How to Reduce Junk Conversions in Google Ads

Google Ads can be a powerful tool to drive leads, but left unchecked you could be wasting budget on low quality, spam/junk leads. Here are some optimization tips to eliminate bad leads.

Why can junk leads get out of control?

Google’s Smart Bidding strategies operate to get your campaigns more of the conversions in your conversion column. Regardless of the quality, if you start amassing low quality leads – be-it spam mail addresses or people trying to sell your services – Google’s AI will adjust bids to get more of “those” types of leads. This can spin your campaigns out of control if left unchecked.

Optimization strategies to Combat Low Quality Leads

Step 1: Understand which campaigns, ad groups, keywords, audiences are driving the low quality leads.

This can be challenging without a CRM that tracks more advanced metrics (with a tracking template) and traces those leads with lead scoring. Google Analytics will only give you some surface details like how many leads and where did they come from, but diving into each individual lead and thus it’s quality is not really possible. You could analyze with the User explorer but it’s going to be time consuming task.

Without a detailed report of where the low quality comes from you’re going to need to make some assumptions about where you think they came from. For example, did they start after a change was made? Did you recently change bid strategy? Is there a new campaign? Can you correlate the increase in junk leads to a campaign?

Once you identify the source, or have a good assumption of where they are coming from you can begin to optimize those campaigns, ad groups, keywords and audiences.

Step 2: Refine your audience targeting

Depending on your campaign type (Search, Display) you’ll need to review your targeting.

If it’s a search campaign, review your Actual Search Terms and consider making adjustments to broad terms. It can be a double edge sword because those broad terms could be driving quality leads AND low quality leads. Determine if the budget could be better spent in a more specific keyword match type?

If it’s a display campaign, it becomes a bit more challenging to determine the source. Given the various ways to target, you’ll first want to review your audience targeting (keywords in content targeting, affinity audiences, custom intent audiences, topics). If you’re targeting using affinity or topics, consider a refined custom intent audience that you control by keyword, these give you a bit more control over your audience.

You’ll also want to take a look at your Placements report and “Where your ads appeared” report in your display campaigns or ad groups. From here you can add negative placements. If spam is highly prevalent in a particular campaign or ad group, then I’d look for the placements that are driving the most conversion and consider excluding them. Not you can also use Topic exclusions for categories that are repeat offenders.

Step 3: Check your location settings!

This is an incredibly important optimization tactic that gets missed by a lot of accounts. In your campaign location targeting settings the default recommendation is “Presence or interest” which means that even though you are targeting ads to say the United States, Google can and will show your ads in other countries. You can find out just how much by navigating to the User Location Report (Reports>>Location>>User Location).

If you start generating spam conversions in those other countries, say for a much lower CPC or CPM, and you are using a Smart Bid strategy this could spin out of control pretty quickly and your ads and budget could be getting spend outside your actual target location in significant amounts.

Consider changing your setting from “Presence or interest” to “Presence.”

Google Ads Location Targeting Settings
Location Targeting Setting
Google Ads User Location Report
User Location Report

Additional Steps: Landing Page Tweaks

Another optimization tactic to cut down on spam/junk leads is to address the landing page. For example, If people are hitting your lead forms looking for a job, and not a sales rep, then consider addressing this by making sure you have an employment/careers link in the footer.

Another way to reduce bad leads is to make sure you are explicit about what you are offering on that landing page. Spell it out so there is no doubt to the person submitting the form that they’re in the right place, and/or the wrong place.


Once you’ve made changes to eliminate spam or junk leads in your Google Ads account, you may want to send your campaigns back into learning mode to relearn from your changes. Note, it’s probably best to do this if it is a relatively new campaign, or one that is generating a high percentage of junk leads. You may not want to send it back into learning mode if a smaller percentage of leads are junk.

Give it some time to adjust and monitor quality!

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