On March 11, 2009 Google announced a new method of serving ads to visitors – interest-based advertising. According to Google, interest-based advertising should help monetize your website more efficiently (AdSense users), increase value for advertisers, and provide a better experience for users. So for AdSense publishers this should mean a greater CTR (click-through rate) and thus greater earnings as ads delivered to the end-user are more browser-centric and less contextual-based. So what exactly does this mean and what action do you need to take?
In a nutshell
Without oversimplifying things, this change basically means that if Google has a record (i.e. cookie) of the end-user’s interests (based on sites they have visited in the past – this information will be collected starting April 8, 2009) then Google will display ads in your AdSense blocks related to these interests rather than the content on your web page.
Do I get a choice?
The end-user will have control over what information is collected, as well as adding or removing categories, using the Ads Preferences Manager, which they can find through the Google Privacy Center and most "Ads by Google" links seen in Google ads. AdSense publishers will also be able to choose if they want to participate in interest-based advertising.
How exactly does it work?
Watch Shuman Ghosemajumder, Business Product Manager for Trust and Safety at Google, explains how Google shows interest-based ads and what it will mean for visitors to your site. By understanding fully how it works you will be in a better position to maximise the potential benefit of this change.
While this change has raised some privacy concerns, it appears Google, following their ‘Do No Evil’ mantra, have included sufficient measures such as complete transparency and user choices to allay any reservations. Strangely Yahoo! have been using this type of behavioral targeting since February 24 of this year but it seems it’s only when Google starts using it that privacy advocates start making a lot of noise. I think that just highlights the majority share Google owns of the search engine market.
So in summary…
- Google will start collecting data from April 8, 2009 to determine end-user’s interests (sensitive topics such as health are not collected)
- The end-user can choose to add, remove or delete interest categories as well as opt-out altogether
- The AdSense publisher can choose whether they want to participate or not
This is pretty exciting news for AdSense publishers as it is certain to increase click-through rates and improve earnings. Just don’t expect an overnight transformation; the process will take several months as Google rolls out the new interest-based advertising to a few selected partners (including YouTube) first before expanding the offering later in 2009. Obviously it will also take them time to collect sufficient information about end-users before we really start to see some finely-tuned and targeted AdSense advertising.
It figures that if Google AdSense is willing to take some flak about privacy concerns, this change obviously has an attractive financial incentive in the form of increased earnings (could Google be feeling the recession pinch too?) – let’s hope it works and AdSense publishers can share the booty.
There’s some helpful information available from the AdSense Help Center that explains these interest-based advertising changes in more detail.