Over the years, we’ve run literally hundreds of Google Display campaigns. In our experience, we have never found any which performed well when serving on mobile phone applications. Thinking anecdotally - have you ever actually clicked on an ad when you’re in an app? Let’s keep it real - a large proportion of those “yes” responses are accidental stray fingers.
As such, mobile app placements within the Google Ads “where your ads showed” report has been consistently characterised by high impressions and low clicks & click-through rates. The universal consensus among advertisers has been to exclude mobile applications from Google Display in order to get the best performance.
Does anyone remember a very special URL called adsenseformobileapps.com? Prior to 2018, this was an address that we could exclude as a placement on Google Ads’ Display network. This would stop ads from appearing on any and all mobile applications.
Unfortunately this functionality was phased out in September 2018, to mass dismay. Advertisers collectively sighed as impressions across Display campaigns increased sharply, and the occasional ad click was wasted every single day.
It seemed that we were resigned to unwillingly serving our ads on mobile applications… forever. The only clicks were destined as stray fingers of those with poor dexterity, unknowingly slipping into an unfortunate click radius. We sat and waited for morning to come.
Thankfully in 2019, we got wind of an alternative workaround, as discovered by some advertisers in America. It is shockingly simple. All it involves is navigating to Placement > Exclusions, excluding “App Categories” and selecting “All Apps”.
There doesn’t appear to be any official word from Google on this. We suspect it’s likely an oversight of the original intended functionality to allow advertisers can exclude their ads from select app categories (e.g. children’s games).
From what we can see with our placements, it’s appeared to be a highly effective workaround. We haven’t seen any of our ads cropping up on mobile applications since.
As a result, your ad impressions will decrease, and your clicks as well. Doubtless those clicks would be accidental, so you are going to be saving a few bucks. Expect your click-through rates to increase as well.
Let us know in the comments how you go!