If you’ve run an AdWords Google Display Network campaign, you’ve undoubtedly checked under the placements tab to see what websites your ads are showing on. Unless you’re only targeting specific placements, any type of GDN targeting — whether it be contextual keyword targeting or topic and audience layering — will at some point cause you to encounter a placement called anonymous.google. While these anonymous placements may seem like a frustrating black-box, you can use data from these anonymous placements to your advantage.

What Are Anonymous Placements?

Google gives publishers the choice to be anonymous rather than list their data for advertisers to see. The official explanation is that certain placements prefer not to disclose their data to advertisers on the GDN.

anonymous.google.com in list of placements

Your gut feeling might be one of discomfort. Isn’t it best to be able to see exactly where your ads are showing? These anonymous placements seem to present possibilities of brand risk, irrelevance, and a host of other issues. However, just because the placement itself is anonymous does not mean we can’t manage it based on performance like any other GDN placement.

Analyzing Anonymous Placement Data

Even though these placements are anonymous, you can still view performance data and treat anonymous placements as you would any “named” placement on the GDN. Since data is aggregated for all anonymized sites under one heading, you can choose to analyze them as a group. If they are not performing well, you can exclude them.

There is also an advantage to not knowing the website domain names. It takes the emotion and judgement out of your decision-making process. This is an opportunity to put your PPC skills to the test and make purely data-driven decisions.

You also don’t need to examine these placements as an entire group. Google lists each anonymous placement with a static identifier in front, such as 1a2b3c4d.anonymous.google. This preceding string of letters and numbers will allow you to exclude (or target) a specific anonymous listing. You can do this by simply filtering down to the anonymous placements, selecting them, clicking the “See details” drop down menu, and clicking ‘Selected’. This will bring up all the individual anonymous placements with data for each placement.

Details for highlighted anonymous placements

Sometimes the data will be spread out, with a few clicks here and there. Other times you may find that certain anonymous placements are driving large amounts of traffic and are worth excluding or targeting as a managed placement. In one campaign I ran, the majority of spend on anonymous placements went through just 5 out of 227 total placements.

With this kind of information, you can easily exclude poor performers and target the successful ones in a managed placement campaign, where you can better control your CPCs. Rather than just eliminating the entire group of anonymous sites, you can now make moves to improve performance.