6 Audiences You Should Exclude from PPC Advertising

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Most people are aware of how powerful audience targeting can be already. At Closed Loop, we've seen massive increases in ROI and lead volume from layering audience targeting on to our clients' campaigns. But we've also realized how powerful it can be to exclude certain audience targets as well. That type of inverse thinking doesn't come naturally to most of us. 

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Audiences to Exclude

When setting up digital ad campaigns, finding that perfect niche can deter you from thinking about who you shouldn’t be targeting. Excluding certain audiences from your campaigns can keep your costs down and prevent you from spending money on people you know won’t convert. Implementing exclusions should lower your cost per lead and improve conversion rates. 

Here are a few suggestions for getting started:

1) Current Customers

Unless there is a cross-selling or upselling opportunity, you shouldn’t waste money on people who have already converted on your campaigns. You can upload a .csv file of your client email addresses to each advertising platform and set it as an exclusion.

While each channel has its own minimum audience size, it’s important to remember that when you upload your .csv file, not every list member will match to the channel database. The larger the list, the better chance you have of meeting the minimum requirement and the more success you will have with your targeting. It is recommended that you have at least 10,000 email addresses to start with. 

The minimum audience size to exclude on each channel is as follows:

Facebook: 100

LinkedIn: 300

Twitter: 100

Google: 1,000

Microsoft Ads: 300

You can find all the instructions for excluding lists in the second part of the article.

Alternatively, if customers regularly sign in to your website using a dedicated page or portal, you can create an exclusion audience via a URL, pixel or event. Given lackluster match rates, this is the preferred route if the option exists.

2) Employees

Serving ads to your employees is a waste of your budget, but when website visitors are retargeted with ads, your employees get added to that remarketing audience.

You can do this in a few ways:

  • Build an opt-out page and exclude visitors to that page
  • Exclude your entire company using LinkedIn and Facebook targeting
  • Exclude your company’s IP address(es)

Refer to the second part of the article for detailed instructions.

One caveat:  It can be inspiring to some employees to see ads for their company out in the wild.  Some of our clients opt to not exclude employees in certain situations to inspire and increase internal visibility.

3) Partners and Competitors

Sometimes it may not make sense to target your partners and it never makes sense to target your competitors. You should follow the same IP address and company name exclusion instructions from above. Think about how deliciously confused your competitors will be when your ads stop appearing when they spot-check your ads!

4) Unqualified Leads

Tap into your backend data to pull a report of leads that are in your system but you’re no longer pursuing because they’re unqualified. You can upload this list to each channel to exclude.

5) Lookalike of Unqualified Leads

These days, you can build lookalike audiences in almost every major advertising platform. This tactic utilizes AI to determine a new list of prospects that are most similar to the list you uploaded. Building a lookalike of unqualified leads will help the systems learn faster who it is that you’re looking to targeting and who you’re not. The more data you can feed advertising platforms, the smarter and most efficient it will be.

6) People Who Spent Less Than 5 Seconds on Your Website

When running a retargeting campaign, you may target people who visited your website. Through Google Analytics, you can track the amount of time that a person spent on your site. People who spend more time on your site are showing more interest than someone who stumbled across your site and exited almost instantly. Excluding these people can prevent wasted money on clicks. Find the step-by-step instructions below.

Keep in mind that adding these exclusions might shrink your audience to an unusable size. In which case, you will need to decide the importance of the audience. Perhaps you need to rethink your strategy to target the pool in a different way or maybe you run the campaign even with the people you wanted to exclude.

If we can’t do the expand/collapse idea, then perhaps we just move the instructions to the end so we can list all of the audiences that should be excluded upfront.

How to Exclude Audiences on Linkedin

On LinkedIn, you can exclude an entire company using an account list. This makes LinkedIn unique.

According to LinkedIn.com, here’s how you can upload a data list: 

  1.  Sign into Campaign Manager.
  2.  Click the correct account name.
  3.  Click the Account Assets dropdown on the top of the page and select Matched Audiences.
  4.  Click the Create audience dropdown in the top right and select List upload.
  5.  Name the audience and click Select list.
    • Use the Account Targeting template to create your lists for an easy upload.
    • You’ll be prompted to upload a saved file from your computer.
  1.     Click Upload.

LinkedIn requires at least one of the following in your file:

  1.  Company name
  2.  Company website
  3.  Company email domain
  4.  LinkedIn Company Page URL
  5.  Stock symbol

When your audience is ready, you can exclude the uploaded list in your campaign group set up:

Additionally, you can exclude specific users by their email address using the contact list template. You can follow the above steps in the same way.

How to Exclude Lists on Facebook

Facebook’s Custom Audience feature allows you to upload a .csv file, similar to LinkedIn.

According to Facebook.com, here’s how you can upload a data list:

  1. Add your customer list: You can create your Custom Audience in Ads Manager. Once in your account, go directly to Audiences, then go to Create Audience > Custom Audience > Customer list
  2. Prepare your customer list: Select the identifiers to include, then add the customer list you want to use for your new Custom Audience and give it a name.
  3. Review your customer list: Confirm that you mapped your identifiers correctly or check to see that all errors are resolved. You’ll get one of the following notifications:
  • The green checkmark symbol means your identifiers were mapped correctly and are ready to be hashed, then used for the matching process.
  • The yellow exclamation symbol means either that you chose not to include certain identifiers or that some identifiers need to be manually updated. You have higher chances of getting a better match rate to build your audience if you make the corrections before uploading your file.
  1. Upload your customer list: Once your list has been added and is ready for use, select Upload and Create

When your audience is ready, you can exclude the uploaded list in your ad set set-up. Click the Exclude button and search for your exclusion list.

