Google Ad Planner Vs. AdWords Placement Tool: Which provides better sites to target?

With the release of Ad Planner, Google continues to expand the tools at your disposal that help locate new sites to target within your PPC campaign. You also have available the Placement Tool within the AdWords interface that can help find new sites on which to display your ads. These two tools have the same end goal (expanding your site targeted list in AdWords) but they function differently and they provide very different results. So, which one should you use?

What is Google Ad Planner? Here is the description as provided by Google: Google Ad Planner is a free media planning tool that can help you identify websites your audience is likely to visit so you can make better-informed advertising decisions. With Google Ad Planner, you can:

  • Define audiences by demographics and interests.
  • Search for websites relevant to your audience.
  • Access aggregated statistics on the number of unique visitors, page views, and other data for millions of websites from over 40 countries.
  • Create lists of websites where you’d like to advertise and store them in a media plan.
  • Generate aggregated website statistics for your media plan.

Needless to say, I was intrigued so I had to give Ad Planner a spin. And I wanted to compare my results between Ad Planner and Google AdWords.

The client I’ll use for this experiment sells personalized wedding gifts, favors and accessories. My core audience are females looking to purchase these products for their upcoming wedding and/or wedding related events.

First, let’s see what Ad Planner’s results were. Here is the demographic criteria I entered into Ad Planner:

Gender: Female

Age brackets: 18-24, 25-34, 35-44

Education: Some college, Bachelors degree, Graduate degree

Household income: $25,000 – $150,000 or more

Filter: I selected only sites that are on the Google content network

The list of sites that Ad Planner provided was quite robust and extensive. However, for the sake of this post I chose the “top” viewed sites that adhered to the major theme of my results. My results contained these sites:

I think everyone who just reviewed this list can see the theme here: pregnancy and babies. And one wedding related site ( The goal of Ad Planner is to discover new horizontal and vertical markets where your core audience also shops/browses. While I do believe that my audience probably visits these sites, I am afraid the intent of these sites is too far removed from the products my client has to offer.

The users on these sites very well could be who I am looking to target, but in regards to the buying cycle, this might not be the best strategy. The users on these sites are not actively thinking about weddings/wedding gifts – they are thinking about baby gifts/showers. I would prefer to appear in front of users who have weddings at top of mind and are ready to make a purchase!

To be honest, I haven’t tested these sites yet, and they may be a great source for sales, but I will be cautious if I do target them.

However, within the demographic criteria you can enter sites your audience are likely to visit. I entered my client’s website and re-ran my search (same demographic criteria) and these were my results:

That’s more like it! Tip: When using Ad Planner, insert your target demographic and then your website or your competitor’s websites within the demographic criteria.

Within the Google AdWords Placement Tool you have a few methods to search for sites. You can search via categories, topics, specific URLs, and demographics. I entered similar demographics as I used in Ad Planner into the Placement Tool within AdWords.

Here are the results provided by AdWords demographic search, again there were dozens of sites listed in my results but these are the “top” viewed sites that adhere to the overall theme:

The Ad Planner results were tightly focused on pregnancy/baby sites, but the AdWords demographic search results are not focused in any one direction (at all). If I was uncertain about advertising on the Ad Planner search results (if looking for vertical/horizontal coverage), I am definitely not going to run ads on these sites. I may be wrong, but I can’t image a good portion of users on or are actively searching for wedding gifts.

My last effort to find new sites was to use the topics search function in AdWords. The topics I entered were my core keywords:

wedding gifts
wedding registry
personalized wedding gifts
wedding planning

wedding favors
wedding accessories

My results contained these sites:

These results seem to be fairly well targeted. These are all wedding themed and/or related sites. The users on theses sites are actively thinking about wedding related topics, and that’s who I want my ads to be in front of!

Like I said, this doesn’t mean I won’t eventually test displaying ads on the Ad Planner vertical/horizontal sites (baby/pregancy sites) but I am defintely more comfortable sticking closer to sites with similar mindset as my client’s. You may find completely different results when you use these various search functions, but don’t put all of your eggs in one basket when looking for specific sites to target within your PPC campaign.

In summary, which tool should you use? Try both! As you can see, once I tightened my criteria in Ad Planner I got some pretty good results, and targeting via topic in AdWords also gave me some relevant results.

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