If you’re part of the SHE Media Partner Network you know how important brand safety is for both advertisers and also, your revenue. In order for advertisers to want to display their ads on your web pages, they first want to make sure that your content covers topics they want their brand associated with. Brands want to avoid tainting their image by having people see their ads next to certain questionable content. For example, PETA would want to block their ads from running on the pages of hunting blogs. The more “family friendly” your content is, the more brands will want to display ads on your pages and they’ll pay a higher price to do so.
The IAB defines brand safety as “keeping a brand’s reputation safe when they advertise online”. So how exactly is that done?
One way for brands to block their ads from running on certain pages is by providing a list of terms they want to target away from. Anti-targeting keywords refers to that list of blacklisted keywords.
In order for advertisers to effectively do this, their are third party tools that specialize in brand safety. Certain tools block webpages if a negative keyword appears in the URL. For example, brands that are blocking the word ‘sex’ could tell by this article URL that this piece of content violates that rule. Other ad-blocking tools will crawl content, check for certain keywords throughout the body of the page and then prevent the creative from loading if any of the negative keywords exist within. With programmatic ad exchanges, this happens in a fraction of a second. There are also slightly more advanced tools that can tell from the surrounding text if the word actually violates their anti-targeting rules. “For example, if a brand wants to block their ads from showing on content that mentions Apple Computers, but the post is about apple pie recipes, the tool would be able to distinguish between the two.” says SHE Media’s Director of Ad Operations, Jennifer Hall.
Most advertisers have their own rules for brand safety, but the common list of offenders is blocking content about hate speech, violence, discrimination, politics, racism, animal cruelty, porn, sex and swear words.
In the above image on the left, there are commonly listed keywords that are blocked. Not too many surprises there, the obvious hit will go to News publishers. On the right hand side, you see terms that might not look as extreme and as obvious as those on the left, and depending on your content niche, you might even use some of these keywords in your content. You’ll notice the COVID-19 related blocked terms. “When a topic is controversial, advertisers typically want to block all related content about it, they don’t care if it’s good or bad. It’s easier for them to block it all together than to see which stance the content is taking on the topic and then decide.” added Jennifer. One UK News site reported a potential loss of 56 million dollars in ad revenue this year due to advertisers blacklisting words like pandemic, quarantine and coronavirus. Why? Because it’s been in the News ad nauseam since February, has driven millions of pageviews to the content, but advertisers don’t want to run ads on those articles. Makes it tough to monetize such efforts.
Let’s take a look at some examples from our network where keywords are used in a different way than the blacklisted intended definition. And keep in mind, not all advertisers block each commonly blocked term.
1. How Your Baby’s Poop Changes After Starting Solids – For parenting bloggers, this topic will come up from time to time. Content related to this in some cases could be funny stories, in the first-time parents, eww-gross kind of way, but often times it’s more serious, baby-health related content and important for other parents to know.
2. Crack Brownies – There’s been many debates on the fact that recipe bloggers use the word “crack” as an edgy way to describe something that’s SO good you’ll become addicted, even to the point it’ll ruin your life. Hmm, ok, so I added that last part, but I believe the general conclusion is that we should move away from anything glamorizing drugs. Most anti-targeting keyword lists are implemented as exact match, meaning, variations of terms would not be targeted against. A good example of this is Stockpiling Mom’s Cracked Out Chicken Tater Tot Casserole recipe. Creative!
3. Cherry Bomb Brownies – The word “bomb” is another one you’ll see in recipe titles from time to time. And what about bath bombs?! Or bomber jackets?! While the singular ‘“bomb” is one of the most frequently blocked terms, many lists don’t bother its plural counterpart.
4. DIY Weed Killer – Marijuana has broken back in as an acceptable form of recreation, sleep-aid and medical healer which means more content is published on the topic. Some brands still choose to block terms like 420, marijuana and weed. In doing so, pages about weed killer may also be blocked. And here is a good example of how a piece talking in a positive light would still be blocked: Celebs Who Stopped Smoking Weed.
5. How to Make Cannabis-Infused Coffee – Cooking with cannabis is another trend that’s popped up in the last five years. If a brand is blocking the normal weed related terms, cannabis is likely on that list as well.
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid using the terms that advertisers block, but there also might be times when alternative phrases suffice. This is especially true when it comes to recipes. Instead of using terms like killer, crack, better than sex and bomb to describe how delicious they are, consider using phrases like best ever or world’s best. When the article headline has no other option than to include a frequently blocked keyword, we recommend leaving it out of the URL since the very basic brand safety technology can detect on the URL level.
For SHE Media Partners, our dashboard lets you see revenue by page so you can see for yourself how including anti-targeted keywords impacts your revenue.