How to Exclude Lists on Google Ads

According to Google.com, these instructions will help you to upload your data file to create a new customer list:

  1. Click the tools icon in the top right corner of your screen.
  2. Under the section labeled “Shared library” click Audience manager.
  3. Click Audience lists from the Page Menu on the left.
  4. Click the plus button to create a new audience list.
  5. Choose “Customer list.”
  6. Choose whether to upload a plain text data file or a hashed data file.
  7. If you choose to upload customer data in plain text, the private customer data in your file (Email, Phone, First Name, and Last Name) will be hashed on your computer using the SHA256 algorithm before sending it securely to Google’s servers. Country and Zip data won’t be hashed.
  8. If you choose to hash your data, make sure it meets the requirements described in the Formatting guidelines for Customer list data files of this article. 
  9. Choose your new file.
  10. If you agree, check the box “This data was collected and is being shared with Google in compliance with Google’s policies.”
  11. Set a membership duration. The default membership duration is unlimited, but you can set a custom time limit.
  12. Click Upload and create a list.
  13. You can view the progress of uploading your data file under “Audiences Lists”. This process may take up to 48 hours to complete.

When your list is ready, you can exclude audiences at both the ad group and campaign level with these instructions. You will likely want to exclude your customers across all campaigns.

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. Click Audiences. 
  3. Click Exclusions. 
  4. Click the audience exclusions icon.
  5. Select “Campaign” or “Ad group” from the drop-down.
  6. Select “Affinity audiences,” “In-market audiences,” or “Remarketing and similar audiences.”
  7. Select as many specific audiences as you would like to exclude, either by using “Search” or by clicking the box next to each audience. Your audience will appear in the “Selected” column.
  8. Click Save.

How to Exclude Lists on Microsoft Advertising

The only way to use custom audiences with Microsoft Advertising is through a supported data management provider such as Adobe Audience Manager, Oracle Blukai and LiveRamp. You should contact your DMP for details on how to enable this feature.

How to Exclude Lists on Twitter

According to Twitter.com, you can upload a tailored audience with these instructions:

  1. Navigate to the Audience manager from the Tools tab.
  2. Click “Create new audience”. 
  3. Drag and drop your files or select them through the “Upload files” option. You can upload multiple files for a single tailored audience.

When your list is ready, you can set up a new campaign or edit an existing one. Under Tailored and Flexible Audiences, search for your list and click “exclude.”

How to Exclude Your Employees With an Opt-out Page

One method that could work across all channels is to have your employees manually opt-out with these steps:

  1.     Build a simple landing page with /optout/ in the URL
  2.     Ensure all of your channels’ pixels are on this page
  3.     Send employees to visit the page
  4.     Create custom audiences based on people that visit the /optout/ web page
  5.     Exclude the custom audience from being targeted

The tricky thing here is that users are only a member of an audience between 30 and 180 days on most channels. If you’re using Google Analytics, the max audience duration is 540 days. They will need to visit the /optout/ page every so often to get back in the custom audience.

How to Exclude a Specific Company on LinkedIn

Encourage your employees to update their current employer in their LinkedIn profile to ensure they are included in the employee exclusion.

How to Exclude a Specific Company on Facebook

If the company is large enough, you may be able to exclude a specific company in a saved audience under Demographics -> Work -> Employers.

How to Exclude IP Addresses on Google

  1.     Sign into your Google Ads account
  2.     Click “Settings” from the page menu on the left
  3.     Choose which campaign to exclude IP addresses from
  4.     Click to expand the “IP exclusions” section or click “Additional settings” if you can’t see it
  5.     Enter the IP addresses you want to exclude
  6.     Click “Save”

How to Exclude IP Addresses on Microsoft Advertising

  1.     From the main menu on the left, click All campaigns and then Campaigns.
  2.     Select the checkbox next to the name of the campaign that you want to edit.
  3.     Click Edit > Other changes.
  4.     For Select a setting, select IP address exclusions.
  5.     Enter the IP addresses that you want to be blocked from seeing your ads in the box. Enter one IP address per line. You can also add a range of addresses using a wildcard character (*).
  6.     Click Apply.

How to Exclude People Who Visited Your Website for Less Than Five Seconds

  1. Sign into Google Analytics.
  2. Click Admin, and navigate to the property in which you want to create the audience.
  3. In the Property column, click Audience Definitions > Audiences.
  4. Click + New Audience.
  5. Select All Users.
  6. Click the pencil in the upper right corner of the box to edit the audience.
  7. Select Behavior.
  8. Session Duration should say < 5 to exclude people who spent less than five seconds on the site.
  9. Click Apply.
  10. Name your audience and click Next step.
  11. Click + Add destinations and select your Google Ads account so this audience will appear in your Google Ads audiences.
  12. Exclude this audience from your Google Ads campaigns.


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