Using Google Ad Planner to find link sources

by on 22nd June 2012

The easiest wins for link building aren’t often the best wins at all for your clients. Nothing proved that better than the recent Over Optimisation and Penguin related updates for businesses throughout the world. In fact, currently there is probably more work available in the market for Link Removal than link building as most businesses that are looking to play safe and stay within Google’s guidelines are staying away from the run of the mill sites and link approaches.

(In fact, we are helping a few people undo years of bad link building and have built a link analysis tool to support that: – it’s free, have a play!)

Luckily for us, we have continuously tried to look at clever sources for finding sites that we can connect with to help our clients get those good quality, clean Google friendly links. The trouble, as most would know, is judging a site’s quality. There may be a number of tools in the market to find sites in various niches but none really just concentrate on finding high-quality sites. As a result the team at SEOGadget often brainstorm different methods of finding the right site for a client. In one such session, we discovered the Google Media Planner.

What is the Google Media Planner?

A Few years back, Google bought the Double Click Adserving platform. Over time this has been merged with a number of their ad sources to provide ad tracking, but also powers the Google Display Network . In Googles Own words:


DoubleClick Ad Planner is a free media planning tool that can help you identify websites your audience is likely to visit so you can make better-informed advertising decisions.

For those of you unaware of the fact, Google DoubleClick publishes a list of the top 1000 websites worldwide (which also allows you to see a country specific leader board).

Unknown to many people, the double click ad planner also provides a number of estimated profiles of users such as:

  • Traffic statistics
  • Daily Unique Visitors
  • Age of site visitors
  • Gender of Site Visitors
  • Education
  • Household Income
  • Other sites visited by the same profiles
  • And the site audiences other interests

Most of this is approximate data built form a number of sources, and not always 100% true, for example the planner data implied we have NO female readers at all!


On the other hand, the sites that our audience visit and their interests are quite interesting and possibly spot on:


What Does Media Buying Have to do with Link Building?

Traditionally, not much. Link building has been a different role within online marketing, and didn’t usually confirm to the same analysis that other online marketing modes had to deal with, especially when it came to quality. Pre-Penguin, most link builders attitudes were – if it works great, if not, no harm done!   However with Google’s latest change, it means every link you place has to be of a decent quality, which means that the sites you approach have to be of a similar calibre.

One view within our teams is that traffic volume (as well as type of traffic), customer profile, and Google’s classification of a site all play roles in deciding which link to place, for both, SEO and referral traffic. As such, not many tools exist to yield such data. So we had a play with Google’s Media Planner to see if we could use it for link building, or at least identifying good quality sources to approach.

Getting Started

There are many ways to use the media planner to find sites, but below we have used a path that we found effective.

First off you would need to sign into the ad planner and accept their T’s ad C’s. Once you have done that – you will get to a screen that shows Wikipedia’s profile. You want to click on “Search for Placements”


The next screen gives you a range of options to isolate media inventory. We like to use the combination of “content” and “placement”.


You should now probably land on a media plan screen that has no results, and have a highlighted tip:

The Content Match ranking method requires at least one of Site Language, Site Content, Topics or similar sites under the Target Sites drop-down to be specified.

Now in order for that selection to work, we tend to select the language, topic classification:

Media Planner Guide - Step 3aMedia Planner Guide - Step 3b

At that point in the process you would have a list generated that looks like:

Media Planner Guide - Step 3c

Now since that list populates a number of domains and extensions, it is advisable to use one of the other filters. The filter in this case I would pick is to findUK extension sites only:

Media Planner Guide - Step 4

Voila! We now have a list of sites we *should investigate.

If you want to find sites that DON’T have Google ads on them, you could make that change here (I would also order them by content)

Media Planner Guide - Step 5

This list can now be either exported or used to build your outreach programme for link building. For example, using this same process, we found:

Media Planner Guide - Step 6 - Resulting siteBecome Shopping Blog - Guest blogging

Looking at the shopping blog, we identified, using Open Site Explorer :

Become Shopping Blog - OSE Data

That’s not a bad result! In fact the more time you spend on the resulting data from the planner, the more high quality sites you will discover.  There are many segmentations and changes you can make within the tool, which means that you are only a few steps from discovering that one high-quality link that counts.

I hope you enjoyed that mini demonstration of one of the more underused, free link building tools out there!

Image credit: Yuum


  1. Most of the images in the post aren’t shown. Can you fix that?

  2. Great article. You could combine this with testing a small advertising campagne to see what contextual niches and keywords got the most potential for lead generation :)

    • Indeed! Also, if you download the data, you can use our link cleanup & outreach tool to extract the contact details for each site :-)

    • Our you can build a scraper that is cheking the top 20-50-100 for keyword combination XY to see which sites are using adsense :)

  3. Another great post. Keep up the good work Richard!

  4. Great post! Great idea! Looking forward to having a play

  5. Nice post, I remember when presenting at SMX this year I asked the crowd of around 300 who was currently using Media Buying Assets and Planning to assist link building, I think their were 2 people put their hands up. Thing is if you have worked in large agency’s who do millions in Media buying each month and you work on cross over campaigns you will pick up some skills which can assist SEO, this is just the start of what you can achieve.

  6. Thanks for the terrific piece! This was a terrific walk through for using Google AdPlanner. I just exported my first list and am ready to put it to use. I’ll definitely be passing on a link to this post! Is there any way you’d be willing to share a .pdf of this so that I can pass it along to colleges?

  7. Great post. But the Google Ad planner is not accurate with traffic. Consider 1/3 more traffic, than is shown from Google. You can’t find Google Maps in the Ad Planner. Google is keeping it’s secrets. Cheers Karla

  8. Good Article, my recomendation is build a “discovery placement” campaign on Adwords.
    You spend 25 USD and you get real posibilityes of links exchange.

  9. tnx so much for the info,
    but after we find sites how would you usually
    get the link after you find the site?

  10. nice!

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