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Contextual advertising – what is it?

Do you like watching ads? While there will be some who will answer “yes” to this question, most will respond by shaking their heads vigorously. What is the reason for the aversion to promotional messages? Sometimes because they are too intrusive – do you remember pop-ups that were popular until recently and used to take up the entire website? And sometimes just because … you are not interested in their content. But what happens when you get offers related to what you are looking for? This is how contextual advertising works!

Contextual advertising: definition

Contextual advertising is a promotional message that is embedded in a context close to the recipient. The point is that the ad presents content related to, for example:
– the interests of its addressee,
– information recently sought by him,
– products that he has almost purchased or is regularly purchasing.

This means that contextual advertising transmits information of value to the recipient. So it is not doomed to failure, like most messages that reach random recipients. It can therefore be said that the idea behind contextual advertising is that it should reach potentially interested, not random recipients. Which is why it works so much better.

Think for a minute: you are a cooking fan and you are visiting another recipe portal. Is it likely that when you see a banner advertising, for example, an exotic grocery store on one of them, you will click on it? There is definitely no one hundred percent guarantee – after all, a lot depends on how much time you have and how much you want to delve into such information. Nevertheless, the chances are much higher than if you were shown a banner with an advertisement for pet food in return, right?

How does contextual advertising work in practice?

What makes the displayed ads really put in the right context? In the past, they were simply related to the subject of the portals on which they appeared. For example, cooking pages featured banners from kitchenware stores, restaurants, and the like.

Today, it can also work to some extent, but most websites are based on advertising systems – primarily Google Ads. And here we are dealing with a much more precise “targeting” of customers, i.e. with the exact matching of the message to the person who visits a given page.

On what basis does the system display such and not other advertisements?

There are two basic mechanisms.

First, answer one important question to yourself: are you logged into your Google Account? Most of us have them. You need, among others because Google offers the most popular e-mail box. But that’s not all. Let’s not forget about mobile traffic, which in Poland is largely based on Android phones. And to use such a smartphone, you also log in to your Google account.

When creating this account, you have probably provided your personal data – at least your gender and date of birth. Most of us provide truthful information – if only because it can be useful for password recovery. These simple demographic data, combined with your location, are an important reference point for contextual advertising.

Second – cookies! These are, of course, cookies. These are small files with information that are saved in your browser. On the one hand, they serve your convenience – for example, that you do not have to log in to your favorite websites every time and re-select their settings. On the other hand, they are a real “gold mine” for advertising systems. They show them what websites you watched before, what you were interested in, what you buy, what topics keep you for longer… in one word: they let you get to know you better and, consequently, show you ads that interest you. It’s so simple!

Therefore, when you visit another page, an ad system, such as Google Ads, sends a query to your browser and accesses cookies in response. From there it is a simple way for algorithms to match advertising messages to what you really are interested in, and then – to conversion.

What types of contextual advertising can be distinguished?

Contextual advertising is a very powerful tool that can fulfill various promotional goals. First of all, there are various advertising systems – apart from Google AdSense, you can mention Programmatic and many others.

When you take a closer look at the set of available tools, you can see that the person planning the campaign may choose several models of contextual advertising. Due to their purpose, they can be divided into messages focused on:

sale – this type of advertisement is chosen for the implementation of short-term goals, e.g. various promotional and sale campaigns in the store. It is most often chosen by e-stores,
acquiring leads – valuable contacts that may result in a purchase in the long run,
increasing traffic on the website – the campaign is primarily to attract attention to the website and increase the number of visits to it (which also translates into the effectiveness of positioning),
brand awareness – messages addressed to “strangers”, i.e. recipients who have never dealt with your brand, but may be interested in the solutions it offers,
arousing interest in products / services – messages addressed to people who initially express the need to use a given solution.

Where do contextual ads appear?

Contextual advertising can appear in several forms. Those are:
classic advertisements – e.g. promotional banners on websites or on social networks,
sponsored links – are published above, below or next to organic search results,
sponsored e-mails – this form of promotion can be used for Gmail users who will receive sponsored messages to the “regular” mailbox, in relation to the visited pages.

On what basis can contextual ads appear?

Contextual ads target people at different stages of the sales funnel. Among them, the following messages can be distinguished:
thematically matched to the content viewed by the user – targeted at those who are generally interested in a given issue,
dedicated to people who initially expressed an interest in purchasing a specific product – e.g. those who viewed offers in e-stores or searched for information about various versions of the product,
remarketing – targeted at people who have already visited a specific store, most often with the intention to buy, spent a certain period of time on the website, maybe even put the product into the basket, but … changed their mind at the last moment.

The audience you want to target with contextual advertising can be determined during the planning and setup of your campaign.

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