Google Adsense Ads Will Target You

Google starts tracking browsers to target ads and is getting to know you a little better in order to send you ads you’ll more likely like.

Google is starting to gather information about the websites people visit using an individual web browser in order to target ads to their interests.  "Interest-based" advertising was launched Wednesday as a beta test on third-party sites that carry Google ads, as well as the YouTube video site that Google owns.

As the Google Adsense blog explains, this will ensure that ads reach the right audience:

Over the next few months we’ll start offering interest-based advertising to a limited number of advertisers as part of a beta, and expand the offering later in 2009. Whether the advertiser’s goal is to drive brand awareness or increase responses to their ads, these capabilities can help expand the success of their campaigns and should increase your earnings as advertiser participation increases.

To develop interest categories, we’ll recognize the types of webpages users visit across the AdSense network. As an example, if they visit a number of sports pages, we’ll add them to the "sports enthusiast" interest category.  Users browsing the web will benefit from the additional relevancy that interest-based ads can provide. And by visiting the new Ads Preferences Manager, users can see what interest categories we think they fall into, or add and remove categories themselves.

This requires a change in the privacy policy that Adsense publishers apply in order to reflect the use of interest-based advertising. Google Advertising Cookie and Privacy Policies explains more including their use of the DoubleClick DART cookie?

The DoubleClick DART cookie is used by Google in the ads served on publisher websites displaying AdSense for content ads. When users visit an AdSense publisher’s website and either view or click on an ad, a cookie may be dropped on that end user’s browser. The data gathered from these cookies will be used to help AdSense publishers better serve and manage the ads on their site(s) and across the web.

An Adsense publisher must now have a privacy policy that follows the concepts set out by the Network Advertising Initiative, or NAI.  This suggests the following language for data collection of non-personally identifying information:

We use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit our website. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, click here.

Not everyone is sure this is a move in the right direction since Google’s Behavioral Ad Beta Scares Publishers Over Contextual Relevancy.

The concern is that Google’s contextual relevancy may dwindle down, in exchange for behavioral relevancy. Contextual relevancy is what Google takes pride in, they love to say they have ads that match the exact content of the page. If you are reading about Sony video cameras, Google will show you AdSense ads for Sony video cameras. But possibly now, if you are a sports enthusiast (Google knows this because you visit sports sites) and you are reading an article about video cameras (because you want to buy one for the next game), you may see sports ads and not video camera ads.

Google may well be on the horns of a dilemma here.  Will they be drawn by whichever variant produces most Adsense ad revenues? Or, as they have always insisted, will they try to ensure the best quality Adsense ad experience for the website visitors?  There are clearly many important questions to be resolved around these interest-based Adsense ads before this approach is confirmed as the best option.