Audience Exclusions: 11 Targeting Tips (Google Ads & Meta)

October 18th, 2023

Exclusion audiences can improve your ad targeting in search and social PPC campaigns. And while many advertisers make good use of them, not everyone does. Our Wasted Ad Spend Report 2024 found that less than a quarter of advertisers exclude audiences on every campaign they run. And 6.4% never use audience exclusions at all.

As budgets are squeezed and ad revenue expectations grow, it’s more important than ever to use audience exclusions. Kasim Aslam at Solutions 8 advises:

Spend some time thinking about who shouldn’t see your ads, because it’s really easy to add exclusion audiences, and it could save you quite a bit in the way of ad spend.

Kasim Aslam

Founder, Solutions 8

Excluding specific audiences from your campaigns means you’re only spending money targeting those who can actually benefit from your product or service, improving your return on ad spend. It can also limit exposure of your ads to bots and other types of invalid traffic who won’t convert.

Here, you’ll find out everything you need to know about audience exclusions in Google Ads and Meta, including:

  • The benefits of audience exclusions.
  • How to set up audience exclusions.
  • 11 audiences to think about excluding from your campaigns.
  • How to automate audience exclusion management.
  • How to block invalid traffic with audience exclusions.

What are Audience Exclusions?

Audience exclusions let you finetune your ad targeting so you’re not spending money on people who are unlikely to convert. Silvio Perez, the founder of AdConversion, explains more:

Just like you want to target a certain group of people, you don’t want to target another group of people. You want to exclude them because they’re not qualified, they’re not an ideal prospect, they’re not your ideal customer. So you want to make sure your ads are seen by the people who can not only fulfil your targeting requirements, but are also the right fit for your business, so they can get the most value from your product or service.

Silvio Perez

Founder of AdConversion

Audience exclusions work slightly differently on search and social platforms, but the principles are the same. We’ll walk you through audience exclusion setup on Google and Meta below.

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The Benefits of Audience Exclusions

Here are four reasons to exclude audiences from your ad campaigns:

  • Reduce wasted ad spend by removing non-converting audiences. As your campaigns run, you’ll learn more about the people who are more likely to convert. So you can reactively and proactively remove these non-converting users from your campaign traffic. You can then reallocate your budget to target more valuable audiences.
  • Improve relevant metrics such as click through and conversion rates. Excluding non-converting audiences from your campaigns helps boost your conversion rate, as your ads are only served to those who are likely to see their value. This can keep your advertising KPIs on track without increasing your spend.
  • Improve the efficiency of automated campaign types and targeting. Automated campaign types like Google’s Performance Max and Meta’s Advantage+ push advertisers to use wider targeting parameters, which can compromise ad performance. Audience exclusions help you take back some control over who sees your ads in automated campaign types, which will be invaluable as automated paid media becomes more popular.
  • Limit exposure to invalid traffic. Invalid traffic is a huge barrier to getting the most from your ad spend. We’ll cover this in more detail later, but audience exclusions can stop bots and other fake users interacting with your ads.

How to Set Up Audience Exclusions in Google Ads

Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up audience exclusions in Google Ads:

1. Sign into your Google Ads account and navigate to Audiences, then click Exclusions.

2. Click the blue plus sign (or the Audience Exclusions button) to exclude your first audience. Click Browse, and you’ll see the following options:

3. Select any audiences you don’t want to see your ads and click save.

Watch this video from Silvio for more information on setting up a Google Ads exclusion audience:

How to Set Up Audience Exclusions on Meta

Learn how to set up audience exclusions on Meta platforms Facebook and Instagram in this step-by-step guide:

  1. Sign into Meta Ads Manager and navigate to the relevant ad set.

2. Scroll down to the Custom Audiences section. You can add exclusions in one of two fields:

  • Custom audiences — Exclude users you’ve already created as custom audiences. To use this, you’ll need to set up custom audiences beforehand.
  • Detailed targeting — Exclude users based on their interests, behaviours, and demographics.

3. Click Add exclusions to select the audience(s) you want to exclude. Edits will save automatically as you select or deselect audiences.

Note: Most social ad platforms allow you to exclude audiences from your campaigns or ad groups. There isn’t scope to provide instructions for all of them here, but you can easily find guides for other platforms with a quick Google search.

11 Different Audiences to Consider Excluding

Now you know how to set up your exclusion audiences, you need to decide who you should actively exclude. Here are 11 audiences to consider excluding from your campaigns.

1. Jobseekers

People looking for careers with your company have a high chance of clicking on your ads, but they’re not likely to convert into valuable customers.

You can create a custom audience for those who have visited the careers page of your website to avoid displaying ads to them again, or exclude certain search terms like “careers” or “vacancies”.

2. Existing Customers

Unless your campaign is designed to upsell a service to your current customers, or you’re an eCommerce business who benefits from returning buyers, there may not be much point advertising to existing customers. This is especially true if you operate an as-a-service business model.

Upload a list of existing customers as a custom audience, then exclude them from your campaign. You could also create a list based on those who have accessed your site’s login page.

3. Support Seekers

People who need help with your product are probably already customers or users, so they’re unlikely to be potential buyers. 

You can exclude support seekers by adding an exclusion audience made up of people who have browsed your help or support pages. However, if you have a support section for people who aren’t yet customers (e.g. “How do I sign up?”) make sure not to exclude these.

4. Previous Converters

Those who have already converted can drain your ad spend if they continue to see and click your ads. So consider excluding past converters from your campaigns.

80% of businesses now operate an omnichannel advertising strategy, so take this into account when making your decision. If you count lead form completion as a conversion, but the person hasn’t actually converted to a customer yet, it may not be worth excluding them from your campaigns just yet.

