Contextual advertising is a form of digital advertising that involves matching ads to the content on the websites displaying them. This is typically done by sending web page data to a server, where a program determines what the page is about. Then, one or more ads that fit the detected context are served. How well the ads actually match depends on the accuracy of the program, assuming one is used.
Thanks to the use of a program, this is considered to be a form of programmatic advertising. Most of today’s programs do a decent job of matching up ads to content, and they easily surpass the older systems where webmasters would just tell ad companies what their sites were about. This is partly because while a site may have a general thrust to it, specific pages can have foci that are quite different from that. Programs can pick up these exceptions, while manual systems typically would miss them.
Another form of contextual advertising refines this process further, so that specific users can be targeted while they are engaged in content that is likely to increase their interest. This contextual targeting programmatic system can be triggered by a user’s previous visit to the advertiser’s site or another site that indicates a high level of interest.
Thanks to experiences and case studies showing a high level of contextual advertising effectiveness, this category is continually growing. While non-targeted, non-contextual ads are unlikely to fade out entirely, they will occupy less and less space as the more-advanced form of advertising increases.
What is Contextual Advertising?
As with many things that have to do with the internet and other digital communications, the idea of contextual advertising and targeting was originally well ahead of the technology. What is contextual targeting? It is the type of advertising that is triggered based on the content of a webpage rather than a simpler criteria like a web address.
Initially, advertisers would go to an ad network and manually state what their ads were about, and webmasters would state what their sites were about. There were often no page-level options, so if a page was an exception to the site’s general thrust – and this was common – the ads shown wouldn’t really make any sense. This changed when customer targeted machine learning became good enough to be a viable alternative.
Machine learning in advertising removed the site-wide definition problem, and allowed ad networks to automatically determine what single webpages were about. This not only allowed for more-targeted advertising, but eliminated the need for webmasters to spend time updating their profiles at ad networks. With this tedious (and often forgotten) task removed, more sites became willing to offer contextual advertising machine learning slots.
At first, machine learning advertising examples were limited to text-based ads that appeared after a program parsed the page for context. Another common example of customer targeting machine learning was in-text advertising, meant to turn specific words in existing sentences into money-generating links. So far, the text blocks and banner ads have shown the most accuracy.
Machine learning algorithms for advertising have gotten much better than they were in the beginning. Because of this, many people now prefer to advertise on sites connected with networks that use programmatic advertising machine learning models instead of old-fashioned run-of-site (ROS) models.
Audience targeting machine learning has become a reality, as well. Now, interest groups, demographics, and other criteria can be used to further refine who sees targeted advertising using machine learning. Far from just being an advertising machine learning project, this type of contextual and targeting advertising is now a standard.
As previously mentioned, the first stage for contextual advertising was to conquer the problem of automatically figuring out the context of what was surrounding the ad on a webpage. The next step was to make this technology even more powerful by determining ways to target specific groups or even individual people while they were on pages relevant to the advertiser’s category. This advanced contextual targeting made digital advertising the most powerful that it has ever been.
Several tools allow advertisers to leverage contextual targeting for their campaigns. Contextual targeting DV360, which stands for Digital and Video 360, is a service offered by Google. It uses Google search technology or video metadata to determine which keywords are relevant to the page. With this option, you can also set up your ads so that they won’t show for unwanted terms. Tweaking your campaigns like this can save you from drawing the wrong traffic or having your ads end up on pages that aren’t really relevant.
Grapeshot contextual targeting is another ad platform that uses machine learning to fine-tune campaigns. It was purchased by data giant Oracle in 2018. At that time, it served over 38 billion programmatic ad impressions in dozens of languages. When Oracle announced the purchase, it reported that Grapeshot was seeing 100% year-on-year growth.
Some say that there are moral issues in the contextual targeting system, mostly relating to privacy. However, web browsers have developed many options for private browsing, and some ad networks also have easy opt-out methods. Plus, most aren’t all that concerned about seeing some ads online. In any case, contextual advertising trends indicate that this form of marketing is growing with great vigor regardless of these matters.
