Google behavioural targeting

Last week Google announced the launch of behavioural interested based advertising, a new system that uses browsing history as a means to serve ads that web users are interested in.  Google on their official blog announced the move as making “Ads more interesting”, ostensibly improving the user experience whilst simultaneously increasing their own advertising revenue.  Google have been oh so careful not to use the word “behavioural” during the launch of this new system, something that was picked up in a blog post by Andrew Girdwood.

There have been concerns about how Google will gather and use this data, which is to be expected considering the amount of data Google already holds about web users.  To ensure that Google works within privacy laws there is the option to “Opt out” of the monitoring process.

Privacy concerns aside, the real question is whether the new ads system will work by increasing clicks thru’s and conversions. The performance of the content network on Google has been questionable in some respects, principally down to the quality of the traffic that advertisers were receiving.  For this reason Google went on a PR drive with agencies and made several improvements to the way advertisers can utilise the content network, such as they PPR report that shows advertisers which publisher sites are performing well/badly.  From this advertisers can create a “bespoke” content network campaign, excluding sites that they disapprove of or do not wish to use.

The general consensus is that the new interest based system will increase the performance of the content network.  The reason being is that the Ads will be more relevant to the user not just the content, and this is useful because some users can become “snow blind” to the same content being served as ads.  An example scenario of how the new system would work is as follows….a user who browses for half and hour looking for a set of golf clubs online may then navigate to a news portal such as the Guardian or Times website.  Under the current system the news article would dictate what kind of ad is served.  Under the new system golf related ads can be served, which it is argued, will be more relevant and increase the chance of a click thru / conversion.

With Adsense already accounting for one third of Google’s revenue, this move could really help Google grow it’s advertising revenue at a time economic slowdown.  In my experience many PPC account managers de activate the content network at the start of a campaign or use it very sparingly, concentrating the budget on the search and search partner networks where conversion rates are higher.  In conjunction with improved ad formats, interest based advertising could be prove to be one of the most important developments in sponsored advertising.

Simon Rattray - PPC Consultant