Media Insights

How to Protect Your Brand When Using Google Ads

In the past year, trust in the media has decreased by 8%, with 50% of people encountering fake news regularly online.1 With the increase in unreliable media comes an increase in the possibility that brands may show up in places that are associated with this type of fake news, ultimately degrading consumer trust. To prevent this, our experts use a variety of brand safety precautions when creating and executing Google campaigns to ensure our clients’ brands are fully protected. Read on for brand safety precautions every marketer should be taking and how Ovative has used them to drive actionable results.  

Google Brand Safety Precautions Every Marketer Should Be Taking

When aiming to protect your brand from any negative association with fake news , there are several Google Ads features we pay special attention to. Defining the right marketing objective, choosing keywords based on regularly mined search teams, and excluding certain web pages can help you drive efficiency and ensure your brand is showing up in the right places. So how can you take precautions using these features?  

Search Terms: When Is The Brand Shown? 

  • What are they: Search terms are words or phrases that a user will enter in Google or Bing when looking for a product or service. These differ from keywords in that marketers use keywords when they want to show a specific ad that matches with a relevant word.  
  • How should you use them: Mining for new keywords on a weekly basis and creating search term reports ensures you are choosing the right keywords based on frequent/relevant terms that your audience is searching for, enabling your audiences to see your ads. 
  • Watch out for: When choosing keywords based on search terms, it is important to distinguish which type of match is best – exact, broad, or phrase.  

Negative Keywords: What Are The Red Flags? 

  • What are they: Negative keywords are words and phrases that can be filtered out if they are not relevant to the brand, so your ads do not show up when a user performs that search query. Marketers often designate negative keywords based on performance or if they could be potentially harmful to brand reputation.  
  • How should you use them: One example of using negative keywords is when there are out of stock items on a brand’s website. Creating negative keywords for those specific products will ensure they are filtered out to prevent money being spent on ads for products that are not available. A second example is creating negative keywords for controversial topics so that your ads are not shown in search queries that include those terms. 
  • Watch out for: Although negative keywords can be vital in protecting brand association to controversial and harmful words or phrases that can damage reputation, marketers should be careful not to filter out too many keywords. This can make the campaign too specific and cause brands to miss out on ideal consumers. In general, you want to have an extensive list of terms. Best practice is to mine your search terms weekly to continuously add new negatives. This helps ensure you are never wasting money on terms you do not want to match against.

Exclusions: Where Do We Not Want To Show Up? 

  • What are they: The Exclusions tab on Google Ads helps you determine where you do not want your ads to show up – for example, on certain websites that are not relevant to your target consumer. 
  • How should you use them: Exclusions are especially necessary when filtering subtopics and niche areas to reach a specific target consumer and spend budget efficiently. 
  • Watch out for: Especially during times of increased media distrust and fake news, it is vital that brands do not have a presence on sites that promote this type of distrust or are entwined in political and/or social conflict. For example, you may want to exclude a specific news source from your campaign to ensure your ads do not show up there, because the sentiment on that site’s content is increasingly negative. As with negative keywords, be careful not to exclude too much, as this could risk you missing exposure to relevant consumers. 


Client Case Study: Bringing Brand Safety to Life 


On one of our luxury retail clients, we defined a strategy to ensure that our ads were not showing up alongside fake news or inappropriate content in search engine results. This included ensuring no spend was going toward keywords in Google Ads that had inappropriate content, signaled fake news, or could be of controversy for the brand.



  1. Completed customer research to understand what news was important to our audiences, where the brand was showing up in the news today, and what keywords would likely indicate fake news
  2. Worked with the client to understand what their typical audience is, as well as the audiences they would like to reach
  3. Setup Seeking Alpha to provide alerts to team members of trending news on given topics (including brand names or keywords)
  4. Setup negative keyword groupings in Google Ads based on our research that we did not want the brand to be showing up for
  5. Continued mining once a week using Search Terms Report to quickly adjust and remedy any new keyword issues
  6. Created reports using Google Ads to analyze conversion rates, clicks, and impressions
  7. Utilized spend saved on those keywords to invest in keywords with the highest Enterprise Marketing Return (EMR) 



By re-allocating money that would have been spent on keywords that put brand reputation in jeopardy, we were able to invest in other areas of the paid media account including smart shopping and ad bidding. Our objective was to direct ad groups and keywords to specific webpages to maximize the reach the ads have – by doing so, the brand can control where the user first lands on google and how to direct them to key areas of their website.  


To protect our clients’ brands, we apply brand safety precautions using features like Search Terms, Negative Keywords, and Exclusions within Google Ads. This keeps your campaigns performing efficiently and brand reputation protected from any association to negative or fake news.  


Ovative is a digital-first media and measurement firm seeking to transform the measure of marketing success. At Ovative, we help brands move the needle. We are curious. We value your brand. We want to see you succeed. Connect with us to learn more! 


1|, Fake News Statistics, April 2021 

Trushna Visavadia

Intern, Digital Experience Optimization

About the Author

Trushna is a member of the 2021 Ovative Summer Intern Class. She is currently a student at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN studying Marketing and Art History.

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