How to Exclude “Undesirable Websites” on the Google Display Network

Did you know that your ad may be displayed on a hateful/spammy/irrelevant website? It’s true. Ad targeting is based on categories such as demographics, interests, and location. But since there are many websites in the Google Display Network, Google doesn’t tell us which websites it plans on advertising, instead opting to choose for us.

Due to the vast reach of this ad network, Google is not always able to filter even the websites which fail to meet Google’s own Terms of Service. 

In this article, we’ll describe how you can protect your brand and save some money by excluding websites on the display network. 

What are Google Display Network (GDN) placement exclusions?

The Google Display Network is used in over one million websites around the globe. A company’s ad could end up on a thousand different websites, even if that website conflicts with the core beliefs or purpose of the brand. 

For example, a consumer goods brand may unknowingly be advertising on a website that publishes propaganda and hate speech. At a less extreme, but still worrisome level, a brand’s messages can display on a site that is antithetical to that company’s vision and core values. 

The most frequent examples are extremes that are considered negative, but anything could be negative for a particular brand, and it is considered smart branding to avoid anything that would alienate any potential customers.

Fortunately, Google gives brands the ability to exclude certain sites on their ad network. This can save brands some money if they do not want to be shown on an irrelevant or negative website. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t make it clear exactly how to do so. 

What are the benefits of GDN placement exclusions?

  • Save money on ad spend – Studies on thousands of GDN websites have revealed that at least 26 website placements have spent over $1,000 without generating a single lead. At least 136 website placements have spent anywhere between $300 and $1,000 without a lead. These include websites like wikihow.com, weather.com, and cnn.com. There are also cases where publishers (that’s what the owner of a site hosting ads is called) “game” the system by showing many ads on one page, resulting in the same ad showing all-around one page’s content — this looks sloppy and unprofessional and isn’t likely to generate more quality clicks.
  • Save time in campaign creation – Why spend hours attempting to reach people through websites that won’t even convert a single user? GDN placement exclusions will help streamline your campaigns so you can focus your time on actual leads. 
  • Greater likelihood of conversion  – By avoiding websites that do not even lead to conversion, you can effectively increase your chances of producing a new customer, instead of wasting resources on an ad that does not even engage visitors to the site.

How to set up GDN placement exclusions

Step 1 – Select the settings button in the top right. Depending on your version of the Google Ads dashboard, you may see three dots, a gear, or a wrench icon.

Step 2 – Under the Shared Library, select “Placement exclusion lists.”

Step 3 – Hit the “New List” button and give your list a name. Note that you can also do exclusions for YouTube channels and apps. 

Step 4 – Add the URLs of the domains you wish to exclude.

Step 5 – Hit save, and all of your exclusions should now take effect. That’s it, your done!

Advanced users – consider making an app exclusion list if GDN placements in some or all app categories generate large numbers of impressions but do not result in clicks or conversions on par with website placements. 

List of websites to exclude in Google Ads

Here are just a few recommendations of websites with high costs but relatively low conversions:

  • cnn.com
  • usatoday.com
  • howstuffworks.com
  • tmz.com
  • dictionary.com 
  • aol.com
  • imgur.com
  • ask.com
  • horoscope.com
  • biblegateway.com
  • foodnetwork.com
  • okcupid.com 
  • politico.com
  • fanfiction.net
  • msn.com
  • vox.com
  • ign.com
  • marketwatch.com

The Takeaway

The Google Display Network is a vast and diverse network of websites on which you can place your ad. But these websites are not always vetted for brand suitability. That’s why placement exclusion lists are so vital. In the end, they will save you money and time and will connect you to your desired audience in a more authentic and engaging way.