All About Content

Are Behavioral/Interest-Based Ads More Relevant?

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 11:01 pm

With the new buzz about AdSense going the route of behavioral targeting (or “interest-based advertising” in Google-speak), I felt a strange sense of deja vu. I went through some old blog drafts and found a note I had written, but never published:

When I search “melanie phung” and clicked through to my blog, I got a bunch of “Melanie B ringtones” [AdSense] ads on my site. When I get to my site via SEO-related terms I’m presented with search ads. The content on the site, in both cases, is obviously identical (and not at all related to ringtones or “Melanie B”).

I wrote that in October of 2007. At some point after I wrote that draft, I stopped seeing radically different ad units depending on the referring keyword so I completely forgot about it, but it really bugged me at the time — I didn’t want my site content associated with ringtone ads. (Eventually I just took AdSense off my blog because even the ads that were relevant to my content didn’t seem to reflect well on the site)

In theory, you wouldn’t appear in the results for search terms that aren’t aligned with your content — in which case, AdSense could match ads to either your content or the referring search query and it would be six of one/half dozen of the other — but we know that isn’t true in reality; often users find our pages using search terms that have nothing to do with our content.”Contextual ads” that place advertisements based on broad match keyword search terms rather than landing page copy can easily miss the mark and create message mismatches that could have advertisers annoyed and uncomfortable.

And that’s nothing compared to what could happen with this new behavioral targeting Google AdSense is rolling out. Donna just made some compelling observations about how Google’s behavioral targeting could be a nightmare for publishers and users alike over on SEO Chicks.

I always thought the beauty of AdSense is that it matches ads to content. Messing with that formula seems like a losing proposition – for users, publishers and advertisers alike.

What do you think? Would you, as a Web user, click on AdSense ads targeted at you, even if they aren’t relevant to what you’re currently doing? As a publisher, how do you feel about ads on your site that aren’t related to your content? Should advertisers on Google’s Content Network worry this will hurt their campaign performance?

Updated March 12: Also read Aaron Wall’s critique of grave privacy issues, and Bob Massa’s impassioned comment in response.

Comments (3)

Category: Contextual Ads


Comment by Web Templates

Made Monday, 16 of March , 2009 at 12:02 pm

Not neccesarily, behavior targeting can also be very effective. Users may not appreciate having their habits tracked though…

Comment by Geoff

Made Thursday, 19 of March , 2009 at 2:57 am

It’s good that Google is giving an option to use existing ‘match by content’, or the new ‘Interest Based content’ because people with good SEO’d websites and a strong single subject website would be best to opt out of the new system.

People with bad SEO’d sites, or sites with a bit of this and a bit of that, or a subject with no specific ads eg. personal websites will benefit from the new system.

Comment by MLDina

Made Thursday, 26 of March , 2009 at 4:55 pm

It could potentially be good for publishers. Do they offer the option of how you’d like ads displayed? While some sites might not have a product line that fits in with their content, they would certainly have ads that fit their reader base. It could, in some circumstances, help increase conversions.

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