Understanding Users: The Power of Content in Campaign Targeting

Targeting the right audience is clearly one of the most important things to do in your campaigns. This can be achieved in several different forms; demographics, search keywords, behavior, and others. Contextual targeting, mainly brought to mainstream by Google's AdSense program provides one of the most powerful targeting tools out there. I would say it is the second most powerful targeting tool after targeting by keyword.

What does it mean that a user is reading a certain page? How is this page related to their interests and what does it have to do with my campaigns? How do I target my contextual campaigns?

The short answer: people don't just 'end up' on a page, they generally know where they are going, and therefore are interested in the content of the page they are at.

Let's take a look at the different ways in which a user can end up on a certain web page:

  1. Directly: The most straightforward way to go to a page is typing in the URL in the address bar, www.website.com. If you know the URL by heart you know what that page's content is about, and you are interested in it (or interested enough to find out what it's like). The user knows where she is going.
  2. Clicking on a Link: A user might click on a link while they are browsing to go to a new page. Naturally, there is a description of that link and an expectation of what kind of content the user might expect to see if they click. Of course some sites create redirects, or have misleading copy, but we are assuming you want to advertise on a legitimate website that doesn't do these things. Therefore, the user knows where she is going.
  3. Search Result: The search result snippet is a description of what users can expect and again, the user knows where she is going.
  4. Advertisement: Clicking on an ad is another way someone can end up on a page. Again, the ad is promising something, and therefore the user is interested in that thing and goes in the hope of finding that thing. She knows where she is going.


Even if the site is legitimate and the content is created with the best of intentions, several things might go against the above reasoning. Misunderstanding of text, clicking by mistake, are two examples, but we can still say that in most cases people are on a page because they are expecting something. And since the four ways of ending up on a site are all voluntary, then we can safely say that the user is interested in that content.

From an advertising perspective, placing ads on pages (not websites) that have content about a certain topic is highly relevant to the audience on these particular pages. Higher relevancy of course means better placement, and a higher probability of a relevant audience that will be interested in whatever offering you have.

This is completely different from the practice of placing ads on websites, or sections of websites. In the contextual targeting case, you are targeting by page. You are placing ads on any page that has the keywords you want. Although the site might be completely irrelevant some pages might be talking about your specific topics, and therefore, it will make sense to advertise on these pages.

It would be inefficient to go to 2,000 websites, and make 2,000 deals for specific URLs. That would be madness. But AdWords' contextual targeting capability solves this in a great way, and is able to connect advertisers with a very specific audience.