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Keyword Blocking Reaches COVID Impasse

May 14, 2020

Keyword blocking has become the talk of the town as businesses and brands look forward to life post lockdown. This practice, although created to allow for brands to control their image, has been used heavily. Brands are worried about associating with negative news stories and as a result, can prevent millions in ad revenue from ever being used. 

What is Keyword Blocking?

Keyword blocking is simply used to stop online ads appearing next to news articles with specific terms. This practice is mainly used when brands are concerned about their reputation being tied to current news affairs. For example, advertisers are unlikely to want to associate their products or services with sad stories and tragic events. Naturally, this practice is useful in preventing negative connections from forming and it’s easy to understand why it exists. 

However, heavy-handed and outdated approaches to keyword blocking often don’t take into account nuance and can harm the reach of positive news articles. Overly restrictive practices can harm news outlets, advertisers, and brands alike and should be monitored wherever possible. 

The Risks of Excessive Keyword Blocking

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With the proliferation of news articles covering the COVID-19 outbreak, the advertising world has seen unprecedented use of keyword blocking. The Drum’s research has found;

“UK newspapers stand to lose as much as £50m in online ad revenue thanks to the blacklisting of words relating to coronavirus – such as ‘pandemic’ and Covid-19’.”

Along with this other media channels are likely to get hit with stark results;

“Fresh data from the Advertising Association (AA) and Warc published on Thursday (30 April) also paints a bleak outlook for publishers for the rest of the year, projecting a decrease in revenue of 20.5% for national news brands, 24.1% for regional news brands and 25.1% for magazine brands. The drops are starker than TV, which is forecast to see a 19.8% fall and VOD which will see a drop of 6.3%.”

Publishers are passed over for advertising spots reducing the reach of brands and hindering the development of reliable news outlets. This shows that all media, from print to digital are feeling the effects of excessive keyword blocking. By blocking words such as ‘lockdown’, ‘outbreak’ and ‘corona’ brands have closed the doors to advertising revenue for positive stories too. 

Stories about donations, support and other positive outcomes have less chance of getting published as there is no advertising potential available. This prevents positive news stories from gaining traction and fuels a negative news cycle. 

Missed Opportunities

Another concern with excessive keyword blocking is brands forget to remove terms long after a current event is no longer current. This is the case with terms that have since lost their connection to tragedies. For example, locations and venues are some of the words that might be overlooked leading to entire towns and cities becoming a void for advertising spend. Keywords such as ‘Manchester’, ‘Ariane Grande’ and ‘Las Vegas’ are examples of possible words that may still be blocked. This can have huge effects on local as well as international ad spend.

The reach of your campaign marketing campaign efficiency can be compromised by outdated terms and damage the advertising chain. 

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