No doubt, over the years, Google Ads have become more clever, sophisticated and relevant. Or, that was the intention.
“Interest based advertising” sounded something good. When it was first introduced in 2009, it promised that ads were going to get more personal. That is, Google would serve me ads based on my interests, my browsing history, my interaction with previous ads, my age etc.
Sounded really good.
So, if I visited NASA website more often, then I’m more likely to get ads (on Google partner/AdSense enabled websites) about ads/products/websites related to NASA or precisely from within the category.
Google would also track my search history and try to deliver ads based on what I searched previously and my “previous interaction” with a website.
For example, if I was shopping for a certain product on Amazon.com but did not check out, then I’m more likely to see re-targeting ads for that product on other websites.
Google mainly shows their ads on three properties, one Gmail, two, the AdSense partner websites and three, your search results page.
I’m assuming that since each of us have different search patterns and behaviors each of us will have different experience with Google Ads. I mean, when it comes to relevancy, a lot more factors go in.
Like whether the websites you visit, or the search terms and products you search for fall into a designated category on the Google Ads inventory or not is one.
Whether there are matching ads based on your age group, location, category is another.
Assuming that there are matching ads based on my interest and search behavior, I should ideally be getting relevant ads on Google’s partner websites.
And quite honestly, they do show relevant ads for most part.
The other day, I was shopping for a Nike fuel band and next thing you know, every Gizmodo and TC website I go, I get the product details on ads there. Relevancy? Yes.
What about privacy?
Assuming I shopped for something that I don’t want to get ads about on every other website I go, things can get really embarrassing if it did.
The good thing is that you can turn this feature off completely or partially on Google.
Go to this page, and it will show you some controls to turn certain things on and off.
Edit the “Interests” section and you’ll be surprised by the kind of information Google has gathered about you from your previous searches.(There are two sections, based on your previous searches and based on your website visits history)
You can remove categories, if you think they are irrelevant by clicking the “X” mark next to them.
You can also add categories if you want to get ads from them using the Add button on top.
From my experience, Google does a bad job of sniffing out information about you beyond the mainstream categories and languages. For example, it sensed that I know the Indonesian language and have been throwing ads based on this setting for some time. Thankfully I can remove it.
If you don’t want to spend time tweaking all this, you can completely turn the feature off and stop Google from delivering “Interest based ads” and thereby sniffing data about you. You can opt out of either the Google network only or the entire web (read Google partners).
I don’t think Google ads are annoying, but they are not relevant as they claim to be (or may be how I expected them to be). Either I should tweak the settings and let them be more “relevant” or turn them off completely. It should be an interesting experiment either way.