Update, 13 April 2022 – Using the new Google Ads API, this solution is no longer possible.
Free real estate sounds great in theory, but not in practice if the foundations are weak or you can’t afford the property taxes.
Google Search Partners – a group of 500,000+ websites that allow Google to show ads on their pages – can be like that. Sure, it increases the total available space for your ads to show, but the quality of those sites and their visitors might not live up to expectations.
“Might not” being the operative phrase.
Some sites will turn out to be duds, like parked domains. Others might be worth the investment. As with all things in search advertising, only testing will point you in the right direction. But there are two major challenges to achieving that in Google Ads:
- Finding that information can be difficult and time-consuming
- You can only exclude Search Partners as a whole, not specific URLs
Allow us to show you a simple way to exclude poor Google Search Partners placements.
What’s included in Search Partners in Google Ads?
Google defines Search Partners as: “Sites in the Search Network that partner with Google to show ads and free product listings. Search partners extend the reach of Google search ads and listings to hundreds of non-Google websites, as well as YouTube and other Google sites.”
These sites number upwards of half a million domains, so there’s no telling where your ads might show.
Have you ever searched for something on YouTube or a non-Google website and seen ads at the top of the results? That’s what Search Partner sites do – they show you ads from Google’s advertisers on internal results, directories, and other pages related to a search term.
When you tell Google to include Search Partners in your targeting, you’re giving them permission to show your ad to people searching those sites for terms matching or related to your keywords, depending on your ad group’s match type.
So if I’m on theguardian.com – one of the best-known Search Partner sites with traffic of 317 million over the last 6 months – and do an internal search for “video games”, I’m going to see ads from advertisers targeting that type of search.
Should you turn off Google Search Partners?
You already know the answer… it depends.
If you don’t care about potential extra impressions or don’t have the bandwidth to optimize these placements, go ahead and leave Search Partners out of your targeting. Some accounts simply don’t benefit from queries outside the Google ecosystem.
But if you do want that extra traffic, here’s the thing about Search Partner sites you need to know. They’re all so varied that it’s difficult to nail down one general intent category from the big three:
- Navigational a.k.a. take me here – “xbox login”
- Informational a.k.a. help me with this – “xbox not turning on”
- Transactional a.k.a I want to buy this – “xbox games under $30”
We know that searches in Google are largely informational because people go there (and to YouTube) to find solutions to their problems. You can’t club all or even most of the Search Partner sites into one intent category.
Let’s go back to my example of searching on theguardian.com for “video games”. If I’m on a news and content site searching for video games, it’s safe to say I’m not browsing for the latest deals. It’s more likely that I want to read articles about gaming culture.
But if I were to search for the same thing on an e-commerce site – like walmart.com – it’s very likely that I qualify as “in-market”. So advertisers trying to sell me video games at great prices would probably benefit more from advertising on those sites.
The solution is fairly straightforward. Assess the list of sites your ads show on, exclude the ones driving irrelevant traffic, and keep the ones that match the intent of your targeted keywords.
Only you can’t exclude specific sites using the primary Google Ads interface, only via the Google Ads API.
Find and exclude bad Search Partners placements in Optmyzr.
By virtue of our access to the Google Ads API, we’re able to enable certain capabilities that escape people who use tools that don’t, or who use the native Google Ads interface.
Here’s where Optmyzr users get an advantage that many others don’t have – they can do all of these things faster and more efficiently:
- Access placement data across Google’s Search Partners
- Determine which ones are wasteful and which ones to keep targeting
- Actually stop their ads from showing on only those expensive URLs
The tool that helps you do all of that is called “Display Placements Exclusion”, which gives you the option to exclude Search Partners site by site. If you have access to Optmyzr, here’s how to get started.
The trick is to first switch on Turbo Mode to get rid of any restrictive thresholds, then untick all other networks so that you’re only left with Search Partners. You can also change the lookback window, optimization strategy, and the goal the tool is using to show results.
Because some Search Partner placements may align with your strategy, you can hand-pick the ones to exclude and keep anything that you deem relevant. To view individual placements, click on the icon next to the placement site name (against the turquoise background).
Be prepared to see mostly parked domains and spammy sites like in the below screenshot (like iclolud.com).
Optmyzr customers exclude only wasteful Search Partners placements.
Eron Cohen, Sr. Interactive Marketing Specialist at MedStar Health, says that the findings will “shock” even the most seasoned account managers.
“Many Google Ads managers would be shocked to know the specifics of where their ads are appearing on the Google Search Partners Network. But unless you have API access or a specialized tool, there’s no way to see which sites are showing your ads via search. The best you can do is use the Google Ads web interface to segment your results by Network (with Search Partners) and get some overall metrics.”
But that only paints part of the picture.
“It’s a good start but likely glosses over some unfortunate facts. Luckily, Optmyzr gives us x-ray vision with the Display Placement Exclusion tool. With a few clicks, I’m able to get a list of Search Partner domains to evaluate. This shines the spotlight on an area that is often ignored and helps you to make sure you’re spending your budget wisely.”
So what’s the exact value? Depending on how much you’re spending, it could be enough to justify an Optmyzr subscription entirely.
We recently spoke to one customer who was reconsidering their subscription because they’d hired a PPC agency. They found via the Account Dashboard that a lot of their cost was going into Search Partners, so we showed them this fix.
Ultimately, they decided the savings alone were worth their annual investment, chose to retain their subscription, and booked additional training with us to learn what else Optmyzr could help them achieve.
Additional Reading on Search Partners Theory
If you’re newer to pay-per-click advertising or haven’t explored Search Partners extensively, check out this introductory article from Amy Bishop via Search Engine Journal.
We also know that not everyone has access to Optmyzr. So if you happen to use Supermetrics, here’s a great article from Seer Interactive on how to pull this data and fix part of the problem.
To test this out in Optmyzr, start your free trial and see how much of your ad spend is going towards underperforming Search Partners placements.