Tips for Google Site and Category Exclusion Tool

Targeting Google AdWords contextual advertising campaigns just got easier. This new tool keeps your ads from appearing in some pretty dodgy places online.

Google launched an important new tool that prevents your ads from showing on poorly-performing sites: the Category Exclusion tool.

Remember why content campaigns drain ad dollars? You waste budget because contextual ads appear on sites that are “poor quality,” meaning visitors to those sites are not likely to convert, even if your ads garner clicks.

We’ve discussed several strategies for controlling which sites carry your ads. The Category Exclusion tool simplifies the job by allowing advertisers to exclude whole swaths of site types.

To find the tool, click on Tools under Campaign Management. First you’re allowed to choose a campaign. Though you can choose search campaigns, you shouldn’t — the tool really only acts on keyword-targeted and placement-targeted content campaigns.

Having chosen a campaign, you’ll see the familiar site exclusion text field where you can type or paste the specific domain names of sites that shouldn’t carry your ads. But you’ll see two additional tabs: Topics and Page Types. Let’s start with Topics. Here’s an example of what you’ll see:

Here’s Google’s explanation for each of the topics that can be excluded:

Conflict and tragedy

  • Crime, police, and emergency: Police blotters, news stories on fires, and emergency services resources
  • Death and tragedy: Obituaries, bereavement services, accounts of natural disasters, and accidents
  • Military and international conflict: News about war, terrorism, and sensitive international relations

Edgy content

  • Juvenile, gross, and bizarre content: Jokes, weird pictures, and videos of stunts
  • Profanity and rough language: Moderate use of profane language
  • Sexually suggestive content: Provocative pictures and text

But Google doesn’t trust its intuition, or yours, to lead to an intelligent decision about which site topics to exclude. The tool shows you, based on your campaign’s history, exactly what you’re risking by excluding sites within each topic.

In the example above, the advertiser would probably be wise to exclude sites in the crime topic, since the CTR (define) has been a dismal .52%, with no conversions. But the advertiser might think twice before excluding sites in the juvenile topic, since despite the poor CTR, clicks from that site are converting at a respectable 7.41%. Notice that cost-per-conversion data is also available, so advertisers can make sure their decisions are likely to result in acceptable ROI (define).

Let’s turn now to the Page Types tab:

Here the advertiser is presented with a range of page types that have traditionally yielded poor results for some advertisers. Again, Google’s explanation of each type:

Network types

  • Parked domains are sites in Google’s AdSense for domains network. Users are brought to parked domain sites when they enter the URL of an undeveloped Web page into a browser’s address bar. There, they’ll see ads relevant to the terminology in the URL they entered. The AdSense for domains network is encompassed by both the content network and the search network. If you exclude this page type, you’ll exclude all parked domain sites, including the ones on the search network.
  • Error pages are part of Google’s AdSense for errors network. Certain users are brought to error pages when they enter a search query or unregistered URL in a browser’s address bar. There, they’ll see ads relevant to the search query or URL they entered.

User-Generated Content

  • Forums are Web sites devoted to open discussion of a topic.
  • Social networks are Web sites offering an interactive network of friends with personal profiles.
  • Image-sharing pages allow users to upload and view images.
  • Video-sharing pages allow users to view uploaded videos.

This data is fascinating because it illustrates something I’ve been hearing from Google for some time: it’s not uncommon for pages/sites like parked domains (arbitrageurs) and error pages to yield good-to-excellent CTRs and conversion rates. In the example above, only social network pages yielded poor results, while the others produced results that rivaled the best search campaigns.

So, use the tool to further fine-tune your content campaigns — but watch out for these caveats:

  • Not all languages are supported — at the moment only Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish sites can be excluded
  • The tool is not infallible — so continue to run Placement performance reports and use the Site Exclusion tool to opt out of poorly-performing sites/pages.
  • Why/how the tool operates on placement targeted campaigns — ostensibly the advertiser has specified the set of sites and pages where ads should appear, so why exclude pages or topics within those sites? Sounds like the kind of mystery we discuss in the Content Advertising thread within the SEW Forums.

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