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Why the Google Adwords IP address exclusion limit is unethical

This page has now been replaced by a new 2019 version that provides more useful information and actions that will help you save Google Ads budget by using IP address exclusions to avoid clicks  from the following:

  • Education sector
  • Competitors
  • Suppliers
  • Staff







A1WebStats subscribers can see the IP address for every visitor to their website.  Where they can be identified, it’s useful to see the organisation associated with those IP addresses, which is one of the functions people most like about A1WebStats.

Taking an example, the screenshot below shows details of a company that visited the website, looked at important pages, and is therefore a potential lead for that company …


However, if you are a Google Adwords advertiser and see clicks resulting in data such as this example below, you’ll probably be thinking “not another bloody student clicking through to my website!” …



Death by Google Adwords

However efficiently you’ve set up your Adwords, if there are certain types of clickers you don’t want, then they’ll still happen.

Taking the education sector as an example, the majority of business types do not want people (typically students) in schools, colleges, and universities typing something into Google and then clicking on their adverts.

Most businesses are blissfully unaware of the damage being caused by being visible in front of people who will never buy.  That damage comes from:

  1. Advert impressions that don’t lead to clicks will reduce your click-through-rate (CTR), which weakens your campaign strength.
  2. Those advert impressions that lead to irrelevant clicks cost you budget and restrict the remaining budget you have for that day.

In short, you ideally only want your Adwords visible in front of people who are potential buyers and who will click on your adverts.   All the time that focus is weak, your business will suffer through gaining irrelevant clicks and lack of visibility in front of those who would be potential customers.


Where A1WebStats can help – to a point

Taking the screenshot above, you can see that University of the Highlands and Islands had an IP address showing.  You can take that IP address and type it into an IP lookup tool and find the whole range of IP addresses that is within, as you can see below.


You could then add an IP range into your Google Adwords IP exclusion options and so not be visible to people from that IP address in the future.

However, there are several catches here …


Why the Adwords IP exclusion system is unethical

Google will allow you to exclude only up to 500 IP addresses/ranges (per campaign) and they will only allow you to do it in a particular way.

Taking the example above, the visitor from is just one visitor from a large range of IP addresses that cover University of the Highlands and Islands.  The best case scenario is that you’d block that as:




… and so on through to:


You’d think you’d be allowed to not just wildcard the last octet and if Google allowed it, you’d probably want to take a chance on losing some visibility by going for:


… but Google doesn’t let you do that – just the last octet.

In the process you’d use up 32 of the paltry 500 IP ranges that Google allow you and it wouldn’t take long to use up your whole allowance and wouldn’t even scratch the surface of all the education sector itself.

Yes, you can have up to 500 IP exclusions per Adwords campaign but that only has a limited amount of value.

What if you wanted to enter a ‘Start IP range’ and ‘End IP range’ into your Adwords IP exclusions?  That would be smart, and customer-focused. But no, you can’t do that within Google Adwords.

Google makes a lot of noise about being an ethical business but when revenues are concerned it’s far from ethical.  If it was ethical then it would consider the needs of its advertisers.

As a customer (of Google Adwords), an ideal position for you would be to have options within your Adwords that allow you to automatically exclude visibility when certain parameters are met.   For example a parameter of:

Exclude anything with ‘university’ as part of the data related to the visitor from an IP address.

Of course, Google have all this data available in their systems – they just don’t choose to make it easy for you to exclude visibility to that level.

And the reason for that is?


If Google made it too easy for you to block certain types of people from seeing your adverts, then they would make a lot less money.

Adwords doesn’t pop up and say “hey, you’re getting clicks from all these sorts of places – would you like to restrict such visibility?”!


You as a budget-spending advertiser

If you’re an A1WebStats subscriber then you’re savvy because you’re tracking IP addresses that hit your website from identifiable organisations, including those coming from Adwords clicks, plus of course where those visitors go after they land.  You are also probably investing your time in picking up on paid traffic that you may not have wanted in the first place (for example, clicks from within a sector (e.g. education) that you don’t sell to).

Every irrelevant paid click you get equates to one less click that you could be getting from a ‘useful’ visitor.

You would think that Google would want you to get relevant clicks, which have the potential to make your business more successful, and therefore allow you more budget to spend on clicks.

But no, in a similar way to how the default Google Adwords account setup allows advertisers to blindly flush money down the drain, Google is quite happy for you to waste budget by insulting you with an inadequate facility that fails to properly stop visibility of adverts to people who would be of no value to you.

There are various postings online from people saying that they’d willingly pay to have a higher number of IP addresses they could block within Adwords but of course Google won’t provide a significant allowance (5,000 would be nice!).

For now, your options would appear to be limited to the following:

  1. Track the IP addresses coming to your website, ideally including identification (where known) of the organisations linked to those IP addresses.
  2. Enter the IP addresses to an IP lookup tool to find the wider range related to that organisation (a university would be a typical example).
  3. Exclude as much of the IP range as you can feasibly do within your 500 exclusions restriction.
  4. Make your feelings heard online, adding to the voices who see Google as restricting business success through corporate greed.

You’ll be in the minority within your business sector – the vast majority of Adwords advertisers have little insights into wasted clicks (and, shamefully, nor often do their agencies, in cases where Adwords is outsourced).

This gives you a bit of an advantage because every paid click avoided from a non-useful IP address equates to the opportunity to have another paid click from a searcher who is more likely to buy from you.  So treat your 500 IP exclusions limit wisely – it’s not much but you’d probably be doing more than your competitors.


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  1. Kevin Jones says:

    Great piece Andy,

    You penned my rant precisely! You have managed to identify Google’s greed and avaris exactly.. If they are all about relevance, make the clickers relavant to our businesses! we are paying for that traffic aftre all!

    If anybody has a way round it do let me know…

    All the best!

    Kevin Jones

  2. Peter Sully says:

    There is of course another way of reducing this sort of abuse that is to do the unthinkable. Reduce your Adwords budgets, reduce the bids, reduce the geographic area you advertise in or maybe even taking out advert in relevant hard copy press. We have even started writing to people. Greed goes full circle, hello Yahoo.