Who does Google think you are?

21 Jul, 2016

Like it or not, advertising is everywhere. But why do you see the ads you see when browsing? How do digital marketers target you (and follow you) with a particular product or service? The answer is simpler than you think, and for the most part, you’re in complete control.

A display ad is a visual advertisement targeted to a particular user. These ads usually appear down the side or along the top of a particular webpage (see below). A large percentage of these ads are from the Google Display Network. This means an advertiser has designed an ad, and created a campaign through Google Adwords to target users across the Internet.

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To understand Google display ad targeting, you need to understand the purpose of digital advertising. These display ads have a tendency to follow you wherever you go, and unfortunately some advertisers take advantage of this medium to overexpose you to something you don’t necessarily want. This isn’t the right way to advertise.

In their mission policy, Google says, ‘Focus on the user and all else will follow.’ Advertising is meant to enhance the user experience, to show you relevant ads and enrich your browsing experience.

Google does this by showing you ads based on websites you visit, keywords you’ve been searching, and topics you’re in the habit of reading on the Internet. The idea is to make your life easier by putting the things you want right in front of you. However, as I’m sure you know, this can get out of hand.

Maybe you visited a jewellery website by mistake, and now your girlfriend keeps seeing ads for engagement rings popping up randomly all over your browser. Or you searched ‘best insurance company in SA’ three months ago – and you’re still seeing insurance ads at every turn.

The good news is, Google keeps a record of your web interaction profile – and you can change it:

  1. Make sure you’re logged into Google. If you use any Google products such as YouTube or Gmail, you’ll most likely be logged in already. If not, go to www.google.com, click ‘Sign in’ and use your login details for any Google product (YouTube, Gmail, Google+ – they all use the same login).

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  1. Go to the Google Ad Settings page. Here you’ll see all your attributes and browsing habits. These are responsible for the ads you see.

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  1. Simply change what you don’t like. Scroll down to ‘Interests’, click ‘Edit’ and remove what doesn’t interest you.

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  1. Want to go off-grid? Think twice. You’ll also notice an option to ‘Opt out’ of interest-based targeting, and this may seem tempting, but it isn’t recommended. This won’t stop you from seeing ads, but only from seeing ads tailored to you – so you’ll just end up seeing completely random untargeted advertising from all around the world.

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