Low Display CTR? Say Hello To Placement Exclusions6 min read

Consisting of over 3 million websites and mobile apps, the Google Display Network allows you to push your brand, products, and services in front of your target audience on the web.

Due to the sheer volume of potential placements, many of these may not be suited to your target audience.

Therefore, if you’re not particular with your targeting on Google Display, you can expect lower CTRs, as well as unwanted clicks that lead to… nothing.

Although it’s not as easy as simply clicking a button and waving goodbye to these wasteful clicks, there is a solution.

By conducting regular brief optimisation, you can remove these unwanted placements, leading to boosted CTRs, as well as ensuring those clicking through to your ads fit in your target audience.

Allow us to introduce Placement Exclusions.

What Are Placement Exclusions?

Placement Exclusions are a method of preventing your Display campaign ads from appearing on websites or apps.

Commonly, exclusions are applied in order to block your ads from appearing on low-quality or irrelevant sites across the Google Display Network.

For example, if you’re an adult dating site, you wouldn’t want your ads to show on a gaming website made solely for children.

Why Should You Use Placement Exclusions?

There are multiple reasons why you may want to exclude certain placements from your Display campaigns.

Irrelevant Sites

As we have already mentioned, it can prove useful to be particular with the sites you chose to serve ads on within the GDN (Google Display Network).

You don’t want to appear on a site whose users will have no interest in your business, products, or services.

By excluding irrelevant placements, you can reduce accidental clicks from an audience that was already unlikely to convert, and focus your budget on sites that are relevant, with audiences who are interested in what you have to offer.

Inappropriate Sites

Similar to the irrelevant sites, you don’t want your ads to serve on sites that do not align with your business values.

Sites focusing on topics that could be considered inappropriate, such as those featuring mature content, may not be a great fit for most businesses.

Not only can showing on these sites affect your return on ad spend (ROAS), but it could also harm your brand image.

Spam (Click fraud) Sites

Although Google enforces a strict review process before allowing sites to join the GDN family, spam sites & apps can still occasionally sneak through.

Click fraud is a common feature of these sites, where they will try and get as many clicks on ads as possible, often by showing ads spontaneously or when a user is about to click elsewhere.

Placements on click-fraud websites may look like they’re performing well due to higher click-through rates, but the quality of those clicks will be much lower, as well as being unlikely to convert.

Improve ROAS

Sometimes placements may come with a heftier cost-per-click.

That may not be an issue if they convert, but when they don’t, the ROAS will naturally drop.

For advertisers with tighter budgets and targets, excluding these placements can result in a rise in ROAS, due to eliminating the unconverted ad spend.

How Do You Exclude Placements?

Exclusions to your campaigns can be made from within your Google Ads account directly.

To begin, simply load up your Google Ads account, where you will see the dashboard.

From here, navigate to the top bar, where you should see an option for ‘Tools & Settings’.

Under ‘Shared Library’, travel to ‘Placement exclusion lists’.

Once here, you can then create a new list by navigating to the blue ‘+’ and selecting ‘new list’.

We recommend creating an exclusion list based on each exclusion reason.

For example, having one for inappropriate sites, and one for click-fraud sites.

Give it a name, paste the full URL of the placement you would like to exclude, and click the ‘Add Placements’ option.

TOP TIP: You can add multiple placements in one go. Ensure each URL is on a separate line, and select ‘Add Placements’.

Finally, you now have to choose which campaigns to apply the list to. Be sure to check out Google’s guide here should you require additional guidance on how to do this.

How Many Placement Exclusions Can I Apply?

Google allows you to apply up to 20,000 exclusions at a time, with the total limit being 65,000 for each Google Ads account.

What To Look For When Excluding Placements?

If you’re unsure of which placements to exclude, it may be worth downloading an export of where your ads have shown.

To do this, navigate from your Google Ads dashboard to Content > Where ads showed.

From here, you can download an export of the sites your ads have been shown on in the time period specified.

By exporting this to a tool like Excel, you can add a filter, and begin searching through masses of data for placements that don’t suit your needs.

For example, if you’re only targeting a certain region, it may be worth searching for URL’s with top-level domains different to your targeting needs.

Another example may be that you’re only looking to target users who are in an older demographic, yet your ads are being shown on sites made for children.

A simple filter search for terms such as ‘games’, ‘kids’, and ‘nursery’ would help highlight placements to exclude in this scenario.


Placement exclusions are a great way to block unwanted traffic from irrelevant and potentially harmful websites and/or apps.

Whether you’re dealing with irrelevant placements, inappropriate placements, or just too many placements taking too much of your budget, exclusions will assist you in fine-tuning your Display campaigns.

Plus, they can also help you boost your click-through rate (CTR) and ROAS in the long run.

There is a downfall to placement exclusions, however…

They’re time-consuming.

Fortunately, we’re here to help.

Feel free to get in touch with us here to discuss our Google Display management services.

Sam Pilgrim

A one-man marketing machine, Sam is a heavenly combination of natural PPC skills and street smarts. Known beyond the world of pay per click for his impeccable taste in fashion, and his friendship with the world’s biggest rappers…