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How badly targeted is your online advertising?

I see so much badly-targeted online advertising that I wonder just how much of Google’s $100,000,000,000+ annual revenue is being given to them for nothing. If you have a child with a mobile phone, running childrens’ games which are advertising-funded, take a look at what’s popping up. The ads are rarely relevant, and are easily clicked by little fingers. I’d bet the advertisers don’t know they’re there.

The problem is that there are so many targeting settings in Google Ads, you probably need to be a full-time professional to keep on top of them all. We take over many existing accounts from companies who decide they’ve got better things to do with their time, and very few have no wastage in them. A potential client who approached us last year seemed surprised when we estimated that clicks would be £2–£3 a time in their sector, saying that they were getting them for less than 50p at the moment. When we had a look, we had to gently point out that 90% of their clicks were in mobile apps. And 90% of those were coming from India.

Google would say that if advertisers measure ‘conversions’ from their ads properly, this wouldn’t be an issue. It would be apparent that there were no sales or enquiries, and that there was something wrong with the campaign. However, in the type of markets in which we operate, measurable sales and enquiries are few and far between for most advertisers. Discussing this with one client recently, we decided that the only things they could practically measure on their website were clicks on the phone number (only applicable to mobile phone viewers) and completed enquiry forms (which few people used). The client said that this probably represented under 10% of enquiries, and they only got half a dozen good enquiries each month anyway!

So it’s up to the advertiser to check that the ads aren’t being wasted. If you’re running your own campaign, I’d keep constant watch on the following:

  • Actual search terms (not keywords) where the ads are showing
  • Where Ads Showed (not placements) for display network ads
  • Geographic locations (not location targets)
  • Devices

If you discover something horrible has been going on, don’t worry, it’s not unusual. You’ve just been making a small unnecessary contribution to those almost incomprehensibly large revenue figures at the world’s biggest (and still best) advertising platform.