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When ads unintentionally go on a world tour

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Google charges country-specific surcharges.

An effective form of online marketing is SEA - search engine advertising. First and foremost: advertising on Google or Google Ads. The principle? Roughly speaking, you pay to be placed on page 1 of Google for various search terms. Of course, there's more to it than that, but that's enough for now.
Anyone who runs Google Ads campaigns knows that a lot of work and time goes into ensuring that the ads always remain attractive and that the right people are reached. But what do you do if the Google ads reach more people than you would like, especially in places where you are not active?

Country-specific surcharges

We are talking here about so-called "country-specific surcharges", which Google levies because an ad was displayed in a country other than Germany, for example, and therefore taxes are due.

Or as Google itself puts it : "You May be subject to legal operating costs or digital services taxes in addition to advertising costs for each ad delivery in certain jurisdictions, regardless of where your business is located. These new fees are tied to the cost of doing business in those jurisdictions for ad delivery."

Although these are not usually large amounts of money, they are related to the budget that is spent on the respective campaign each month. It is therefore a percentage of the respective monthly budget.

But actually, it's not so good that you spend money on something you don't need at all or that the ads are displayed somewhere where there is no potential customer in sight.

Google comments on this as follows: "Ads in a campaign that isn't explicitly targeted to a specific country, such as the UK, may still be delivered there if your business's location might be of interest to users in that country."

Yes, this is indeed a bit of a bummer, especially when companies are very regionally active. But the good thing is that you can do something about it.

Narrow down to one country

Anyone who places campaigns via Google has at some point already set the locations and decided in which radius, in which cities, in which federal states or even countries the ads should appear.

But now Google is displaying ads in Venezuela, for example, even though it is a company that is only active in the whole of Baden Württemberg and does not even sell in the whole of Germany.

The solution: All countries that are not explicitly interesting for your own company are excluded.

The procedure for this - here we have also used an article from Google:

  • In your Google Ads account, click on the Campaigns icon.

  • Click on the Campaigns drop-down menu in the section menu.

  • Click on Campaigns.

  • Click on Settings.

  • In the Settings menu, maximize the Locations section.

  • There are two ways to exclude a location:

  • Use the search box to find the location to exclude. Then click on Exclude.

  • Click on Advanced search, search for the location you want to exclude and then click on Exclude. Then click on Save.

  • Click Save again to confirm the settings. The excluded locations are listed under "Excluded locations".

  • These locations are also outlined in red on the map when you select "Show locations on the map".

If there are several locations, they can also be excluded in bulk as a list.

A concrete example: You have a company that offers services in Stuttgart and within a radius of 40 km around Stuttgart, as this is the radius that is still reasonable for you to travel to the customer. Therefore, you have correctly targeted your Google Ads campaigns to the location "Stuttgart + 40 km radius".

In theory, it should be redundant that you have to explicitly exclude the rest of the world as a location, but we emphasize this again very clearly: What is not explicitly excluded could be interesting for users and is therefore played. It is therefore better to check your Google Ads account and spending regularly to avoid unnecessary costs and to use your advertising budget wisely in the right location instead.

How do I know which countries are affected?

This is an absolutely legitimate question, as the Google Ads invoice at the end of the month shows where the taxes and fees were levied and paid, but are they really all?

Here's how to proceed:

  1. Check your invoice to see if there are any surcharges at all. You can find these in Google Ads under Tools and Settings -> Billing -> Documents. In your invoices, you can usually see from page 2 onwards where the ads were displayed.

  2. If your ad was displayed in other countries than you would like, you can check the Google reports to see exactly where and how often.

  3. You can find reports in the Google header bar and then: Predefined reports -> Locations -> Distance.

  4. Now you have landed where you may never have been before. Now there is the second column from the right - you should delete it so that you can display the report without any changes. 

  5. Now you can search for "Country" in the search bar on the right and then select "Country/Area (user location)".

  6. You will now receive a precise list of the countries in which ads were displayed and how many clicks or impressions this generated.

And you can then exclude these countries individually in the "Locations" or using the bulk method. Our tip: Check again after a month to make sure that no further unwanted playouts have occurred.

And another important additional tip:

When you create new campaigns in your Google Ads account, make sure in the campaign settings that the "location options" are set to "presence" and not "presence or interest". By default, Google always sets it to Presence or Interest, but in practice this does not make sense for every company.

Example: You have an online store that offers sportswear and shipping is limited to Germany. With the setting "presence or interest", it could be that someone from Spain searches for sportswear, sees your ads (because they are interested in your product category), clicks on them and incurs click costs for you, but then ultimately cannot order because the user is in a country to which you do not deliver.

You can find this setting by selecting the desired campaign, then going to "Settings" > Locations > Location options.


If Google thinks too much for us - then it comes to something like the country-specific surcharges, which are certainly not desired by every company.
⁠Fortunately, you also have the opportunity to do something about this. And for all those for whom nothing appears in the invoices: Keep an eye on it, these are costs you can avoid if you deal with them.

What you can always and gladly deal with are our F7 blog articles.

Do you have an exciting project?

Philip Vögele Emoji

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we look forward to exchanging ideas with you.

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