Google Ads and Country Restrictions on the Campaign Level

Several weeks ago, Google Ads began restricting the number of country-level exclusions you could have in a single campaign.

Starting on March 31, 2024, Google limited country exclusions to a maximum of 122 for campaigns that have targeting set to “all countries and territories” in positive targeting.

We noticed that this new limit applies to all campaigns, not just those that have “all countries and territories” in the positive targeting.

Our team crafted a list of more than 200 countries and territories years ago that we would add as excluded locations as part of our campaign build process, removing from the list the countries that we did intend to target. We found that by doing this, we would see less traffic from countries outside our targeted area when analyzing traffic data via Google Analytics. For example, even if we target the United States, we’d see traffic from outside the US because of the location setting: Presence or interest: People in, regularly in, or who’ve shown interest in your targeted locations (recommended). 

We have a Performance Max campaign with local radius targeting – we received the following error message in Google Ads Editor when trying to add our full country exclusion list:

Trying in the UI gets this error:

In a Google support thread on the subject, a Google employee by the name of Igor claims, “A large number of excluded countries makes certain abusive behavior possible.”

I’m not sure what abusive behavior could be possible from excluding all the countries in which you do not want to serve ads, but I realize that now we will be allowed to exclude only a certain number of countries and territories. The other option would be to change the campaign setting from the recommended Presence and Interest option to the non-recommended Presence Only option.

As far as which countries and territories to exclude, we are starting with the most populated. Another option would be to check your Google Analytics account and exclude the 120 or so that show up most often.

Finally, please keep in mind that Google Ads will not allow you to target nor exclude Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Crimea, or Syria, as well as So-called Donetsk People’s Republic and So-called Luhansk People’s. (Up until recently, you were not able to exclude Sudan and South Sudan, but it appears that restriction has been lifted.)

In summary, Google Ads’ recent restriction on country-level exclusions should cause advertisers to reevaluate their exclusion strategy. Whether excluding the most populated regions or relying on Google Analytics insights, advertisers will have to decide which countries and territories are most important to exclude going forward. 

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