This article is meant to help you build a strategy for maintaining brand safety and ad quality on your website or app. It includes guidance about how to build your strategy, maintain ad quality over time, and includes a list of common concerns to help you determine which category blocks you might need to put in place.

What is Brand Safety?

Maintaining brand safety is the act of ensuring your brand’s reputation is not harmed or compromised by the advertisements that are displayed on your website or app.

Block by URL or by Category

If you are looking to ensure that the advertising that shows up on your website falls within the limits of your comfort zone, one of the most common methods publishers use are category and URL blocks at the demand partner level.

Category Blocks

Blocking by category means you are removing an entire category of ads that have identified themselves as having certain content from being able to bid or display on your website or app.

URL Blocks

Blocking by URL means you are removing all ads from a specific advertiser from being able to bid or display on your website or app.

There are different reasons to use each strategy, depending upon what your ultimate goals are. In general, the more conservative you are in your blocking strategy, the more likely you’ll be using category blocks along with URL blocks.

-- Article Continues Below --

Ad Yield Management Guide

Read the Guide: How to Build Your Target CPM and Price Floor Strategy

Common Blocking Strategies

There are typically two primary reasons why blocking is needed. The first is to keep content that you don’t want associated with your brand from displaying anywhere on your website or app. The second is to limit competing products or services from being displayed on your website or app.

When blocking for brand-safety concerns, you’ll typically use a strategy of category blocks combined with URL blocks when needed. The categories you can block are well-defined by the IAB.

When blocking for competition, you’ll typically use URL blocks to remove specific competitors from being able to bid on ad impressions on your site.

Managing a Blocking Strategy

On the surface, this seems like a relatively simple concept, however in practice it becomes very difficult and time consuming to manage. The more concerned you are with brand safety, and the more conservative you need to be with the content that displays on your site, the more time consuming it will be.

Blocking and Ad Revenue

Blocking does have a strong interplay with ad revenue. The more categories and URLs you block, the more you are reducing the number of potential buyers that will be competing for your inventory.

Over-blocking can lead to significant reductions in revenue, as it may cut off very lucrative advertisers for you. Under-blocking on the other hand, can lead to major problems with brand reputation, and if you are a regulated site (like sites meant for kids for instance) there could be major fines associated with displaying non-brand-safe content.

Thus, finding the right balance between blocking and revenue is unique to each publisher.

Continuous Blocking vs. Temporary Blocking

In order to maintain this balance, you’ll never be able to have a “set it and forget it” blocking strategy. You will find that there will be plenty of instances where something surprising gets through a category block, or times where you will want to temporarily block a specific URL.

This is much easier to demonstrate with an example: Streaming services like Netflix or Hulu are often a great source of ad revenue. The ads they show will identify with standard entertainment categories, as that is what they are advertising.

However, each show has its own subjects and themes, which will not necessarily reveal themselves by their category labels. One such example might be a documentary or show about substances or drugs.

As a publisher, you might not want to showcase that specific content, but you’d be missing out on important revenue, most of which would come from ads that were perfectly brand safe, if you permanently blocked Netflix or Hulu as an advertiser.

This is where strategies around “temporary blocking” come into play. You’ll want a team member who is consistently paying attention to the ads showing on your site, to catch if anything is making it past your carefully selected category blocks that you don’t want.

In the example above, you’d want to use a URL block on the streaming website only for the duration of time where they were promoting that specific show or running the campaign you weren’t interested in showing.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something that is easy to automate, and often requires human intervention in addition to technology. So be prepared either to have a team member in-house who can do this, or to find a partner who is prepared to help and has the resources to manage this for you.

-- Article Continues Below --

Raider.IO Case Study

Category Blocking Considerations

Each publisher’s blocking strategy will be specific to their unique audience and requirements. Below we’ve outlined some of the most common concerns publishers have and the associated categories they may want to consider blocking should they want to limit certain types of content.

Showing Skin or Revealing Clothing

Concerns around what kinds of ads show in this group tend to exist on a spectrum from conservative to liberal. What categories you consider blocking will ultimately be defined by where you are comfortable:

If you have no concerns about showing skin or revealing clothing, then you don’t have to include any of the category blocks from this section.

