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Revenue Optimization

How to Prevent Inappropriate Ads from Hurting Website Revenue

In 2019, Google blocked and removed approximately 5000 bad ads per minute. And nearly 1 million advertisers were blocked for policy violations.

These blocked ads also consisted of inappropriate ads that compromise website authenticity by using lewd, vulgar or offensive information. 

These ads negatively impact publisher revenue by compromising the quality of ad inventory. Publishers often focus on the quality and placement of ads but content is also equally important. Inappropriate ads that contain offensive, vulgar, and malicious content can quickly make a user leave the website, only to never return. 

Hence, blocking inappropriate ads (also referred to as offensive or bad ads) from appearing on the website should be a priority for all publishers. 

In the era of increasing brand safety, publishers must consistently battle inappropriate ads by identifying the source of the leak, i.e. how an advertiser is passing through restrictions to display bad ads.

Where Do Inappropriate Ads Come From?

Ever since publishers embraced programmatic advertising, serving ads has become hassle-free. They partner with multiple ad networks and get a variety of demand for their inventory. But sometimes bad actors can seep through to serve ads that contain unethical or inappropriate ads on the website. 

There is no defined method of identifying how inappropriate ads are served. However, bad actors often achieve this by maligning ad creatives or ad calls. For example, when a user lands on a website, the ad exchange pushes ads from many third-parties. Any of these third-parties can be compromised by an attacker and ads with offensive content can get displayed. Even a few seconds are enough for these malicious ads to get enough impressions.

How to Identify Inappropriate Ads

Earlier, inappropriate ads only included the ones that contained vulgar or offensive content. However, with the world becoming more diverse, Google has expanded their definition. 

An ad is inappropriate if it has content that:

  • Incites violence, hatred or discriminates an individual or group based on race, religion, disability, age, nationality, sexual orientation, and gender, and others
  • Harasses an individual or a group of people
  • Either seeks exploitation of others or advocates physical or mental harm
  • Promotes animal cruelty by indicating violence against any animal or illegal trading of extinct species
  • Capitalizes on sensitive events such as natural disasters, tragic events, etc.
  • Is shocking in nature which includes promoting violent or gruesome imagery, obscene language, unwarranted portrayal of images that may scare or shock someone

Examples: Inappropriate Ads Affecting Publisher’s Reputation 

In recent times, these ads have often made the rounds for their inappropriate content.

For example, Chandler Riggs, a TV actor, tweeted about an ad that claimed he was dead. 

Another example is of popular publisher Slate featuring an article about misogyny while displaying ads on body shaming on the sidebar. 

Common examples that Google uses to identify inappropriate ads include the ones that:

  • Encourages ad viewers to believe an individual (or group) is inferior and should be ostracized
  • Show support for terrorist groups or advocate death by suicide
  • Contains images of crime scenes, etc.

How to Block Inappropriate Ads in Google Ad Manager?

Blocking these ads in GAM should ideally begin with detecting the advertiser i.e. the source of the ads. If you’re a publisher, asking your ad ops expert for the following details is important:

  • Screenshot of the ad and the URL of the page it appears on
  • The URL of the malicious link that the ad might redirect to

Once you have collected this information, you can block the advertiser in GAM. Here’s how to do it:

  • Open Protections panel from the main menu.
Protections in Google Ad Manager for blocking Inappropriate Ads
  • In case you want a particular advertiser from getting blocked on your entire inventory, click on New Protection >> Protect All Inventory
Protect All Inventory GAM
  • Add the address of the landing page that the ad redirects you to. This will block the advertiser.
Block advertiser in GAM from serving inappropriate ads
  • In case you want to block the advertiser from only a particular part of your inventory, click on New Protection >> Only Protect Specified Inventory
Only Protect Specified Inventory
  • Enter the inventory URL you want to protect and add the landing page of the ad. 
  • Click on Save

What Happens When the Landing Page URL Isn’t Available?

In this case, Google’s Ad Review Center will help you block inappropriate ads. The Ad Review Center provides publishers with control on individual AdExchange ads. Publishers can choose to allow or block particular ads, report ads that violate Google’s policies, etc. Here’s how to block an ad in Ad Review Center:

  • Click on Delivery >> Creatives
  • Upload the screenshot of the inappropriate ad in the Review Center.
  • Click on Block this ad Block.
  • If you think the ad violates Google’s policies, click on Report ad
  • In case you do not have the screenshot of the ad, browse ads appearing in your inventory. Pick the inappropriate ads out of those and block it.

How to Block Inappropriate Ads in Google AdSense?

Here’s how publishers who use only AdSense for site monetization can block inappropriate ads:

  • Log into your AdSense account.
  • Click on Blocking Controls and select Content.
Blocking Controls in AdSense
  • Select the site you want the block on. If you want the advertiser to be blocked on all sites, select All Sites.
  • Click on Manage Advertiser URLs
  • Enter URLs you wish to block. Separate by comma if there are multiple URLs to be blocked.
  • Click on Block URLs. Changes should reflect within 24 hours. 

Final Thoughts

Inappropriate ads will continue to destroy user experience across all web pages. Preventing them from hurting publisher revenue and website traffic is a never ending task. However, if publishers set some time aside regularly to actively identify and block advertisers causing this disruption, they can not only improve user experience, but prevent revenue loss due to ad blocking. On top of that, robust tools built by Google and technical support provided by other ad networks will also be beneficial.

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