Anonymous AdWords placements

Update: as of June 2013, Google Analytics no longer “de-anonymizes ” URLs reported as anonymous by Google AdWords (see the comments below). It was fun while it lasted, though.

Having a look at a placement performance report a few days ago I was both surprised and annoyed to see that I got the most clicks and incurred the biggest costs for some famous AdSense publishers, by the names of and such.

Obviously, those placements only got me clicks and no conversions, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.

AdWords anonymous URLs

 According to Google, “Some publishers choose to offer placements anonymously and not disclose their site names to advertisers.” ( Which, to me, reads “you may find yourself spending money without knowing where your ads appear”.

It’s like going out to dinner, asking for the bill and seeing, next to everything, from hors d’oeuvres to desserts, some items which requested to remain anonymous. In spite of representing a significant part of the bill. They just don’t like publicity, you know, so they chose to remain anonymous. In the background. Discrete. 🙂

Luckily, every AdWords account I run is linked to a Google Analytics account, and AdWords related data is in there as well. And – lo and behold – Google Analytics knows no such thing as anonymous placement URLs. Every URL that got me at least a click is there, undisguised. In the foreground, for all to see. Transparent.

Which means that I can see, per placement domain or URL:

  • bounce rate
  • pages / visit
  • visit duration
  • goal completion
  • revenue

That’s enough for me to be able to judge whether a certain placement is worth my money or not. And although I won’t be able to say who is, specifically, I will be able to say that I no longer want my ads to show on a certain website or section of it.

The image below represents filtered data; domains containing the string “anonymous”. As you can see, there are no such URLs in Google Analytics. All data is visible there.

So, in the future, if you see a lot of in your placement reports, and do not know what to exclude, leave the AdWords interface and move to the Google Analytics one. Once there, see what placements are not performing according to your targets and expectations and exclude them.

If you don’t have a linked Google Analytics account, get one and link it to your AdWords account. It’s free, and it’s the only way for you to access post-click data related to your AdWords visitors (data which is not in the AdWords interface).

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to exclude placements with only impressions and no clicks, because those placements only appear in the AdWords interface, not in the Google Analytics one (obviously, as you need the visitor to reach your website in order for Google Analytics to be able to record anything). And those placements, if your ads keep showing without getting clicks, may drag your quality score on the display network down. But you can at least stop wasting money for placements that only get you clicks and no other benefits.

About Calin Sandici

Father of two and husband of one, at the crossroads of Google AdWords, Analytics and E-Commerce.