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Everything You Need to Know About Contextual Advertising

Marketers have a wide array of options to choose from when it comes to advertising. Whether it’s TV, social media, or the good old traditional paper advertising method, you won’t run out of options. Contextual advertising, however, is something you mustn’t miss out on. Not only has it started to rise significantly, but the global market for it is expected to reach a massive $335.1 billion by 2026. In this article, Chris Norton, Founder of insight-led PR agency Prohibition, will expand on the notion of contextual advertising.

What Is Contextual Advertising and How Does It Work?

Contextual advertising refers to the process of targeting keywords based on specific pages viewed by users at a given time. The end result? The context of the ad becomes perfectly aligned with the content on the page. 

A good example of contextual ads can be search engine ads. These ads can be considered contextual as they are directly related to the keywords used in the search query. In a nutshell, we can say that contextual advertising is all about delivering unique, personalized messages to viewers at the right time. 

Here is a great example of a contextual ad: 

Some important elements you need to consider in contextual advertising include language, time of day, past purchase behavior, and the devices through which the purchases are being made. To incite emotional responses in users, you may also use videos. 

One of the main aims of contextual advertising is to witness an increase in ROI (return on investment). An effective way of reaching this goal is by having publishers and advertisers work together. Not only will this enhance your contextual advertising schemes. Everyone involved will also earn a profit. Good use of email, SMS, and push notifications can also be beneficial. 

Other important things to consider when it comes to contextual advertising are behavioral and contextual targeting. Below we expand on this further.

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What Is the Difference Between Behavioral and Contextual Targeting?

While both the terms may be easy to confuse, it’s important to understand that they are not the same. Behavioral targeting uses web user data to enhance ad campaigns. In this marketing method, information about potential customers’ online browsing or purchasing behavior is gathered. The customers are then targeted based on their actions. 

On the other hand, contextual targeting involves having an automated system display ads directly related to the site’s content. They are based on targeted keywords. Unlike behavioral targeting, which evaluates past purchasing behavior to display ads, contextual targeting places ads in the environment where potential customers may have ended up through their browsing activity.

Contextual Targeting: How Does It Work?

Contextual targeting is done via a demand-side platform (DSP), which will allow your advertisement to be put on web pages according to your specifications. There are three main steps involved in contextual targeting:

1. Choosing keywords or topic-based parameters

An advertising system needs to know what your campaign is about to place your ads on web pages. When it comes to the keyword or topic-based contextual advertising, the ad publisher will rely on the initial keyword or topic linked to the webpage. If your keyword or topic matches the main theme of a webpage, your ad will automatically pop up there. 

However, the publisher needs to make sure that the displayed ads seamlessly align with the target audience’s needs. The topics are typically based around a wider category suited to your advertising campaign. Consider running these ads using Google Display Network (GDN). 

For instance, an advertiser can pick women’s fashion, then select related items like bags, shoes, tops, etc., from a sub-category. 

Social media is undoubtedly an intrinsic aspect of contextual advertising as well. If you feel like your team could use an upgrade to their social media skills, consider having them undertake a workshop, such as the ones we offer through Social Media Training

2. Google evaluation of the pages in its network

When your order is placed, Google will attempt to match your ad with similar content. It takes factors like text, language, keywords, among others, into consideration while doing this. 

Moreover, you can even change your network settings to broad or specific reach while using GDN. If you pick broad reach, your ad will revolve around topic targeting, whereas in specific reach, they will pop up on pages linked to keywords and one of your targeted topics at the minimum. 

3. Your ad is up and ready to go 

After the above evaluation is done, the display network will pick a placement that perfectly matches the contextual contents of your ad. 

So, why contextual advertising? You’ll learn the answer in the next section.

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5 Advantages of Contextual Advertising

Contextual advertising can help you achieve your marketing goals. In this section, you’ll learn the various benefits of this type of advertising and why you should include it as part of your marketing strategy.

1. Cheaper cost per impression

Contextual advertising can end up being a cost-effective option and can end up helping you stay on budget. When it comes to behavioral advertising, data collection is key. That requires a significant amount of human and monetary resources, along with other tools and software. Past research by Adage has found contextual ads to be significantly cheaper than other types. 

