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Keyword Blocking in Advertising: What You Should Know

Syed Balkhi
Syed Balkhi
Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site. With over 10 years of experience, he’s the leading WordPress expert in the industry. You can learn more about Syed and his portfolio of companies by following him on his social media networks.

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We live in an ever-evolving marketing world where challenges arise for marketers almost daily. For example, marketers will have to lower their dependence on third-party cookies since they are being depreciated by companies like Apple and Google. Meaning that personalizing your ads and other marketing will be more difficult than before. 

Another major change that’s taken place is that Apple won’t allow pixel tracking in emails, meaning that the email open rate metric is effectively useless.

At present, an ongoing matter you should be aware of is keyword blocking. 

What is keyword blocking

This term refers to companies blocking their ads from appearing on publishing sites – specifically on pages containing blacklisted words or themes.

When running ads, it’s important to prioritize sharing your ads in safe digital spaces. Because whether it’s rational or not – people may associate your brand with negative or controversial articles. And that’s even if your ad appears alongside such content by chance.

Keyword blocking can be an essential part of managing your advertising campaigns. And to do it well, it’s helpful to be aware of the pitfalls, mistakes, and best practices that affect the outcomes of your advertising. 

The impact of keyword blocking

Keyword blocking makes sense when you want your advertising to appear in a context that is safe for your brand. After all, advertising activities are extremely expensive and every conversion you lose is critical.

So, as a business owner, you might consider blocking ads on content where specific keywords appear related to major social and political topics. And in current times, terms related to the pandemic rank as the foremost blocked and blacklisted keywords. 

Did you know that online publishing sites in the US lost 2.8 billion USD due to this issue? In the UK, the losses came up to 220 million USD.

News and media publications that rely on ads for revenue need to cover the top news. As a result, it’s expected for much of their content to consist of articles related to the pandemic and controversial social issues, even to a small degree. 

When businesses block their ads on such posts, media houses lose a significant amount of income. However, the impact of keyword blocking isn’t just felt on publishing businesses alone. There’s a tremendous impact on business too that you should know about. 

When a topic is as prevalent as the pandemic, it’s likely that a large number of website pages will have some mention of it. So, when a business chooses to block ads on such content, they essentially block their ads from being viewed at all! This means that they’re also losing money and the opportunity to grow their business.

Another reason why keyword blocking can be negative for businesses is that it can create a poorer brand image – this is especially when businesses block ads on topics related to necessary but controversial social concerns. Not wanting your ad to be seen alongside content that’s about social matters can leave the impression that you don’t support human rights issues. 

And finally, when businesses rely on keyword blocking, their ads may fail to appear on posts where the topic is neutral. For example, the keyword ‘shooting’ is often used in the context of photography and pictures. By blocking that keyword, businesses lose out on thousands of ad impressions and potential customer conversions. 

Mitigating the effect of keyword blocking

We’ve now seen that keyword blocking has both positive and negative effects. And now, we’ll take a look at ways to manage it so that both publishing houses and businesses can thrive. 

Use semantic ad solution tools

One way that businesses can leverage adblocking but avoid missing out on safe posts is by using the right ad management tool. There are ad platforms that enable contextual targeting so that ads are displayed based on page content rather than user information. 

Such tools can detect the semantic meaning of words and phrases. And as a result, they can automatically determine if a page is safe for your ad to appear on, even if it has keywords that are considered undesirable. 

Place ads in email newsletters

For media houses losing ad revenue, a great alternative is to use email marketing to display ads. 

Publishing media houses have more control over ads in their newsletters, unlike their websites which come under the open web. And it’s possible to personalize ads based on factors like the subscriber’s activities and location. 

An added plus point of placing ads in good-quality email newsletters is that your readers will be more likely to see them and engage with them when they’re personalized and relevant. 

Create a paywall or freewall

If you have a media website or a guest posting blog, then one way to continue getting revenue is to make your content exclusive. 

That is, put a paywall or freewall so that users either sign in or pay to view your best content. And you can easily do this with a membership plugin and make specific types of content unavailable to people who don’t have an account with your business.

You can see an example of this is Medium.com. The website allows non-logged-in viewers to read five posts a month. And paying subscribers to Medium get access to exclusive content that isn’t available to the public. 

If you don’t want to charge people to read your content, you can simply ask users to sign up by creating an account to read your posts. 

You’ll get more information about your user which you can leverage to create better emails and blog content. 


As marketers and business owners, it is important to stay on top of marketing and advertising trends.

The digital marketing space keeps evolving. Data privacy, user protection, and ethical marketing matters are more important than ever before. 

It’s critical to keep improving your marketing efforts while balancing with increased demands on personalization, privacy matters, and the depreciation of third-party data

In this post, we’ve taken a look at keyword blocking. Now that you know what it is and its impact, you’ll be better able to make the right decisions for your business whether you’re an advertiser or a publisher. 


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