Avoiding false positives: Strategic implementation of keyword blocking

03/09 By John Bonanno

As brands continue to prioritize advertising in brand safe digital environments, advertisers are still fine-tuning the balance between brand safety and scale.  While no advertiser wants to inadvertently appear next to undesirable content, most also don’t want brand safety thresholds so rigorous that they wind up blocking valuable inventory that is relevant to their target audience.  

In addition to blocking by content categories like adult, hate speech, or violence, and adding specific websites to exclusion lists, advertisers may also choose to block by specific keywords. For example, blocking the keyword “terror” could prevent ads from serving on a respectable news site reporting on the “latest terror attack.”  Keyword blocking provides advertisers extra flexibility by allowing them to block content that may not be right for their brand, even if it passed content or exclusion list requirements.

However, if advertisers are not strategic in their selection of blocked keywords, they may miss out on valuable brand safe inventory for their desired audiences.  Below are some examples of blocked keywords that might unintentionally limit inventory depending on the advertiser: 

  • “Shooting”: While trying to avoid content on gun violence, an athletic apparel company would not reach consumers on an article mentioning how the Golden State Warriors went on “a 15-0 shooting run” last night.
  • “Las Vegas” | “Virginia”| “Charlottesville”  – In continuing to distance itself from shootings and an alt-right rally, a realty company fails to advertise in growing real estate markets.
  • “IS” – By trying to avoid an abbreviation for Islamic State, advertisers inadvertently block the word “is.”

In order to ensure strategic keyword blocking, IAS recommends advertisers ask themselves the following questions:

  • Understand Personal Brand Safety Thresholds: What type of content is and is not acceptable for our brand to appear next to?  
  • What are the consequences of appearing next to unsafe content?
  • Identify Dual Meaning Keywords: Are there any keywords that could block valuable inventory relevant to our target audience?
  • Remove Generic or Short Keywords: Can we remove any generic terms that are blocking safe content and are too broad to catch unsafe content?  
  • Revisit Previously Blocked Words:  Given the current news cycle, does it still make sense to block this keyword?

Brand safety is always going to depend on a brand’s individual preferences and strategy.  However, with a little strategic thinking, brands can confirm their brand safety settings are appropriate without unnecessarily limiting scale.

Click here to see February 2018’s Most Blocked Keywords. For in-depth insights on brand safety, click here to download our brand safety essentials guider. Contact us.