A closer look on googles display placements

If you are running ads on google display network you should better check the placements where your ads are shown. I seems to me that there are a lot of situations out there where website owners make a lot of money with AdSense running on crappy websites without any value. How is that possible? Google tells you all the time about new AI solutions in their Google Ads product but they are not able to classify those pages as “spam” or “bad” and stop those placements wasting your budgets? I do not believe that.

Building some quality measures for display placements

We have some KPIs that can be directly used out of the google reports for your display placements:

  • Cost per Order: Of course you can have look at you CPOs – the problem is that you normally need some sample size for that. This means you have to spend already some hundred clicks per placements. Quite expensive for > 100.000 placements
  • CTR: I highly recommend looking on the CTR for identifying bad placements. This is also possible with a small amount of impressions but you should manually check those placements that have a CTR that is too good to be true

Let’s enrich those KPIs with some data outside the google reports. For this we use some approaches that analyzes the placement domain:

  • ads.txt available/not available: this is a great source of information. If a placement is not providing an ads.txt file you should already have a closer look. I found funny examples where the website owners where very creative to avoid regex parsing of their publisher-id out of the website source code. Guess what the websites looked like 🙂
  • website made for adsense only: google makes it very easy to apply for adsense program also with a thin content site. This is completely different for other networks. We are using the identified networks in the ads.txt as quality metric – websites with just adsense should get a detailed look.
  • the number of adslots: we search in the source code of the website for the adslot-ids and count them. You all know those examples of websites that are full with ads. Probably a placement you should set as negative.
  • content Quality: a mix of counting unique words and total words gives you a good fingerprint of the website. Be careful with thin websites with a lot of keyword stuffing.
  • use the publisherid network: we had a look on a lot of placements and started to identify networks of websites that share the same publisherids. If you catch one bad placements you can also block a lot of others. Offtopic: if you search for seo niches that are monetizing with adsense this is a very good approach for analyzing some very smart approaches out there 🙂

When you put all mentioned approaches together you have something like this for your daily work, that helps you to label negative placements but also some interesting placements that should be added as managed:

Examples: placements where google has “no clue” that your budget is wasted

Build a serious website that is offering a tool, converter, etc. Put some nice content on the website with system requirements etc and make the user feel that he wants to download/test this tool. Now flood your website with ads that are using the call to actions of the responsive display ads saying “Download”, “Start”, etc. and keep them in the same styling like your website elements. You are right google – this is no fraud but it is obvious what is happening here.

Seems to work pretty well – have a look at the connected domains over the publisher ids now:

same layout, same pattern
same same

Even when you are using pay for conversions (e.g. for starting a trial software version) you are paying a lot of money for those placements because a lot of users will download and start your software searching for the button for starting the file conversion. 🙂

Final thoughts

  • if you use automated placements you have to review the placement domains continuously. Even when you use pay for conversions on soft conversions you probably will waste budget.
  • in this blogpost I only mentioned the bad placements – with the same kpis you can also identify and add new quality managed placements.
  • There seem to be a lot of placements out there that never ever will drive SEO Traffic (where they get the traffic from is a different story). A good approach is to search for valid placements that also rank in google for your money keywords. For scalability think of a process fetching the SERPs for your top 10000 keywords and scraping each of the websites and look for an ads.txt file with google adsense.