Enhancing Brand Safety in Google Search Ads: Addressing Concerns and Future Solutions

The recent revelations by Adalytics regarding Google search ads being displayed on non-Google sites, including those with explicit or unauthorized content, have raised concerns among marketers. As AI-powered advertising tools like Performance Max (PMax) offer automated placements, marketers have less control over where their ads appear. This article explores the challenges and provides actionable steps to ensure brand safety while leveraging the benefits of AI capabilities. It also highlights the need for future improvements from Google to address brand safety concerns.


Understanding Google’s Search Partner Network


Google’s Search Partner Network (SPN) allows search ads to be displayed on non-Google websites, including popular search engines and partner sites like Walmart or Target. Adalytics identified over 36,000 websites eligible for advertising within SPN, with a small portion being flagged for inappropriate content or sanctions.


Google’s Response and Current Landscape


Google has disputed the findings but has taken temporary measures to address the issue. Brands now have the option to opt out of SPN for all campaign types, including PMax and App Campaigns. However, the extent of the issue remains uncertain, as a significant majority of SPN impressions are concentrated on top sites like YouTube. Nonetheless, brands in sensitive industries may still have valid concerns.


Mitigating Risks and Ensuring Brand Safety


Advertisers can take immediate steps to address potential risks within SPN:


Analyze Performance: Monitor performance and conversion rates between partner and non-partner sites using Google Ads’ reporting features. If significant traffic fails to convert on partner sites, consider opting certain campaigns out of SPN.


Conversion-Based Bid Strategies: Utilize conversion-based bid strategies like max conversions or max conversion value to optimize campaigns towards target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) or ROAS (Return on Ad Spend). This ensures efficient spending and reduces exposure to unsavory ad placements.


Google’s Future Enhancements


To enhance brand safety and address advertiser concerns, Google should consider implementing the following:


Placement Reports: Provide advertisers with placement reports for SPN, detailing which specific SPN websites their ads appeared on, along with engagement metrics. This transparency empowers brands to make informed decisions and avoid certain sites as necessary.


Site Exclusions and Bid Adjustments: Enable advertisers to exclude specific SPN sites or categories (e.g., mature sites) and set bid adjustments based on SPN sites versus Google placements. These controls offer greater customization and peace of mind to marketers.


Permanent Opt-Out Option: Make the temporary opt-out option for SPN on PMax campaigns a permanent feature. This would grant advertisers the flexibility to choose whether or not to participate in SPN, expanding access to automated search advertising.


Ensuring brand safety in Google search ads requires a combination of immediate actions and future improvements. Advertisers can take steps to mitigate risks within SPN while Google should prioritize transparency, control, and customization for brands. By providing placement reports, enabling exclusions and bid adjustments, and offering a permanent opt-out option, Google can strengthen trust and empower marketers to embrace automated search advertising with confidence.