Friday, 27 June 2008

Google testing PPC ad targeting

A report by The New York Times claims that research undertaken over recent months by Piper Jaffray in the US has uncovered apparent ways that Google is now testing behavioural targeting for its PPC adverts. By using the huge amount of data that has been collected on search activity and patterns in the past, Google may be starting to display different adverts to people based on their previous search activity - so that the example given indicates that if a searcher looks for “scuba,” then something else, and then “vacations" could pull up ads for diving trips.

It's no secret that Google is using it's massive source of data to understand search activity and to target activity in different ways, such as through the personalised iGoogle tool and also the likely development with banner advertising that followed the acquisition of DoubleClick last year. Some of this data collection is using 'cookies', which are small files attached to web actions from individual users.

Google had changed its privacy policy several years ago and indicated to users that it might record personal information about them for reasons that included “the display of customized content and advertising.” In 2007 Google also started looking at the immediately previous search when considering the display of PPC ads although Google did not need to use cookies for this because web browsers report the address of the previous site visited to the current site being visited and in the case of a search, that address contains the search terms.

This type of development in search targeting or behavioural targeting is becoming one of the main areas where the search engines will be competing to gain market advantage over the next few years and to improve the targeting services being offered to advertisers. Google, Yahoo! and MSN are all looking at tackling this issue with different approaches, although all of which are likely to raise privacy concerns, including possible legal cases in the future depending on the methods being used. However, it also should mean better relevancy for both searcher and advertiser if the balance between targeting and privacy can be achieved.

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