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4 Google Ads Audience Exclusions You Need to Try Next

September 9, 2019

Sometimes a successful paid media campaign requires the “less is more” approach. Negative audiences can help guide just the right users down the funnel. Negative audiences can also help keep the completely unwanted traffic from seeing your ads. The perfect combination of targeting plus exclusions may give you both the cost per acquisition and the customer lifetime value you are looking to hit.

adwords remarketing audience exclusions

Now, I know what you are probably thinking: “We already know about negative audiences, Joe.” That is great, but I am not using this post to talk about the obvious ones. We have page visit audiences. We have customer match audiences. We have previous converter audiences. I am not talking about the ones we all use. Here, I want to show you four Google Ads audience exclusions I hardly ever see set up in accounts I take over:

  1. Page visitors (from specific days)
  2. App audiences
  3. Site searches
  4. Event actions

1. Page visitors—on certain days

Black Friday. We all know it. Good retail marketers are already prepping for it. In a few ecommerce accounts I’ve managed, Black Friday was not great at all for business growth. Yes, it helped in the short term to drive traffic, but a lot of people came to their site for a doorbuster or a gift for someone else, and never intended on ever coming back to the site. We still wanted to remarket to engaged page visitors, but not the ones who came for a one-time doorbuster. So we tested a new remarketing audience to exclude. When creating your page visit audiences in the Google Ads Audience Manager, you can change the list members to include page visits only on certain dates.

Google Ads audience exclusions in the ad manager

This tactic helped remove the no-LTV customers from the list for a few days, but still kept our page visit audiences running.

But this is just one example: I am not saying block out Black Friday sale dates from every account. Think of what might be applicable to your campaigns. Maybe you want to block out certain holidays. Maybe you know some bad press is going to get out, and you want to proactively exclude the upcoming surge of traffic that’s going to hit. Whatever the reason may be, just understand you have the power to avoid certain dates if you need to do so.

2. App audiences

I’ve taken over several accounts that have a corresponding app to go along with their website. What shocks me is that many of these accounts have never set up Google Analytics on their apps. This eventually leads to me telling the client we’re most likely still showing our remarketing ads to users who are already customers or already downloaded the app. This is unacceptable because we can easily create app user audiences in Audience Manager to later use as exclusions in our campaigns.

Google Ads audience exclusions by app

We don’t have to block out all users. We can choose to block out users who have performed certain actions within the app. One example is maybe your company and/or app runs a freemium model, and your goal is to get free users to upgrade to a paid model. You don’t want to exclude all app users in your campaigns. You will only want to exclude the users who have performed actions in the app that only paid users can do. If you want to create audiences from specific actions in your app, you will need to make sure your app analytics platform is linked to your Google Ads account in your Tools & Settings. But the additional setup will allow you to create more focused remarketing campaigns with better targeting and exclusion audiences from app users.

3. Site searches

I am already going to assume you have site search set up in Google Analytics. This feature allows marketers to know what search queries users are typing on your own site’s search functionality. Getting information of what people are looking for when they are perusing your website can be extremely valuable to find out customer intent in greater detail. Not only do we get the data in the Google Analytics Site Search report, but we can also create Google Analytics audiences from site search queries.

Google search queries with "forgot password"

Take a look at that search term showing up in the report. There were 763 people in this timeframe looking for “forgot password.” In most cases, I don’t want to remarket to current customers.

“But that’s what customer match exclusions are for.”

But do customer match audiences have a 100% match rate? Nope. Better safe than sorry. Now, let us go into the Audiences page in Google Analytics to create our own site search audience. When creating the new audience, choose “Conditions.” Then use the Search Term filter. You will then find any search query that has shown up in your Site Search report.

audience exclusions by site searches

I guess I can add more users who only forgot their password. Again, the Site Search report can help give you get a better understanding of the user’s intent when they visit your site. Yes, you can use these audiences for remarketing, but we can also block out users searching for products, services, or topics completely unrelated to the goals of your Google Ads campaigns.

4. Event actions

I just talked about user intent in the previous section of this post, and I am going to continue to home in on user intent. Google Tag Manager is a beautiful tool to help understand user intent because we can set up a variety of tags to track user actions. These user actions can then be recorded as events in Google Analytics. Here is one example:

Event Actions in Google Ads

For this particular client, we wanted to block out how many people were going to the login and support pages of the site. We could not use page visit audiences because those sections of the site were run through an application that did not have Google Analytics on it. For legal concerns, we also could not get a list of email addresses to upload to Google. So the best we could do was track users who were attempting to go to these pages via event clicks.

And just like we created Google Analytics audiences from site search queries, we can create audiences from any event category, action, or label you set up.

Google Ads audience exclusions screen

There are more options and strategies we have when using event tracking audiences. Here are just two more event tracking options you have for exclusions.

  • Drop-Down Menu Selections: Using the track selection custom HTML tag from Simo Ahava, we can record menu options users take on your website or within your forms. Maybe your form asks users what products they might be interested before they sign up for your newsletter. You can create a remarketing audience for the options the user suggests, and then add exclusions for the remaining options to keep your interest audiences as clean as possible.
  • Low Engagement Audiences: Using the Scroll Depth trigger, you can create events from how far users have scrolled down or across on your pages. If users are coming to your pages, not performing any actions, and also not even moving the page, they probably are not interested in what you have to sell. Get rid of them from your targeting.

For Google Ads audience exclusions, user intent and campaign goals are key

I gave you four of my favorite types of audiences I like to exclude from my campaigns in Google Ads. Whether you use these exclusion options or other ones, remember it all comes down to user intent and your campaign goals. Exclude the users who will have zero impact on converting the right user for that campaign. What other type of audience exclusions do you like to create? Share with the community in the comments below!

Joe Martinez

Joe Martinez

Joe Martinez is the Director of Client Strategy for Clix Marketing. His focus on marketing psychology and user experience helps his clients achieve record growths and lifetime customers. While he is hands-on in all aspects of PPC, his true passions lie in Display, Remarketing, and YouTube. He regularly speaks at conferences such as SMX Advanced, SMX West, SMX East, HeroConf, Confluence Conference, and Digital Olympus. He was also named a Top 25 Influential PPC Expert by PPC Hero in 2017 and 2018.

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