48% Of Ad Traffic on Fake News Sites Served by Google

BY Kathy Crosett
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If you’re helping clients buy ads through Google, don’t assume that all is going as planned. New research shows that 48% of ad traffic on fake news sites is served by Google. How does this happen? When you set bids for the ads you want to place, they go into the exchanges and networks where they are processed. And when your clients’ ads win the online bidding war, they appear on publisher’s ad servers. Some of those publishers’ sites could contain brand-​damaging content such as fake news. 

The Problem with Fake News Sites

It’s worth asking, as Lia Bozarth and Ceren Budak at University of Michigan did, where online ads eventually are seen. Your clients may believe that they’re getting a good ROI from their online advertising. While they may be keeping their costs down, their brand could be at risk in the long run. That's because their ads could show up next to content that their target audience believes is objectionable.

In their Market Forces: Quantifying the Role of Top Credible Ad Servers in the Fake News Ecosystem report, researchers note that “..advertisers have limited control over which publishers ultimately display their messages.”

However, in their analysis, researchers report that online news sites, more than other types of sites, rely heavily on display ad revenue. Over 70% of news sites get their ad revenue from more than one server. To understand what is happening, researchers distinguished between traditional new sites and fake news sites in their analysis of the ad server market. On average, the fake news sites rely on 10 more ad servers for revenue than traditional sites. The “..results here suggest that fake and low-​quality news sites partner more with risky ad servers. This has important implications for news consumers. These low-​quality news producers are not only polluting consumers’ news diet, but also exposing them to potential privacy and security risks."

Exclusionary Lists and Negative Targeting

Using exclusionary lists is only one form of negative targeting – a tactic that allows you to prevent certain people from seeing your clients’ ads. For example, you may only want homeowners to see your clients’ messages if their business is selling products to that market. In that case, the negative targeting approach would avoid showing the message to renters. The ultimate goal of negative targeting is to save your clients money. And you should be maximizing the ROI on their advertising investment.

What Can You Do To Protect Client Brands?

Because exclusionary lists are a powerful tool, you should develop expertise in using them. First, know that Google has blacklisted some news sites. But the search giant doesn’t make that list public. Your clients trust you with their paid search campaigns. Use that trust to build credibility and be proactive about managing the dynamic exclusion lists on Google. This feature, rolled out by Google earlier this year, makes the task of managing excluded sites much easier than it has been in the past. A Google spokesperson noted that they debuted this feature to help smaller businesses better compete in marketplace. Keep in mind that news sites start up and go out of business regularly. The only way to stay ahead of the problem is to check your exclusionary lists frequently.

48% of Ad Traffic on Fake News Sites Served by Google

According to the latest AudienceSCAN research from AdMall by SalesFuel, 23% of the U.S. population consciously tries to avoid fake news sites. Google is not the only site to serve ads to fake news sites, but you can be proactive by always taking action on negative targeting. Talk with your clients about your search engine marketing expertise and let them know about the best ways to protect their brands.

Photo by Joshua Miranda from Pexels.