Content Planning, Display Ads, And Brand Safety Issues | Skipblast

Content Planning, Display Ads, And Brand Safety Issues

If you’re using displays ads to monetize your sites, then you’re likely aware of brand safety issues as it pertains to advertisers and your site.

For me, I always thought this focused on things like guns and NSFW topics.

And when COVID started, I remember hearing people having problems with words like COVID and pandemic.

I’ve also heard of people getting caught up in this for ridiculous stuff like having a recipe titled “Killer Chocolate Cake Recipe.”

Despite that, I never thought I’d actually get caught up in it.

But alas, I have.

So, I’ve done a deep dive on all things brand safety so that you don’t have to.

The Basics

From what I understand, brand safety is basically a whole thing so that advertisers don’t have their ads being shown on content that hurts the brand or that they don’t want to be associated with.

So, if I had a website all about kicking puppies, then likely no brands would want to advertise on my site due to brand safety issues.

AdThrive has some great examples of no-no keywords and topics here. And you can view even more examples from Google for YouTube here.

toxic content categories
image via Bannerflow

It seems like there are two ways that brands can go about protecting their reputation in this manner:

  • keyword anti-targeting
  • using an AI tool that scans the site/content to determine if anything sensitive is present

Keyword anti-targeting is something that you may already be familiar with if you dabble in paid traffic.

It’s basically where you create block lists of keywords that you want to avoid your ad being associated with.

But the problem with keyword anti-targeting is that it’s not an exact science, so brands can inadvertently block their ads from showing up on sites/content that isn’t really a problem.

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To give you an example, an advertiser may include “sex” on their block list and then their ad doesn’t show up on content about the sex of some celebrity’s new baby.

That where the AI tools come in; and they actually seem to be the better option for brands.

Mediavine uses the AI tool Verity, which is made by GumGum. You can learn more about Verity here.

Other similar tools that I’ve found are:

Of these, only zvelo gives you the option to check a URL to determine if it is deemed brand safe and okay for a general audience.

But, I don’t think the zvelo URL check works all that well because I actually recently had a site declined by both AdThrive and Mediavine for brand safety issues and this tool tells me that the site is 100% okay for all audiences with zero objectionable content.

Unfortunately, all of the other tools are enterprise level tools and they don’t seem to offer anything for publishes like you and me to assess the brand-safeness of our content. (and none of them returned my emails)

What This Means

I have to say that I was 100% shocked to be told that my site was not brand safe.

Several other sites cover the exact same topics and are with both Mediavine and AdThrive, so I assume the objectionable content was added after those sites were approved.

None of my sites cover anything that is considered taboo, extremist, or controversial. Or so I thought.

The truth of the matter is that I was actually able to get more details on why my site was considered to have brand safety issues.

The content in question is not really something that I equate with being a “dirty” topic.

But when I really think about it, I can sort of see why but at the same time not really because it is a topic that is very common that a large percentage of people seek information on.

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And here’s the thing – this site is on Ezoic and has been bringing in ad money just fine with no complaints.

Ideally, I’d like to be able to have access to one of those enterprise tools to run my sites through on the regular, but that option doesn’t really seem to exist for small publishers like me and you.

Going forward, sticking to vanilla topics is going to be something that I’m more conscious of as I create new content.

But what about this existing site that has the traffic to qualify for a premium network but seems to be relegated to Ezoic right now?

That problem content is a whole fucking topic cluster of articles.

Well, I bought an aged domain in the same niche and I’ll be moving the problem content off my main site and over to it.

And then putting that site on Ezoic and re-applying to the other two once those problem URLs are out of my last 30 days Google Analytics reports.

What a pain in the ass, eh?

5 thoughts on “Content Planning, Display Ads, And Brand Safety Issues”

  1. Frankly, Mediavine and AdThrive are run by stupid people who are extremely arrogant. I’ve seen many screenshots of earnings using these networks and my current setup far outperforms their network. Similarly, they want total control over ad monetization and placements on a site when experienced webmasters can outperforms their one-size-fits-all strategy.

  2. Hello Shawna,

    If you could throw more light on these controversial topics (without revealing the actual URL, of course), it would be of great help for newbies like me.

    I am also building a site that will be monetized with Mediavine/ Adthrive shortly.


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