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Should you excluded mobile apps from your Google Ads campaigns?

Maybe you should… Let’s dive into the workings, problems and solutions.

What is the Google Mobile Apps Network?

One way you can get your brand out there is by advertising in the Google Mobile Apps Network. By doing so, you’ll place ads within applications people download on their phones and tablets. These ads are part of Google’s Display Network, a million-strong-web of ads that reaches over 90% of internet users. It allows you to advertise to websites, news pages, blogs, Gmail and YouTube pages as well as mobile apps on iOS and Android devices.

Which is fantastic. In theory. In practice we often see dramatic results from advertising in the mobile apps network.

For example this particular account was leaking $500 per month on mobile apps, with nothing to show for the ad spend.

The problem: Google likes collecting ad spend

See Google is being sneaky. They want advertisers to spend more, so they can grow their revenue from the platform. One of the shady practices they employ: hiding (or even removing) settings to block placements.

Most advertisers are no Google Ads pros, and forget about such features that might be hidden. Lots of agencies even miss things like this.

So why exactly is advertising in mobile apps often not the best idea?

  • Accidental clicks
    People can accidentally click on mobile app ads. This happens when users try to navigate the app and tap an ad by mistake. Accidental clicks mean higher bounce rates and lower conversion rates since these users aren’t genuinely interested in the ad’s content. You not only waste your advertising budget this way but also skew your campaign data.
  • Low engagement
    Ads within mobile apps can sometimes be disruptive or irrelevant to what users are doing, leading to frustration. Users who are using an app, especially games or productivity apps, often don’t want interruptions because they’re focused on their specific task at hand. This could result in low engagement rates for your ads.
  • Limited control over placements
    Google Ads offers plenty of targeting options, but getting your ads to display to the right audience within mobile apps is still tough sometimes. The context that your ad appears in is key. An ad for a fitness app won’t perform well if it shows up in a kid-targeted game app, for instance. An ad with misaligned content and app content leads to ineffective spending.
  • Analytics is tough
    Determining how effective an ad is in a mobile app and attributing conversions is much more complicated than other placements. Tracking interactions on various devices and platforms can present technical challenges that limit understanding of the true ROI from mobile app advertising efforts.

How can you successfully advertise in the Mobile Apps Network?

Advertising in the mobile app network via Google Ads, despite its challenges, *can* work with the right strategy. Here are some best practices:

Get really specific with targeting

Google Ads has some pretty impressive targeting options. Target your ideal people through demographics, interests and the way they behave online. Get even more precise with custom affinity and custom intent audiences.

It should go without saying that you want to tailor your ads to fit the location of the person viewing it and with the device they’re using. This is why you need to use *location targeting* & *device targeting*: You don’t want your ad being displayed in a format not suitable for their screen size and user interface.

Design high quality ads

This shouldn’t be optional at this point in time, but make sure you design an ad that’s mobile friendly. Make your ads visually appealing (so people actually look at it), easy to read on small screens and use Clear Calls-to-Action (CTA). Your ad should have one very crystal clear CTA that gets users thinking “I need to do this thing right now.” That could be downloading an app, making a purchase or doing just about anything else.

Use placement targeting

Use placement targeting so you can be picky about what apps your ads are placed in. Stick with high-quality apps that align with your brand and target audience. Keep an eye on how well each app performs with engagement and conversion rates. If a certain one isn’t keeping up, then kick ’em out.

*Test it all*

Regularly switch things up with different creative elements, CTAs and targeting criteria to see which ones give you the best results. Once you notice a pattern in what’s working best for you, stick with it.

By focusing on targeted, well-designed ad campaigns that resonate with your audience and align with the context of their app usage, you can improve the effectiveness of your advertising in the mobile app network.


So, yeah, if you want clicks, you could just blindly advertise in mobile apps. You’ll get clicks. Mainly from people accidentally clicking an ad when playing Angry Birds.

If you want to do it right, you’ll need to put in the effort. Or you could hire us to do the nitty gritty.

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