Does Your Keyword Blocking List Still Spark Joy?

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by John Bonanno, manager, analytics, at Integral Ad Science.

Summer might be almost upon us, but it’s never a bad time for spring cleaning and to ask ourselves whether that sweater or jacket ”sparks joy.”

For advertisers, spring cleaning represents an opportunity to re-evaluate their brand safety thresholds, especially their keyword blocking lists.

Managing brand safety has always been a delicate tradeoff between suitability and scale.

Advertisers understand the potentially disastrous consequences of appearing near inappropriate content. They may use tools to block entire categories, such as adult or alcohol-related content, or get even more specific with keyword blocking, where they can avoid advertising alongside specific words or phrases like “explosion,” “pornography” or other topically tricky terms.

But it’s crucial for advertisers to understand that if their brand safety standards are too strict, they could inadvertently avoid safe content, missing out on valuable scale.

That’s why it is a good idea to revisit keyword block lists at least once a quarter to confirm they are still meeting expectations. Given the news cycle and what happened in the past, does it make sense to continue to block these keywords? Or would refreshing the list open new brand safe inventory?

There are numerous keywords that were once unsafe in the past due to the news cycle, but now may be acceptable depending on preferences. Many advertisers still block the term “Las Vegas” a year and a half after the 2017 shooting and some advertisers still block “Ariana Grande” two years after the Manchester attack.

While most of these blocked words were associated with acts of terrorism or violence at one time, does it still make sense to avoid all related content? A travel brand wouldn’t want to avoid advertising near “tips for a Las Vegas getaway,” just as a sports brand wouldn’t want to miss out on advertising to readers looking for an analysis on the upcoming Manchester United game.

At least once per quarter – or once a month if manageable – advertisers should ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Why was this term blocked?
  2. Is the reason we blocked the term still relevant in the current news cycle?
  3. Will we always want to block this term?

Source: Integral Ad Science

Brand safety preferences will always come down to individual risk appetite, but it never hurts to revisit their lists of blocked words to confirm that they are working as desired.

Follow Integral Ad Science (@integralads) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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