Contextual advertising can be readily adapted for behavioral targeting. You may wonder what the differences are when comparing contextual advertising vs behavioral advertising, or the difference between contextual targeting vs behavioral targeting. In some ways, these things can overlap, but they are not direct synonyms.
Behavioral targeting relies on web user information to increase the power of an ad campaign. Prior web searches, previous purchases, frequently visited sites, and other information can be collected about an advertiser’s target market. Then, contextual advertising is used on sites where that audience is expected to visit – and be the most receptive to the ads’ messages.
Combining behavioral information with the ability to target specific sites, choose ad showing times, and make other fine-tuned adjustments allows an ad campaign manager to aim at the target demographic with laser focus. It is important to note that this isn’t always a simple case of running the numbers. For example, if your target demographic spends a lot of time on game sites, you may find that they never actually buy when they see ads on those sites. Instead, it’s likely that you’ll discover that other sites, whose content does not demand users’ solid attention, are more likely to actually send the buyers over to you. By watching your stats and continually refining your behavioral targeting campaigns, you can determine just when a targeted user is really the most likely to take the action you desire.
A good contextual targeting system will give you all of the information you need to refine your campaigns until they have excellent results. When considering any system or ad platform, be sure to check what stats it will provide. Then, you won’t find yourself in the dark about how to improve your results.
Contextual Advertising Platform
When you look for a contextual advertising platform, you’ll find many possibilities. These range from Google’s old standby, AdWords, to platforms like The Trade Desk and Oracle’s Grapeshot. They differ in terms of both power and the types of advertisers they best serve.
For small companies that only want to advertise a couple of consumer products, an older platform like AdWords can work fine. However, if you need to go after bigger targets or sell something that is more expensive or complex, you’ll surely find it worth it to go with something that offers more capabilities. You may also find that for your audience, an unexpected option like contextual targeting Facebook is the perfect solution.
One of the most important things that a platform should provide is excellent analytics. This is what will give you the information you need for improving your campaign to the highest possible extent.
Your platform also must give you the ability to select demographic and other groups that you need to reach. Some take this to an extent that older platforms can’t match. The Trade Desk, for example, not only lets you target people based on the jobs they hold, but do so overseas with GDPR-compliant solutions.
Of course, all contextual targeting companies and contextual advertising companies offer keyword targeting abilities. That’s how their products know which terms should trigger your ads.
Thanks to advances in technology and the varying needs of different types of advertisers, contextual targeting solutions offer a good amount of variance from one another. This can make it easier to pick the one that best matches your goals and requirements. Some, like The Trade Desk, even work with several ad networks instead of running its own, standalone, network. This makes it even easier to deal with the contextual targeting vendors that offer what you’re looking for.
Contextual Digital Marketing
As you have learned, contextual digital marketing takes many forms and can reach pretty much everywhere an internet connection exists. You can use the basic contextual targeting Google ads (AdWords) to reach anyone who searches for your terms based on contextual keyword targeting, choose DV360 to add in the ability to appear based on a video’s metadata, or even go for a solution like The Trade Desk to gain access to almost a hundred different ad networks.
Not only can you appear on pretty much any (or all) ad networks that interest you, you can target your ads to specific people, job categories, demographics, interests, and more. You can also set ads to show up depending on specific observed user behaviors.
With all of these ways to reach your contextual audience, the hardest part will probably be narrowing down your choices. Examine what each contextual audience targeting option offers, and choose the one or ones that will best allow you to reach your goal. You’ll often find that several offer one or more options that suit you, but you don’t have to pick just one. Thanks to aggregators like The Trade Desk, you can manage multiple campaigns through one platform. This makes it much easier to handle dealing with a wide variety of ad networks at once, provide different pieces of contextual creative to different audiences, and more.