I took some time away from search at the start of the summer, conveniently missing the mass migration to enhanced campaigns. Prior to that time, I worked on a single account that we had largely opted out of tablets, especially in display campaigns.

After launching the first ever display campaigns for a new client, imagine what pleasant surprises awaited me in our first placement review: tablet apps…and lots of them.

Tablet App Ads

While I don’t like spending client money on stupid things (and kids playing games on iPads are clearly not our audience), our process is built to catch this thing quickly. I figured I’d find the new setting to opt us out of this very specific brand of traffic but was surprised yet again when I couldn’t find anything obvious, settings-wise.  No campaign types, no category exclusions – no clear shortcut to blocking this.

Mobile Apps Missing

Dreading having to comb reports for a group of placements I knew I’d never want to target, I dug deeper. I asked some pretty smart search folks if they’d encountered this before but didn’t find my answer until I saw this AdWords support page:


Answer in hand, I applied the change and started planning a scathing blog about the idiotic process for blocking this. I mean, if the category of placements is unique enough to have its own campaign type, why not make exclusion part of the same process? Why make it a placement exclusion to get lost in an ocean of negatives?  Why mask this magic URL in placement reports? Why waste my time? Why make me do something special to opt out when I should have had a process to opt in if this was what I wanted?

But before I could get going on this, one of the same search folks I’d pinged earlier pointed me to a fantastic blog post by Bryant Garvin.

Bryant had the answer and, judging from the tweets from prominent search folks he references, it wasn’t obvious. There really wasn’t a need to blog about it.

So you might be thinking – “what are you complaining about? You asked a bunch of  whys, and you got a solution.  C’mon, smart SEM guy, this isn’t rocket science. Add the placement negative.”

All true. But it’s crap like this that damages the perception of Google in an advertiser’s eyes.

We’ve been fed this line that “tablets behave like desktops,” so it’s OK to auto-opt you into it. Well, that doesn’t hold much ground when we’re talking apps and not search. (Don’t get me started on the rest of display on mobile – is there an opt out for people with big fingers?)

Look, Bryant’s article is almost THREE MONTHS OLD. How can we not be cynical when something like this hasn’t been properly addressed in the campaign creation process? Yes, experts know the ropes, but what about the average advertiser who invested in display after getting bombarded by Google sales reps? This is the type of thing you should opt into, not have to opt out of.

This falls in the same category as not being able to target search partners only (yes, that’ll come, but how long have we been waiting?). So long as Google enables large-scale inefficiencies (and this represented 30%+ of our display spend before caught) in account optimization without creating obvious, simple workflows for every advertiser to improve their performance, I just can’t take them seriously anymore. It’s impossible not to pay the idiot tax when we’re all the idiots.


  1. Steve Cameron August 28th, 2013

    My Google rep gave me this placement just a few days ago – but not before my client had a couple of thousand impressions on a new campaign on the GDN.

    Tablets and PC’s are NOT the same – even the guys at Google should know that and the sooner we are able to manage their usage the better. Enough people are finding it increasingly hard to make PPC work for them, that they are abandoning AdWords in ever increasing numbers. Unless Google make it easier for advertisers (and we are managers – not direct users) to get a decent return they will drive the goose that is squirting out golden eggs like a mature sturgeon to a slow and painful death.

  2. Bryant Garvin August 28th, 2013


    Thank you for the call out in the article! I absolutely agree with you. It is crap like this that frustrates the hell out of you! It’s shady little things that make it harder, NOT easier to make sure the money we spend on Google is going to the areas that perform the best.

    Glad I was able to help. the fact that you ran into the same problem months after I did shows it’s an issue that isn’t readily addressed. :-)

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Sean Marshall
Sean Marshall is the CEO of Intended, an SEM agency founded in 2013 to provide industry-best service for SMB clients. Before Intended, Sean was the VP of Business Development of PPC Associates (now 3Q Digital). He is a huge Cal fan and has been known to win a buck or two playing online poker.