Is AdSense For Mobile Apps Ruining Your Google Display Network Results?

Have you checked your Google Display Network (GDN) campaign placements recently? If the answer is no, then I would take a look ASAP — chances are, you’re appearing on a hell of a lot of apps now, and you might need to make some adjustments to your campaign in order to improve your results.

mobile-ads_products_smThe Issue

Eighty percent (80%) of people’s time on their mobile device is spent in an app now, and this has caused a significant shift in the traffic available on the Google Display Network via different devices.

We all know that there’s been a big shift in the amount of time people spend on mobile devices compared to desktops; but, you would be surprised at how this impacts your GDN campaigns!

If you have the 320×50 ad size in your campaign, you are most likely being impacted by this shift at present as your ads will almost inevitably be showing on many irrelevant apps. The main issue is that you could be spending a huge amount of your budget on these app placements without any conversions rolling in.

Yes, of course there is the element of raising awareness; but, I would worry that the quality of the traffic coming in from placements such as “Beauty Prom Night Makeover Salon Doctor — little hand and skin pimple spa games for kids,” by Fancy Quiz Games, might be a little sketchy.

I’m a great advocate of the GDN and am always looking for new ways to test out this advertising platform. However, I’m having to draw the conclusion that advertising on apps with actual products and services does not work for most industries. More on this later!

An even bigger issue is when an app becomes a hit overnight. Some of you may have experienced high volumes of traffic in your GDN campaigns when Flappybird launched back in February. If you don’t pick up on these situations quickly through regular checks of your placements, then you could be out of budget pretty quickly.

How To Spot If This Is Happening To You

Segment By Device and see if it’s mobile that’s eating all your budget.

The chart below shows click data by device for the first 2 weeks of a newly launched campaign for a client selling apparel, and it’s obvious where all the money is being spent. In this case, there had been no conversions — yet desktop and tablets were not being given a chance to show as mobile was getting all the traffic.

GDN Traffic Split

Analyse Your Placement Composition to see if you’re appearing on a lot of apps.

The data below is for that same clothing brand in a contextual ad group targeting cycling keywords. Normally, I’d expect to see placements like the last one in this list, but of late it seems mostly apps are appearing!

Placement Examples

Check Ad Size to see which ad size is taking all the budget.

Go to your ads tab in AdWords, segment by device and sort by impressions, cost and conversions separately to analyse which ads are working/not working for you.

Keep A Close Eye On Your Traffic Sources to check for any irregular activity, or something like the example below could happen to you and you might not notice the shift:

Device clicks

What To Do If This Traffic Is Not Working For You

Just to reiterate: if you’re after reach and awareness, then these placements could be working for you and this traffic could be relevant. However, if you’re after more direct response or feel that these placements are not the kind you want, then you could consider the below points.

  • Exclude irrelevant placements individually or exclude as a placement altogether if you feel this traffic has been tested and isn’t working for you. You can do this by going to the display network tab, exclusions, campaign exclusions and adding it in as a campaign level placement. Alternatively, you can create a list for it in the shared library and add this list as a negative to multiple campaigns.
  • Lower bids on mobile — it’s eating all your budget and you want to be shown on desktops more.
  • Set up a separate desktop campaign with mobile excluded and a different budget to try and maintain your share on desktops, or split out mobile into its own campaign — though this isn’t easy to split out!
  • Separate out mobile ad sizes into different campaigns with separate budgets to keep an eye on them

Tips For Advertising On Apps

I recommend targeting apps in a separate campaign, allowing you to control the budget for this type of placement and quickly notice when traffic has heavily increased from this source. You can do this by targeting the admob network only via this campaign.

  • Advertise other apps on apps. People might be more likely to download your app if they’re already in one.
  • Use with the expectation of gaining reach.
  • Go in with low bids, the traffic volume potential here is large, so you could end up spending very quickly.
  • Keep a close eye on the type of placements you’re appearing on and if they’re relevant to your users. If you’re using audiences such as affinity targeting, you’ll need to keep in mind that it’s not the placement that’s relevant but the fact that the user has an affinity with the audience you’ve selected. However, do keep in mind that a lot of kids use their parents’ iPhones these days to play games!

I’d be interested to hear if more people have come across this situation and what your thoughts are, so do share in the comments!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising Column | Google: AdSense | Google: AdWords | Google: Display Advertising | Mobile Marketing | Search Marketing


About The Author: is one of the longest standing PPC team leaders at Periscopix, a fast growing PPC agency, serving as the company's Group Head of Search.

Sign Up To Get This Newsletter Via Email:  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Julia Papageorgiou

    Completely agree Rebekah! We’ve been excluding for a while on pretty much all our clients’ display campaigns across varied sectors. We’ve found the apps to be largely irrelevant to our clients industries/targeting and performance has always improved when we’ve excluded them because as you pointed out, most of the budget gets eaten up by these placements rather than others which have traffic more likely to convert. We also go to Display Network Tab -> Interests & Remarketing -> Exclusions -> Categories and exclude the category of ‘GMob mobile app non-interstitial’. Would hope that over time we will enjoy better control over types/categories of apps our ads appear in, but agree your approach separating it out is best, so that spend is controlled too.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Marketing Land on Twitter @marketingland Like Marketing Land on Facebook Follow Marketing Land on Google+ Subscribe to Our Feed! Join our LinkedIn Group Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Marketing News!

Marketing Day is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!