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What is Contextual Targeting?

What is Contextual Targeting?

Written by enCOMPASS Agency

Over the past couple of years, Google has announced some big changes to the way it approaches consumer privacy. Well-intentioned though these changes might be, they have caused no small amount of anxiety among digital advertisers, who lament the decline of third-party cookies and other useful targeting features. (We would argue that these changes are ultimately bad for the end user, as well, potentially leading to a less-personalized online experience.)

The good news is that advertisers have seized upon a number of options to cope with the loss of third-party tracking. One of the most popular options is contextual targeting. While contextual targeting is not new, it has seen a significant resurgence lately. It’s not hard to understand why.

Contextual Targeting at a Glance

What is contextual targeting, exactly? Basically, contextual targeting is all about placing ads on a page, based on the contents of that page. So, for instance, if it’s a website about camping, you can expect to see ads for tents, hiking books, or backpacks. On a website about technology, you might see ads for laptops, televisions, or other tech-related items.

Within any ad network, contextual targeting may be used to segment ads according to parameters such as keyword, page topic, etc.

It’s crucial to make a distinction between contextual targeting and behavioral targeting. With contextual targeting, ads are displayed purely on the basis of the page itself. With behavioral targeting, ads are displayed on the basis of the user’s actions before they arrive at the page (e.g., product pages they’ve previously visited).

Why Contextual Targeting is Gaining Popularity

Contextual targeting has long had its advocates. After all, by matching the contents of an ad to the contents of a webpage, advertisers can reach the right consumers when they are in the right state of mind to buy, all without tapping into any private or individualized data.

Now, contextual targeting is more popular than ever… and there are several reasons why.

Contextual targeting helps you remain compliant with regulations and restrictions.

Again, contextual targeting only crawls the contents of a website; it doesn’t require a user’s info, and it doesn’t track their activity on the Web. As privacy regulations become more and more stringent, advertisers naturally want to know how they can target users effectively while still remaining fully compliant. Contextual targeting is one of the best solutions you’ll find to this dilemma.

Contextual targeting makes sense for end-users, too.

Contextual targeting isn’t just a boon to advertisers who are wary of a cookieless future. It’s also a real plus for the end user. Keep in mind that ad targeting is what ensures the promotional content that users see is actually somewhat aligned with their interests. Contextual targeting ensures that ads are relevant to whatever the user is reading, browsing, or listening to at that very moment. In other words, it helps create a personalized ad experience for users, and again, it does so without the need for any private info or activity tracking.

Contextual targeting can be both broad and niche in its reach.

With contextual targeting, advertisers can potentially cast a very wide net, bringing in qualified audiences from all stages of the sales funnel. At the same time, contextual targeting makes it easy to engage with very specific audiences. One example: With contextual targeting, you can target Spanish-speaking audiences simply by targeting ads to content that’s presented in Spanish.

Contextual targeting can help reduce ad fatigue.

Let’s be honest: We all get tired of seeing the same ads and paid promos, which makes it easy to tune out that content completely. Contextual targeting can offer a way to break through ad fatigue. For example, let’s say you’re running ads for running shoes. Running those ads on an article about running, or about how to select the right running gear, means you’re displaying the ad to users who are already interested in what you’re selling. Many of them may be ready to buy, or at least to learn more; certainly, they’re less likely to object to running-related ads if they’ve already made the choice to read up on the subject.

Contextual targeting provides you with greater control.

Finally, contextual targeting provides advertisers with the opportunity to zero in on keywords, topics, and kinds of content where they’d like their ads to appear, which ultimately gives a lot of control over where ads are served, and to whom.

The bottom line? Contextual targeting is a good tool available for advertisers who are looking to make the most of a cookie-free world. It’s something that we recommend for many of our clients here at enCOMPASS.

More questions about how contextual targeting works? Or about whether it’s a good fit for your brand? Reach out to enCOMPASS any time you’d like to chat.