Find out what Google thinks you are interested in
Google has been doing series of efforts to improve the users’ experience with display ads on the Google Display Network over the last year. Expanding “turn off” ad option on more of its properties and partners’ platforms was a step in this direction. Now you can disable your online behaviour to be used to show you relevant ads.
Some reasons behind this feature:
- Online behaviour gives away a lot of signals to Google about consumer’s interests. Watching YouTube videos, using Google Maps, searching on Google give information to Google what you are interested in.
- If the user has given permission Google would collect these signals to determine their interests and allow advertisers to target her with relevant ads.
- How exactly signals are read is not fully clear. You might end up seeing ads which are not relevant for you or are so relevant that you don’t want anyone else knowing about them.
- This concerns users’ privacy and therefore a lot of people install ad blocking extensions on their browsers.
There is a way to see how Google has classified you according to your web activity and why. You can also opt out of the interests you don’t want to see ads about and even add new interests. To see this go to your personal account. If you are using Google Chrome, you can click on your picture in the top right corner of the screen and select My Account.
If you are on another browser like Mozilla, Safari, Internet Explorer, just go to https://myaccount.google.com/
Once you have signed in, you will see a lot of options giving you control on how Google can use your data and the level of privacy you want to have. Choose Ad Settings in the Personal Info & Privacy.
Then select Manage Ad Activity.
Here you can see if your Ad Personalisation is on or off. If it is on, this means that you have allowed Google to collect information from your online behaviour on their platforms. This information helps advertisers show you relevant to your interests ads. If you click on “More options” you will see a tick box which allows Google to collect such data about you also on their Partner’s Network. These are all the websites which use Google Ad Sense to allow Google Display ads to show on their inventory and earn money form this activity.
Then you can see a section called How Your Ads Are Personalised?. This will allow you to learn about what Google thinks you are interested in and why.
This is different from cookies. Cookies are collected by websites to understand their customers’ behaviour by attaching a unique string of numbers to their browser. Some of the companies Google thinks you are interested in might have also dropped a cookie in your browser. However, these are just companies Google has identified you are interested in from your online behaviour on Google’s platforms and Google’s Partners’ websites.
Here is a snapshot of what Google thinks about me:
This is quite accurate as I indeed fall into the right Age and Gender group and have engaged with all the websites mentioned recently. If I click on any of the icons, I see from where Google has received this data. For example, my age is something I have shared voluntarily when creating my Account with Google:
After scrolling down by interests I can see most of them are websites, I can remember visiting. Then I see that I am in the market for Business and Productivity Software. When I click on it, I realise it is based on online activity while signed in on Google Search, YouTube and etc.
If you believe that any of these are not relevant to you anymore, you can turn it off. As you go through the list you will easily recognise the Affinity Categories and In-Market Segments you have been put in.
If you click on Manage your activity from any of the explanation cards you will be able to see what websites you have seen and all other activity on Google’s platforms.
It’s fascinating to see the daily activity which you would otherwise not remember. For me one of the biggest surprises was the amount of Google searches I have done on average per day. I hardly remembered doing any of them. When seeing them individually, I would recognise the activity, but if you asked me what websites I have visited yesterday, I would hardly remember.
The use of smart mobile devices with internet access has made the fusion between online and offline activity so smooth that we do not even feel it. So many of these searches, YouTube video watches have happened on the go, while walking outdoors.
This is a great way to understand how Google collects information. As a marketer, you see what you can expect from targeting Affinity Categories, In-Market segments and their Custom versions. It can be very powerful, but you cannot avoid some inaccuracy. In the case of my detected interest in Productivity Software, I realised my boyfriend watched a YouTube instructional video on my laptop while I was away.
What does this mean for you as a marketer?
Google always puts the user experience on its products on a first place and advertisers’ laments come second. Giving the opportunity to people to choose their targeting is a big step ahead for online privacy. When people can choose, they are more likely to trust a platform. Advertisers must learn to be careful when dealing with sensitive information like health, sexuality and relationships.
As a marketer, you must have integrity when placing your message and targeting an audience. I still remember seeing a YouTube ad advising me to freeze my egg cells. I was 24, but I have put a fake birth date in my Google Account. The ad was so out of place and looked so intrusive and badly done. This type of terrible online marketing is the reason why a lot of people use ad blockers and do not trust display ads.
So, my tips are:
- Stay relevant by targeting a niche audience. Google now allows you to build custom intent and custom affinity audiences based on keywords, URLs and apps. Use them to target more precisely.
- Create quality and premium ad copy. Do not spare to hire a professional designer or video maker to make sure the ad looks good and has a positive and sensible message.
- Treat sensitive subjects with respect to your prospect. This counts not only for digital marketing, but also any other type of communication with your audience.