Contextual targeting is the technology that places ads alongside content that relates to the business’s product or service. Contextual targeting is NOT about matching ad keywords to text keywords. It goes beyond that because languages have many words to say the same thing. For example, “to die” can be said as “croaked” or “kicked the bucket”. Essentially, it is a smarter form of advertising.

There are two basic approaches in which to use contextual advertising:

Linguistic based approach- This approach is very interested in syntax. It has a taxonomy that classifies the various phrases into categories.

“Non-linguistic” approach- This approach cares less about what the words actually mean. Rather, it is concerned with clusters of characters (letters) in any order that will show up with enough frequency to beat another page on a certain topic statistically.

It will be important to understand the differences between the two when it comes to creating your own contextual ads. But first, we need to understand the purposes of contextual advertising.

Three Purposes of Contextual Advertising

There are three basic purposes of contextual ads and understanding these is key to create great ads.

Relevance: First is relevance. Your main goal is to identify web pages with content that complements your product or service. In the past, companies tried to do this using keywords. Yet experience has shown that simply matching ads to keywords is not enough and in many cases, it fails to yield results.

The difficulty comes from something linguists called polysemy, or the fact that most words have many different and competing meanings. Words in English, for example, have an average of 2.4 different meanings. It’s no wonder they say the English language is one of the hardest to learn.

Basic keyword matching does not account for these different meanings in language and therefore, a more sophisticated approach is needed. Contextual targeting classifies information on websites using a taxonomy (a system of categories) that can handle this ambiguity

Protection: Next, we have protection that is offered from contextual ads. You want to ensure your display ads do not appear alongside harmful sites that go against your brand and image. Basic keyword matching will not suffice. Anyone who has ever ‘Googled’ a keyword phrase and gotten a matching site that was completely off target of what you were seeking can understand how keywords alone do not work.

Two infamous examples include airline carriers mistakenly placing ads next to news articles lamenting 9/11 (“airplane” being the culprit keyword matching ad with site) and soft drink companies placing ads next to health articles deploring obesity (“soft drink” being the culprit keyword matching ad with site).

Many Vantage Local customers work to craft a brand focused on local culture and family values. We are committed to ensuring that their ads avoid websites containing mature content that could compromise their brand’s integrity.

Interest: The final goal of contextual targeting is to convert data from your audience’s browsing habits into new, actionable targeting categories. Tracking within your target audience will be important to learning who is interested in your brand and why. This will help you generate clusters of content categories of prime interest to your target audience.

Why is Contextual Targeting Effective?

Contextual Targeting has proved extremely effective for many of Vantage Local’s current customers. As an example, two customer campaigns that added contextual targeting to the media planning mix saw the following increases in click-through rates:

  • Customer 1: 353% increase
  • Customer 2: 228% increase

Contextual targeting is effective because it creates non-conscious reactions in the consumer, it provides more specific and relevant matches of ads to content and it creates emotional and cognitive engagement in the consumer. Personally relevant ads get more attention and for a longer period of time because they reach the reader in a new way, elicit and emotional response and pique their interests. This is why user psychology is so important to getting your ads just right.

User Psychology is Important

In an article published in April, 2011, Yahoo researchers revealed experimental data about how contextual and personal relevance raises online display ad success rates. Researchers found that the “time to first fixation [the time to first notice an ad] increases by 15% when ads are contextually relevant…[increasing] the chances that the ad will be stored in long-term memory and ultimately [leading] to higher recall.” They also reported that “contextually relevant ads elicit an emotional response that’s almost twice as high as those” that are not contextually relevant. Yahoo joined findings on contextual ad relevance with findings on personal ad relevance, synthesizing conclusions in the following table:

Power of Personal and Contextual Relevance

Power of Personal and Contextual Relevance

As you can see from this chart, there are specific points that your banner ads and display ads should have in order to meet with success. These usually involve created an emotional response in the reader/viewer. Each targeting technique will deliver a unique value to the experience of display ads, giving value to both the customer and the consumer. It’s a win-win; something that anyone can understand.