5. Retargeting Audiences

You don’t want to exclude retargeting audiences from your retargeting campaigns. But campaigns aimed at new users may not be relevant to retargeting audiences. Plus, reaching the same audience across multiple campaigns may not be the most efficient use of your ad budget.

Keep your messaging focused by removing retargeting audiences from non-retargeting campaigns.

6. Staff

While your marketing team probably knows not to click your ads, other staff may not be aware that each sponsored click is wasting your ad budget and compromising your metrics. So excluding current employees is essential for protecting your data and ad spend.

The simplest way to exclude existing staff is by uploading a list of your company’s employees. Remember to update this regularly as new people join the business.

7. Disengaged Site Visitors

If you’re working with a tight budget, you might decide to exclude previous site visitors who aren’t actively engaged with what you offer.

To exclude disengaged site visitors, define who falls into this bracket, and how you can identify them. Google Analytics’s event tracking tool can help you monitor user intent and decide who to exclude from your campaigns. Triggers including Scroll Depth and Element Visibility measure how far someone scrolls through your site, which can help you determine their engagement level.

8. Overlapping Audiences

If you run multiple campaigns with similar audiences, some people will probably meet the criteria for more than one campaign. This can compromise your messaging effectiveness, especially if you run specific offers targeted at carefully selected users.

To combat this, consider excluding any custom audience that has been included in another campaign. Alternatively, set up a custom audience to exclude those who have visited your site within a certain timeframe to avoid bombarding people with your ads.

9. Geographic Audience Exclusions

Excluding users from certain areas or countries is a good idea if you don’t serve those regions. For example, if you’re a UK-based eCommerce company and you don’t ship to the US, it may be worth excluding US-based visitors from your campaigns.

10. Fraudulent IP Addresses

Tracking and excluding fraudulent IP addresses is important for getting the best return on your ad spend. A common sign of fraudulent activity is a user that returns to your site from the same IP address several times a day within a short timeframe.

While this kind of activity is rare for a human user, it is possible. So run any IPs through the AbuseIPDB database to check if other users have reported the same IP address as fraudulent or suspicious, ensuring you’re blocking known malicious users.

11. Fake Users

Fake users are another significant cause of wasted ad spend, so they’re an ideal audience subsection to exclude from your campaigns. The tricky bit is knowing who’s fake and who’s a genuine user, especially as invalid traffic becomes more sophisticated.

Especially on social ad platforms, it’s very difficult and time-consuming to spot fake users. It can also cost you customers if you end up excluding genuine valuable users. So it’s important to use a click fraud detection tool like Lunio to first identify fake users and invalid traffic before you exclude them.

How to Automate Exclusion Audience Management

With 11 potential audiences to exclude, it takes a lot of time to set this up. Some, like current employees and customers, are relatively easy to manage manually. But automating the process for more complex audiences can help you get the benefits without the manual work. 

Our partners at have created a simple workflow for automating audience exclusion management. In this guide, find out how to integrate your CRM data to manage exclusion lists automatically and improve your ROAS.

While this guide is for search, you can also use a similar process to automate exclusion audiences on paid social.

Blocking Invalid Traffic and Fake Users with Exclusion Audiences

It’s almost impossible to accurately define invalid traffic and fake users without a tool like Lunio. Letting too much invalid traffic slip through will drain your ad spend and compromise your KPIs, while overcompensating might block genuine users who could become valuable customers.

Lunio automatically manages exclusion audiences of fake users and invalid traffic sources on any ad platform you’re using. No manual updates are needed. Here’s how it works:

  • Lunio monitors all traffic that clicks through to your website via your ads.
  • If Lunio spots an invalid user, it pings the data back to the ad platform to automatically add that visitor to an exclusion audience.
  • Lists become stronger and more accurate as they grow.
  • Lunio analyses one channel to protect all of them — the data identifying the source of the invalid click is used to populate exclusion audiences across other ad channels.

Leo Pizarro, Lunio’s Head of Demand Generation, explains the benefits of this:

The fake users Lunio detects are added to a LinkedIn audience to exclude them from future campaigns. And diving into the details of those audiences can reveal some really interesting trends. You may notice a large number of fake users all claiming to work for the same company (e.g. Microsoft), or many of them may share a particular job function or location. Understanding the common traits of fake user profiles on a particular platform means you can be proactive in excluding them.

Leo Pizarro

Head of Demand Generation, Lunio

Adding fake traffic as an exclusion audience can have a huge impact on your marketing metrics. Here are the results have seen with Lunio over a nine month period:

  • The red graph shows how many fake users Lunio identified and blocked from campaigns month over month since implementation. 
  • Lunio prevented the loss of $73,677 which was reallocated back into campaigns to drive greater overall conversion volume. 
  • Click volume fell by 47.76% which contributed to a 40.04% decrease in costs. 
  • By significantly reducing costs through narrowing their target audience, were focusing their budget exclusively on genuine customers. This resulted in a 14.79% increase in average CPC since higher quality traffic is more competitive.
  • Despite the lowered volume of clicks and traffic, bounce rate decreased by 9.62%, pages per session increased by 8.47%, and most importantly, conversion rate increased by 14.39% – signalling Lunio helped significantly improve the overall quality of traffic. 

Maximising ROAS with Audience Exclusions

Excluding specific audiences from your ad campaigns can save you thousands in wasted ad spend, and boost your ROAS. So if you’re not yet using audience exclusions, it’s time to set them up.

Manually excluding audiences is a laborious process, so consider using tools like Lunio and to streamline your processes and maximise your return on ad spend.

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