Google Display Targeting 101: Why Is My Display Ad Showing Up On that Site?!

2016 saw its fair share of controversy, which has been documented extensively. Whether you think it was “the worst year ever” or another day another dollar, there are plenty of articles and even entire sites out there, ready to validate your world views; politically and otherwise.

…and love it or leave it, 2017 promises more of the same. While some major businesses are throwing caution to the wind and taking a hard stance on controversial issues (partly because they can afford to lose some portion of their customers… cough under armour), small and medium-sized businesses are treading more lightly. Meaning you’d like to avoid associating your brand with controversial and/or decidedly opinionated content.

So why is your ad showing up on Or from a more relevance-based perspective, why is your ad for ceramic mugs showing up on a blog about trading stocks and bonds?

Put simply, as digital marketers we target users based on their past online behavior, not by specific sites because we don’t want to miss opportunities by excluding people.

For example, Tamara loves a good shoe sale and routinely browses shoe sites on her weekends. She is also an associate at a major law firm so she frequents sites like “The Law Insider” to stay informed. At a high level, it doesn’t make sense for a shoe boutique to place an ad on “The Law Insider,” promoting new sandals for spring. But the shoe boutique isn’t targeting lawyers. They’re targeting Tamara, because her search history indicates that she’s in the market for shoes. In other words, the ad wasn’t placed there, it just followed the breadcrumbs.

Although law sites are harmless enough, it may be bad for your brand to be seen on more controversial sites, à la Breitbart, etc. This doesn’t mean you have to take a public stance. It simply means you have the option to quietly opt-out of appearing on certain sites (way less scary!).

Concerning political sites, below you’ll find a simple visual depiction from Pew Research Center which pinpoints what people perceive to be the most liberal and most conservative news sources (although for select sources, we use the term “news” loosely). And yes, we do strongly advise excluding Breitbart account-wide.

In tandem, we also recommend excluding the following broad site categories, except in the few cases where it doesn’t makes sense to do so, with regards to your goals:

  • Death and tragedy
  • Juvenile, gross, and bizarre
  • Sexually suggestive
  • Gambling

And finally, rest assured that you do not pay for impressions; meaning you don’t get charged when people see your ad on a site. You only get charged when users click on your ad, which is why Display is great for branding. So go forth, protect that brand, and prosper!

For a comprehensive list of sites on our general exclusion list, enter your name and email in the form below.