Posted March 11, 2009 7:46 am by with 20 comments

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Today [Google is] launching "interest-based" advertising as a beta test on our partner sites and on YouTube. These ads will associate categories of interest…so if you visit an online sports store, you may later be shown ads on other websites offering you a discount on running shoes during that store’s upcoming sale.

Imagine my initial reaction to reading the above announcement from Google? It was something along the lines of: "They’ve finally done it! Google has finally become big brother and will now follow us all around the web!"

Oh how the adrenaline was flowing. I was half-way through mentally writing this post when Google went and spoiled everything by doing the right thing–it offered full customization and opt-out of its new "interest" ads. They smugly explained:

  • Transparency – We already clearly label most of the ads provided by Google on the AdSense partner network and on YouTube. You can click on the labels to get more information about how we serve ads, and the information we use to show you ads. This year we will expand the range of ad formats and publishers that display labels that provide a way to learn more and make choices about Google’s ad serving.
  • Choice – We have built a tool called Ads Preferences Manager, which lets you view, delete, or add interest categories associated with your browser so that you can receive ads that are more interesting to you.
  • Control – You can always opt out of the advertising cookie for the AdSense partner network here. To make sure that your opt-out decision is respected (and isn’t deleted if you clear the cookies from your browser), we have designed a plug-in for your browser that maintains your opt-out choice.

What’s an internet marketing critic supposed to do now? 🙂

Well, for one thing, I plan on remaining opted-in for the new interest-ads. Why not? If Google can figure out my current interests and serve better ads, then maybe I’ll click on them more often. Of course, the tough part will be matching up my transient interests. Just because I viewed new camping gear on one site doesn’t mean that I want to see adds for tents plastered all over my favorite technology blogs.

But Andy, I hear you cry, shouldn’t Google make this an opt-in process? Shouldn’t we be concerned about our every move being tracked on the internet? My response? I’m sorry to tell you that the web is no longer a haven of obscurity. You should assume that all web sites track your every move, that web analysts are able to pinpoint your location, eating habits, and TV-watching preferences, and you should also assume that every time you open your browser, you’re agreeing to all of this.

What do you think of Google’s new "interest" ads? Let ’em rip in the comments below!

  • what a coincidence ! i just read about one of these things in my library in a IEEE talked about internet are right.this isnt best idea.its all transient .iam not sure if this will go well.

    Arshad’s last blog post..The biggest mistake beginner bloggers do

  • I’ve never really seen the objection to anonymized interest-based ads… we all know that stuff we do online can be traced back to us anyway – how many people browse web sites seriously thinking that they are totally anonymous and couldn’t be found if they committed online fraud for example? Everything we do online is already tracked and monitored.

    I ran ads for a swimwear retailer on one of my social networking websites back in 1997: the ad was targeted to men aged 25-30 who said in their profiles that they were into hot summer holidays and who had tagged themselves as enjoying swimming and beaches. The conversion rate for the advertiser was the highest they’d ever seen – behavioural/interest-based targeting was not around in general back then! – and the users were happy because we didn’t tell the advertiser who we were showing the ads to, but they got more targeted stuff that, in general, they were interested in seeing. It eliminated pointless ads in which they weren’t interested.

  • @Jason – thanks for sharing your case study, interesting stuff!

  • If users want free content – which they demonstrate they do, every time someone tries charging for access – then they should prefer adverts that resonate better. I know I do. The few times that I’ve found placement opportunities on AdWords that resonate strongly with the advertiser, I’ve had great results. This should really be an extension of that process, and less expensive for the advertiser – justifying higher costs for Google for each click. Smart move by Google to enhance conversion rates, click rates and optimise revenue on their inventory.

    Jeremy Chatfield’s last blog post..Recession – Killing Me Softly

  • Google has allot of issues, customer service, programming, failed projects, projects that are on hold, multiple management issues with all it’s properties. Not to mention millions a month in Click Fraud they have yet to even address outside of their 98 million dollar class action for Click Fraud. Then there is there failing billing system which allows for clients to charge them back in bulk for their adwords campaigns after the fact. What? You don’t like your Adwords results, call the bank they’ll take care of it. Google does not even challenge the disputes, because they cannot.

    I guess what I am wondering is, do I really care what Google does anymore? This seems like an interesting value added proposition. However, why should I care, Google is not built on the solid ground that most believe. I wish them the best, but perhaps they should consider cleaning their house up a bit before automatically opting people into specialty programs.

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  • Alex Druk

    This is very important step in right direction! However list of interest in Ads Preferences Manager is very primitive and does not reflect natural diversity of interest.
    The next step will be using cross-reference of interests. Like if you are already indicated interest in X you should be also interested in Y. The only site that has a list of practically all interests and cross-reference of them is

  • People who don’t know what life is like without the internet ( Those of us under 30 ) expect this kind of service – many of us demand it. We want advertisers only when appropriate and when possible before we even know we need them. We don’t want cute or clever – we want useful.

    Google’s announcement brings much needed attention to the importance of targeted advertising. It’ll be interesting to see how this evolves, but we need to remember that content still reigns supreme.

    Just showing display ads closely related to a general point of interest doesn’t automatically mean that it’s useful to them or enhancing their search. We need to expand beyond key words and get into Natural Language Integration – if not advertisers will continue to call us fat or make other offensive mistakes such as what Facebook experienced with Beacon.

    Jordan English Gross’s last blog post..Saber Seven Adds to its IT Development Team

  • Seems very interesting and as A user I that there is an opt out of the advertising cookie for the AdSense partner network. But as an advertiser ?

  • Alex Druk

    Privacy has nothing to do with this! This is about end of keywords!
    By definition of interest, people search the internet according their short or long term interests. Therefore all searches are just expression of these interests. Interests are the driving factor of search on the Internet.

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  • I agree with you Alex – If we want greater ROI then we must stop relying on keywords and display ads and begin integrating targeted, rich content placement into the search marketing process. The key to successful growth in this market is to understand the purpose behind the search and the moments in time where an advertisers voice makes sense. By connecting to the real goals of a user’s search, behavioral and search engine marketing can drastically improve the likelihood of using the sponsored content, and even improve the effectiveness of the search itself.

    This is about the evolution of search- not privacy.

    Jordan English Gross’s last blog post..Saber Seven Adds to its IT Development Team

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  • Jolt

    Roughly 9% of web users have disabled 3rd party cookies:

    This prevents usage tracking by 3rd parties such as Google. Additionally, for users who prefer to use Google as their preferred search engine, 10% of them have disabled 3rd party cookies.

    I am neither for or against 3rd party tracking, but it

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  • Clare Sheldon

    I think they are bloody creepy. I REALLY object to them, actually!