Monday, 16 March 2009

Google announces 'interest-based' advertising

Google has announced a new feature for AdWords advertisers that will be launched as part of the third-party content network (AdSense). In addition to matching ads with the topic of a web page through contextual advertising, advertisers will now be able to reach users based on their interests, independent of the content they are currently reading.

With this new interest-based advertising - which is being introduced in beta for selected advertisers initially - companies will be able to advertise to users based on their previous interactions with them, such as visits to their website. A number of interest categories will be offered, such as "sports enthusiasts," so that targeting can be improved to drive brand awareness or increase advert responses.

Google has been looking to add this type of feature for some time, following the user-profile options offered by Microsoft's adCenter PPC tool in the US. This latter system is supported by Microsoft's network of user details from Hotmail or Messenger, whereas Google has been lacking that level of targeting data. However, Google is now developing a base of information on user habits and offers searchers the additional relevancy that interest-based ads can provide. Users can visit the new Ads Preferences Manager to see what interest categories Google thinks they might fall into, or they can add and remove categories themselves. This Ads Preferences Manager can be found by clicking on most "Ads by Google" links on ads throughout the web.

The question will be how many web searchers will provide their details or be comfortable with the privacy issues that drive this new service. Clearly more relevant advertising should be of interest to most people, but the ways of serving that up may not be so acceptable. Google's official blog has also posted an article explaining the new system and outlining how they are making the option transparent to users, in the hope that they will encourage a wider uptake of this service for the benefit of advertisers and web users.

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