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The Death of Adsenseformobileapps.com & What it Means for Your Display Campaigns

August 7, 2018

This week, Google sent out an email that caused a stir among SEMs with clients whose accounts contain at least one GDN campaign. The gist? The long-running workaround for excluding mobile apps en masse—adding adsenseformobileapps.com as a placement exclusion—is being killed off in September.

Case in point…here's one reaction I saw on Linkedin:

response to google change to adsenseformobileapps placement

Like I said, visceral responses abound.

Some see Google’s outreach email, particularly the statement, “you may see a significant increase in mobile apps or mobile web traffic,” as laying the foundation for a cash grab. 

Here’s everything you need to know about why this is happening.

So, Uh, What’s Happening?

Per Google, “In September 2018, the adsenseformobileapps.com exclusion and the GMob mobile app non-interstitial exclusion will no longer be available within Google Ads.” Other content exclusions (Embedded videos, In-video, Below-the-fold, etc.) will continue to work just fine, and the GDN will still have functionality to opt in/out of devices without the use of a -100% bid adjustment like we’d have in a search campaign.

old adwords ui adsenseformobileapps

Why is Google eliminating a tried-and-true workaround?

"Simplicity," of course. 

This change will make it easier to serve ads to the ever-growing subset of humanity spending their web browsing hours on mobile devices. And, yes, it could mean more bad clicks in your Display campaigns.

In reality, many advertisers didn’t know about the adsenseformobileapps.com placement and have undoubtedly spent a ton of advertising dollars serving Display creative to fat-thumbing app-users. And even those of us who do know about managing and excluding mediocre (or junk) placements inevitably spend dollars on ones that don’t convert; it’s an inherent risk of advertising in spaces where search intent doesn’t rule the roost, and it’s why the clicks are so darn cheap.

Newsflash: managing placements—that is, excluding based on performance and other, squishy factors like brand alignment or, say, general morality—is extremely important. It’s akin to adding negative keywords to your search campaigns (and we all do that, right?). Is this change a minor annoyance? Sure, for some. But in a channel with millions of websites and hundreds of thousands of apps, diligence, good creative, and thoughtful audience creation—not a single placement—are the keys to success, and the death of adsenceformobileapps.com isn’t going to change that! 

It's just going to make it a lot more difficult to eliminate riffraff.

With that, here’s how you can exclude all mobile apps in Google Ads (for the next 30 days or so at least).

Excluding Mobile App Placements in Google Ads

This is a two-step process, the first of which is pretttttty obvious.

You’ll need to head to the placement tab, then to exclusions:

google ads exclusions tab

Simply check the box next to adsenseformobileapps.com, then hit “remove.”

(Note that if the placement lives in a list of exclusions, you’ll need to remove it from there instead of at the campaign level)

Next, go to your campaign settings and click “additional settings.”

additional settings google ads campaign

Here, you’ll want to navigate down to “Devices.” If it says “Show on All Devices,” you’re gonna have a bad time (and by that, I mean your Display ads will serve on mobile apps). To rectify this situation, click the radio button next to “set specific targeting for devices”

google ads select device placements

This will open a menu that breaks devices into three subsets: computers, mobile, and tablet.

google ads set specific targeting for device

If you only want to serve your ads on the mobile web, uncheck “mobile app” and “mobile app interstitial.” Ditto for tablet.

Annnnnd you’re done (for now)

This change, which I initially read as “great, Google’s killing off an exclusion that should never have been necessary,” looks to be the exact opposite and could, in fact, make mobile apps more difficult to avoid [insert my very own LinkedIn ragepost here]. We’ll update once we have more clarification from Google.

Allen Finn

Allen Finn writes many things at WordStream, where he reigned as fantasy football champion for some time. He likes marveling at funky beer labels, every beat on Liquid Swords, most cuts of beef, and New Hampshire.