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Experience with Audience Exclusion

[ Edited ]
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 1
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

I’m running social website that is free and is going to be freemium. I’m using AdWords to get people signed up. I’m trying to not show my adverts to people who already signed up.

I have many audiences in Analytics and AdWords. Currently, I’m using two of them as campaign level audience exclusions. Both lists collect people who visited my site when they were signed in. The membership lasts for 14 days on both lists. Tag Manager provides the trigger and the tags. Analytics membership is being recorded by an event. The AdWords membership is populated with a conversion tag.

Each AdWords campaigns use both of these two lists as campaign-level audience exclusion.

I had the impression that the exclusions didn’t work. I contacted the support. They put much effort into my ticket but couldn’t really help so I did my own research and I am sharing the results with you.

Please note that testing wasn’t easy. When I don’t see my adverts that doesn’t prove that the exclusion is working fine. However, when I see them, that proves that the exclusion isn’t working.

For testing the search-only exclusion, I picked up a campaign that has flexible bidding for top page. The keyword is my own domain. This is both cheap and reliable when repeated. Repeated searches for the same keywords show less and less adverts over time especially for CPA campaigns. However, I tested with another campaigns and keywords too.

The display-only exclusion was tested on the three sites that display my adverts the most often. This gets difficult when a crazy company (not even your competitor) launches a campaign during your tests that has 2-3 times higher CPC than anyone else so you see a single display ad for one day. I tested it for several days.


Search campaign:

Audience exclusion is working while you are using the default search page. It’s the google.xx domain that Google offers for you based on your IP address. It’s the language that Google offers you based on your browser. Switching on-off the audience exclusion in AdWords has effect in 5-15 minutes. Removing the cookies from your browser has immediate effect. Visiting my site puts me back to the audience. The exclusion starts working in 5-20 minutes. (Please note that these can vary a lot, this was neither scientific nor official testing. I just tried to do what I could.)

Changing the language in the settings on the google.xx page seems to make the excluded campaign’s ads show again. This result is not consistent. It might be connected also to the language targeting of the campaign. Still, it’s not good, because I exclude the audiences no matter what language the browser or the keywords are using. I had the impression that after switching the language in the settings and using the browser for longer period makes the exclusion work again, but I can’t tell this for sure. (Settings is the google.xx page’s settings. Not the browser’s.)

When I visit another google.xx domain then the default, the audience exclusion stops working. For example, my Chrome uses a Swiss IP. My Firefox uses a Hungarian one. As long as I search on with Chrome and with Firefox, I don’t see my own adverts (given that I am on the audience lists). As soon as I search on with Chrome or with Firefox, I see my adverts that I should not see. Language does not matter.

With Chrome and Swiss IP, I can see both my Hungarian and English adverts on even though I never remove the cookies from Chrome and I visit my own site with Chrome 500 times per day.

I also see both my English and Hungarian campaigns on In general: audience exclusion doesn’t work at all when you search on a google.xx domain that is not the country your IP address belongs to. Based on my experience, it’s completely broken and doesn’t get fixed over time.



Display campaign:

I visited those three sites that give me the most impressions and clicks. The audience exclusion worked perfectly both with Chrome and Firefox (different country IPs) on two of these sites. The sites are also hosted in different countries. When I deleted the cookies (I only delete from Firefox) I started to see my adverts immediately. When I signed in to my site, it took my adverts 15-20 minutes to disappear. But it worked perfectly even "cross-country-wise".

On the third site it didn’t work at all. No matter which browser I used, I could always see my display adverts. The exclusion was completely broken. It was broken the same time when it was working on the other sites so it was nothing to do with a delay of the audiences. (Also, I don’t delete cookies from Chrome at all.)

Guess what. The two other sites use AdSense to display the ads. The broken site uses DoubleClick.

Actually, I can’t tell how exactly the broken site displays my ads. It has <INS> tags just like AdSense. However, the HTML source has "doubleclick" at various places. The other sites’ don’t contain "doubleclick".

What’s interesting, the international characters of my adverts are also broken on the same site. I have reported this to Google.

If you are an advertiser, the point is: Search campaign audience exclusion works unless the user switches the google.xx domain to other than their defaults. I think few users do that. Display campaign exclusion works on some sites. On other sites, it doesn’t work. In case exclusion is important for you, I recommend you checking out the sites that give you the most impressions. I also wonder how this affects the audience targeting.

If you are from Google and you want to look into this, I’d be happy to provide you technical details.

1 Expert replyverified_user

Re: Experience with Audience Exclusion

Top Contributor
# 2
Top Contributor

Hi @Merl M;

Honestly, I don't think any advertiser has the tools and the scale of data to conduct an analysis, which will show results that  are stsistical significant. (E.g. you are not mentioning what was the size of the lists, how many users were excluded, what was the method of testing etc...)

Don't get me wrong: I  sympathize  with your "gut feelings", but Google relies on data...

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
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Re: Experience with Audience Exclusion

[ Edited ]
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 3
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

Hello MosheTLV,

Being excluded at a given location isn’t statistical data but a boolean value. If I can see my adverts after visiting my site (getting on my own audience list) then being excluded == false. If I can’t see my adverts then being excluded == true, probably. The location might be the search engine, another website, and so. The probably means that there are times when you are outbid by others and otherwise you could see your ads.

The size of the list does not matter in this question. I see your point though, and if it never worked, you could talk about the size of the list and unknown things.

But it’s clear that it is working at many places. And when it’s not working then it’s not working at all. Actually, I see my display ads on certain sites about 80% of the page loads when I am not excluded. I never see them when I am excluded. This was quite easy to test. There must be a technical reason when it is not working. My guess is that DFP ignored my exclusion. Pure AdSense didn’t. But there might be another explanation.

About the display campaigns, I had the impression that exclusion was either working perfectly or wasn’t working at all.


As for the Search campaigns, a possible explanation might be that the cookies are bound to a domain somehow. It works fine on you default google search domain and default language.