If you have concerns with highly revealing images, you may want to consider blocking the following categories:

  • Apparel → Clothing → Sleepwear
  • Apparel → Clothing → Swimwear
  • Apparel → Clothing → Underwear
  • Beauty & Personal Care → Body Art
  • Beauty & Personal Care → Tanning & Sun Care
  • Health → Health Care Services → Plastic Surgery
  • Health → Health Care Services → Wellness Therapy & Massage
  • Sports & Fitness → Fitness → Fitness Classes & Instruction
  • Sports & Fitness → Fitness → Gyms & Gym Memberships
  • Sports & Fitness → Fitness → Personal Training
  • Sports & Fitness → Sports & Fitness Apparel
  • Cosmetic Procedures & Body Modification
  • Significant Skin Exposure (while this category exists, it doesn’t always allow you to catch every issue, which is why we also recommend considering the categories above)
If you have concerns with images that might inadvertently show cleavage or another body part without being overly revealing, you may want to take a look at an even more conservative blocking strategy with the following categories:
  • Apparel as an entire category
  • Jewelry as an entire category
  • Beauty & Personal Care → Body Art
  • Beauty & Personal Care → Tanning & Sun Care
  • Sports & Fitness → Fitness → Fitness Classes & Instruction
  • Sports & Fitness → Fitness → Gyms & Gym Memberships
  • Sports & Fitness → Fitness → Personal Training
  • Sports & Fitness → Sports & Fitness Apparel
  • Cosmetic Procedures & Body Modification
  • Significant Skin Exposure (while this category exists, it doesn’t always allow you to catch every issue, which is why we also recommend considering the categories above)

Religious or Political Subjects

Another very common area of blocking includes political or religious content. If you are looking to avoid having any political and/or religious content or ads show on your website, you may want to consider blocking the following different categories:

  • Family & Community → Social Issues & Advocacy → Reproductive Rights
  • Family & Community → Faith & Belief
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Sensationalism
  • Sexual & Reproductive Health

Adult Subjects

Particularly if you are advertising to children, you’ll care about removing adult subjects from advertisements. Some categories to consider blocking include:

  • Arts & Entertainment → Movies & Films → Horror Films
  • Beauty & Personal Care → Hygiene & Toiletries → Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Dining & Nightlife → Dining & Nightlife Reviews, Guides & Listings
  • Dining & Nightlife → Nightclubs, Bars & Music Clubs
  • Family & Community → Alcohol & Substance Abuse
  • Family & Community → Faith & Belief
  • Family & Community → Romance & Relationships
  • Family & Community → Social Issues & Advocacy → Reproductive Rights
  • Hobbies, Games & Leisure → Leisure Gambling
  • Hobbies, Games & Leisure → Toys & Games → Games → Video Games, Consoles & Accessories → Computer & Video Games → Shooter Games
  • News, Books & Publications → Celebrities & Entertainment News
  • Sports & Fitness → Sports → Hunting & Shooting
  • Black Magic, Astrology & Esoteric
  • Consumer Loans
  • Cosmetic Procedures & Body Modification
  • Dating
  • References to Sex & Sexuality
  • Sexual & Reproductive Health
  • Weight Loss
  • Romance & Relationships

Alcohol, Tobacco, or Other Substances

If you are looking to remove or limit advertisements for substances, you’ll want to take a look at the following categories:

  • Dining & Nightlife → Dining & Nightlife Reviews, Guides & Listings
  • Dining & Nightlife → Nightclubs, Bars & Music Clubs
  • Family & Community → Alcohol & Substance Abuse
  • Food & Groceries → Beverages → Alcoholic Beverages
  • Food & Groceries → Tobacco
  • Drugs & Supplements

You will occasionally see CBD or other substances meant to treat illness advertised in the following categories as well:

  • Health → Health Care Services → Mental Health Services
  • Health → Health Care Services → Plastic Surgery
  • Health → Health Care Services → Wellness Therapy & Massage
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → AIDS & HIV
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → Cancer & Cancer Treatment
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → Cold Sores
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → Eating Disorders
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → Hemorrhoids
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → Hepatitis
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → Infectious Diseases & Viruses
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → Men's Health
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → Mental Health
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → Neurological Conditions
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → Smoking & Smoking Cessation
  • Health → Health Conditions & Concerns → Weight Loss Products
  • Health → Nutrition & Dieting → Diets & Diet Programs
  • Health → Pharmacy → Drugs & Medications
  • Weight Loss

Other Categories

A few other categories that frequently come up as categories publishers are wary of having advertised on their sites include:

  • Consumer Loans
  • Downloadable Utilities
  • Get Rich Quick

easy-button-icon-1  The Easy Button

Looking for the easy way out? We don’t blame you. Luckily we’ve built a team with both the depth and breadth of expertise needed to both manage brand safety and maximize ad revenue.

Our Yield Ops team keeps a 24/7 watch on the performance of all the websites and apps in the Playwire network, ensuring that your revenue and brand is always protected. And, if that wasn’t enough, they are constantly working in concert with our AI and machine learning algorithms to find unique opportunities to optimize and increase your revenue.

Apply now to learn more about the revenue you could be earning.

New call-to-action