Google came under fire back in March, after it was revealed that some of the world’s biggest brands were unwittingly placing ads next to videos promoting extremist views or hate speech. As a result, more than 250 big-name companies have pulled their ads from Google and its YouTube video site.

But figures released this week revealed that UK companies spent more than £10bn on online advertising last year, which is a 17% increase year-on-year. If there’s one thing the Google scandal has taught us, it’s that with huge scale comes huge responsibility. Here are our top tips for safeguarding your campaigns.


  1. Advertise through Adwords directly

Using third party display platforms gives you less control, and unfortunately, a great deal of agencies use these in order to access large volumes of inventory. This gives agencies minimised visibility of what content their ads appear on.

Advertising on Adwords directly not only provides that all-important visibility of ad placements but also means you only pay when a user clicks on an ad through its CPC bidding model.


  1. Content Exclusions

Content Exclusions can be applied to GDN campaigns to remove unwanted content. This includes:

  • Sensitive Content eg. death, crime, sexually suggestive material, and international conflict
  • Type of Placements eg. error pages, parked domains, and gambling
  • Digital Content Label eg. not yet labelled websites
  • Video Content e.g live streaming videos

An issue agencies face with excluding “not yet labelled” content is that it can significantly reduce the number of websites available for advertising space. Unfortunately, this can mean that clients in need of more traffic to hit targets loosen their restrictions and consequently increase the risk of ill-placed ads.


  1. Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are added to exclude content around the following terms: terrorism, bad reviews, illegal downloads, celebrity news, gambling, negative experience, topical and sexual words. These lists can be updated and built over time to add as a default to any new advertising campaign. Google account managers can also provide these on request and are widely available.


  1. Placement Health Checks

Manual checks on placements through regular optimisation, looking at high volume placements as well as any anomalies such as a high click through rate (CTR) are a great way to keep a regular eye on ad placements. Display query reports can also be run to identify specific pages within a domain that ads appear on. This can all be done through regular optimisation, but unfortunately, can be overlooked if advertisers don’t have the time to analyse their campaigns on a more granular scale.

These measures are not only a necessity for clients, but also for the agency’s duty of care towards them. However, it’s worth noting that there will always be a risk of ads appearing on unwanted content. But with regular spot checks and thorough analysis, these can be vetted and controlled effectively.


Vicki Gore is our brilliant SEM Strategy Director at addmustard.