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Google updates Search Partner Network for greater control & transparency

Google reveals Search Partner Network update
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Google is giving advertisers more control over ad placement within the Search Partner Network (SPN). This is following a report by Adalytics which highlighted the issue that Google was serving ads against inappropriate content with Performance Max (PMAX). This caused an uproar in the industry, and Google had to react. So what has happened and what does this mean for you?

What is the update to the Search Partner Network in Google Ads?

The update, effective from March 4, 2024, offers advertisers more transparency and oversight over where their ads appear on the SPN. According to reports, advertisers using PMAX will have access to impression-level placement reporting of SPN sites. This means they will be able to see exactly which websites and apps their ads are shown on, and how they perform on each site.

Additionally, if advertisers exclude certain ad placements at the account level, it will now apply to the SPN, as well as YouTube and display ads. This gives advertisers more flexibility and control over their ad campaigns, and allows them to avoid unwanted or inappropriate placements that may harm their brand reputation.

Why has Google made this update?

These substantial changes come after an Adalytics report accused Google of quietly placing search ads on inappropriate non-Google websites through the SPN – including sites containing pornographic, sanctioned and pirated content. Google denied the claims, saying Adalytics has a track record of publishing inaccurate reports that misrepresent Google’s products.

Before the Adalytics report was published in November 2023, all PMAX campaigns were automatically opted into the SPN and could not opt out. For other campaigns, being opted into search partners was the default setting, but advertisers had the option to opt out. Following the Adalytics report, Google temporarily permitted PMAX users to opt out of SPN inventory until March 1, 2024. As this option is set to be removed, Google is now providing advertisers with unprecedented insights and control over ad placement within the SPN.

Why does this matter to you?

The SPN can help you reach more potential customers on sites like YouTube, where users are actively searching for content related to your products or services. Opting into the SPN can also enable you to expand your reach to new audiences and markets that may not use Google as their primary search engine.

However, not all SPN sites are equally relevant or suitable for your brand. Some sites may have low-quality traffic, low conversion rates, or negative associations that may damage your brand image. By having access to impression-level placement reporting and exclusion options, you can optimize your ad campaigns and ensure that your ads are only shown on sites that align with your goals and values.

What do you need to do?

1. Access the placement reports

To view the impression-level placement reporting for SPN sites, you can follow these steps:

  • Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  • Click Campaigns from the page menu on the left.
  • Click the name of your PMAX campaign.
  • Click Placements from the page menu on the left.
  • Click Search Partner Network from the table menu above the statistics table.
  • You will see a list of SPN sites where your ads appeared, along with metrics such as impressions, clicks, conversions, cost-per-click (CPC), and click-through rate (CTR).
  • You can also download a report of your SPN placements by clicking the download icon at the top right corner of the table. 

2. Exclude placements from your account

To exclude certain ad placements at the account level for all your campaigns (including PMAX), you need to follow these steps:

  • Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  • Click Tools & Settings from the top menu bar.
  • Under Shared Library, click Placement Exclusions.
  • Click the plus button and select Account-level placement exclusions.
  • Enter or paste the URLs of the websites or apps that you want to exclude from showing your ads.
  • Click Save.

Google’s update to the SPN is a welcome change for advertisers who want more transparency and control over their ad placements. By using PMAX campaigns and impression-level placement reporting, you can gain valuable insights into how your ads perform on different SPN sites, and optimize your campaigns accordingly. By using account-level placement exclusions, you can avoid unwanted or inappropriate placements that may harm your brand reputation. These features can help you improve your ad performance and reach more potential customers on the SPN.

Dan Roberts
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