Privacy laws are increasingly limiting publishers’ use of user data. So, to play it safe, more ad businesses are relying on contextual targeting. Without personal information, contextual targeting is a key way to respect user privacy while also monetizing your site and app.
This article explains what contextual targeting is, how it works, and use cases to try.
Contextual targeting involves displaying ads based on the ad slot’s surrounding content. Within this, there are different levels of granularity:
Contextual targeting is a great way for publishers to obtain or retain advertisers, who are constantly looking for ways to reach their target audience at the right times. For a yoga mat advertiser, a user reading a yoga-related article likely is more valuable than someone reading about overseas politics. And if the ad slot has more value, they will pay more to buy it, allowing you to charge higher rates for such targeting options.
One word of caution: contextual targeting can go wrong. Publishers have gone under fire for unfortunate content and ad pairings. This news publisher, for example, faced backlash when a story about bullies pouring bleach on a child simultaneously displayed an ad for bleach. This can be mitigated by implementing strict standards around what type of content can be targeted.
Many companies employ contextual targeting, including:
Though these seem similar, contextual and behavioral targeting do work differently. While contextual targeting looks at the surrounding content at that moment, behavioral targeting incorporates users’ past actions.
Let’s say I go to Amazon and browse outdoor cooking equipment, but decide not to make a purchase. Amazon nonetheless stores this data, and when I return to the site, they may show me ads for grills. Behavioral targeting, therefore, requires the use of personally identified information (PII), as the publisher needs to store one’s browsing history in order to then use it in the future.
Contextual targeting, however, isn’t based on previous behavior, but on the content that currently surrounds the ad. If I visit Amazon as a first-time user, for instance, and go to their “Charcoal Grills” department page, I will likely see ads for grills. Such targeting is anonymous and doesn’t involve PII, yet still reaches users in-market for a grill.
Though the difference is subtle, it’s important as you debate the tradeoffs between valuable targeting options and user privacy.
Contextual targeting has been around since the beginning of advertising. When an advertiser works directly with a publisher, they have a good sense of the audience they are reaching based on the publisher’s industry. And Google has a ton of targeting options for reaching specific YouTube channels, websites, and more, based on contextual keywords.
But contextual targeting is having a resurgence for a couple of reasons:
Looking for a way to easily incorporate contextual targeting into your ad platform? Kevel’s ad APIs provide the tools you need to monetize with contextual targeting, without having to spend months building the feature yourself. To learn more, contact us today.
Sarah is an experienced writer with a software background, allowing her to translate between ad tech experts and lay readers. As Kevel's Associate Product Marketing Manager, she helps broadcast new products and features.