It is no surprise, then, that countless marketers choose contextual advertising. Consider the image below:

Contextual advertising requires lesser resources. You won’t even need a massive advertising team. With other advertising methods, you will likely need a team to track progress regularly. But with contextual advertising, after a one-time setup, you’re sorted!

Therefore, contextual advertising might be your best option if you’ve got a small business or a small marketing budget. 

2. Privacy laws aren’t a hindrance 

The first official legislation that classified cookies as personal data and set out straight rules for data collection is known as the General Data Protection Act. The governing body of this legislation has also set huge fines if user privacy is breached:

Several countries have started to have their version of these rules and regulations best suited to them. Traditional methods of behavioral advertising are thus also ending. However, this has made it more challenging to track users’ online browning activities. 

Consent is no longer required when using cookies for advertising, and you may need to get visitors to opt-in for them. That can become increasingly challenging over time. 

Luckily for marketers today, there’s such a thing as contextual advertising. 

Contextual advertising does not rely on personal data for advertising purposes. It also makes it safer for advertisers to show their ads on authoritative pages. A study by Digiday found that when publishers used their marketing budgets in contextual advertising instead of behavioral advertising, they witnessed an increase in ROI (return on investment). 

3. Increased brand protection

The worries of an entrepreneur go beyond mere legal safety measures. They’ve got to worry about their reputation, too. Unfortunately, when it comes to behavioral advertising, reputation has been difficult to maintain.

As time goes by, brands are discovering their advertising content on sites that are not brand-safe. These include, but are not limited to, sites with adult or extremist types of content. All of this is a result of placing your brand’s advertisement solely based on user behavior. Just to give you an idea, a behavioral advertising method unfolds like this:

However, with contextual advertising, the web page where your advertisement will be displayed will be at the core of your marketing campaign. You will be the one deciding the topics, subtopics, and keywords. You’ll be the one controlling where your advertisements are seen, giving you increased brand protection. 

4. Sometimes context is more important than behavior 

Contextual advertising doesn’t focus on what users searched for a few days or weeks ago. It relies on what users are searching for in the present moment. Moreover, users also prefer seeing advertisements on a website that are more relevant to their present searches than ones they may have made in the past. 

Therefore, it is safe to say that in the circumstances like these, context is more important than behavior. You’re not only protecting your brand’s reputation. You’re also meeting your target audience’s needs. Isn’t that the whole point, anyway?

While behavioral advertising methods may have advantages, it is important to understand that past behavior isn’t always an accurate predictor of potential customers’ needs. Users can search for products they don’t necessarily intend to purchase. That can affect the credibility of behavioral advertising methods.

That doesn’t mean this form of advertising doesn’t work, though. It just means it has its gaps. Contextual advertising methods can fill these gaps. 

5. It’s timely without being invasive 

One of the best parts of contextual advertising is that it’s timely without being invasive for users. Many brands whose customers prioritize their privacy and aren’t fans of other sites or advertisers gathering personal information about them. Moreover, gathering customers’ personal information also has unethical grounds as it is collected without their permission.

Contextual advertising is timely and is directly aligned with the content on the page and the customer’s mindset. It also enriches the user experience. Moreover, it is not invasive because it is used by specific brands and/or ad publishers who can maintain customer privacy and earn revenue at the same time. 

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Wrapping up

As a marketer, you need to keep up with the changing times and adapt to new advertising methods. As digital marketing takes a stronghold in today’s fast-paced corporate world, it remains essential for entrepreneurs to educate themselves about rising trends and incorporate new methods into their marketing schemes. 

If you’ve been using behavioral advertising methods until now and you’re ready to twist things up a little, contextual advertising is probably your best bet. Because let’s be honest, your customers might not want to see advertisements related to products they searched for in the past and may even find it annoying when they do. 

Focus on what your customers want today, and allow them to see advertisements that are only relevant to the products they are searching for in the present. Not only will your customers appreciate this. You’ll also be enhancing your brand image by meeting their needs at the right time.

About author

Editor of the Ringostat blog. Author of articles for the media about digital and big portals about business. Studied journalism at the Odessa National University named after I. I. Mechnikov.


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