences to create new audiences for remarketing or other display campaigns. Not only that, but if you have no idea where your image ads are showing, you’re gearing yourself up to hurting your brand image and reputation by showing up on a site that you really should be excluding.

First Things First: Check Your Settings

Knowing what you’re excluding and what you’re potentially running your display ads on will help make this audit easy peasy.

Content Exclusions

Content exclusions are extremely (and I can’t stress this enough) extremely important when you’re running a display campaign. Display campaigns will throw your ads wherever they can get the most views and the most clicks. Depending on your product or your brand, you’ll most likely want to check every box in the middle to avoid having your brand showing on sites that could seriously damage your brand. 

This display campaign for a travel industry client above not only has all sensitive content excluded, but also has exclusions on Live Streaming Youtube videos, Below-the-fold, and Parked domains, as well as Mature audience and not yet labeled content. This is because we do not want our client’s brand showing up on domains that are underdeveloped and unregistered, content in which we do not know if any of the other 5 sensitive content categories could show up on, and we do not want our ads showing on live stream as they would cost a lot of money and could be included on videos that we do not know the contents of the video. 

Website Exclusions

Now we move to see what websites, and overall theme of websites, have been blocked from our campaign. Although we want to cast a wide net to gather audience data, and use this campaign for remarketing, we want to ensure that our client’s content isn’t showing up on anything related to spam, inappropriate, or irrelevant sites. You’ve heard the phrase, “Right place at the right time?” You don’t want your ad, say for a great deal to book a trip to Europe, to show up on a site related to bad news in the travel industry. 

Finding Your Placements & Auditing Tips

Now let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this blog post – auditing your display placements. Auditing your placements is especially beneficial if you’ve had your campaign running for a bit and have had no exclusions, or bare minimum exclusions, in your campaign. Click into your display campaign in Google Ads and you’ll go to the placements tab on the left side of the interface: 

Google Ads Placements tab

Here is where you can see any placements that you selected for your display campaign, where your ads showed, and any exclusions that are already set for the campaign. I typically do not put any specific placements on our display campaigns, and rely more on our exclusions, as I try to cast the net as carefully as I can with including content and site exclusions to gather audience data. That doesn’t mean that automatic placements for ads don’t work – check this neat case study about automatic placements and the arguments for it. But now we’re ready to sort through this data and refine our exclusions, since Google doesn’t guarantee that all exclusions from the content settings will not house our ad.

Placements for the last 3 months

I like to start looking at exclusions based on performance. I download my data into a Google Sheet to sort through and include metrics such as impressions, clicks, cost, average CPC, and conversions. I then sort through my data, starting with domains with high impressions and little to no clicks. Excluding anything that has a high amount of impressions but little-to-no clicks, ones with abnormally high click-through rates, and ones that are costing money but not performing. For example, you can see below that some of these placements are being shown quite a lot, but have under 20 clicks and no conversions: 

High impressions with no conversions.

Then I like to go through the list and see if there are any themes to exclude. I typically don’t like to have my ads on kids games and apps, as it’s a waste of money for us, kids can’t book flights to vacation in Europe! With apps, these ads are typically a waste in spend because it’s either 1. Someone trying to get through the ad just to go back and play their game or 2. the ad just hangs out in the game, never to be clicked on (on purpose) and heard from again.

Since this display campaign is targeting the United States and the English language only, I also like to check for foreign website domains that may pop up. Example website domains I look at are .ro, .es, .de, .nl, .io, .cc et cetera and add them as an exclusion as well. But this depends on the targeting of your campaign, so just know that if you’re targeting outside of the United States, you’ll see different domains outside of .org, .com, and .net. 

Foreign website domains.

And there you have it! A very simple audit that can help reduce your spend and up the quality of your data.