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Google’s Approach to Behavioral Targeting

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While it may seem that every ad network and their mother is jumping into behavioral targeting, Google’s taking a different approach. Concerned that behavioral targeting might upset the AdWords cash cow applecart, Susan Wojcicki, Google’s vice president of product management for advertising, explained to Reuters why the company is testing session-based targeting, not profile-based.


“We believe that task-based information at the time (of a user’s search) is the most relevant information to what they are looking at,” she said. “We always want to be very careful about what information would or would not be used.”

Behavioral targeting has always concerned me. No, I’m not a privacy-pansy, but I do worry that a search engine would assume too much about my current search. Just because I spent all last week researching North Carolina’s hurricane season, doesn’t mean that I now want a weather forecast when I really want info on my favorite hockey team’s upcoming opponent.

Google appears to “get” this and is instead focusing their targeting efforts on the search session only.

Google has been testing for several weeks a new advertising feature that delivers ads based not simply on a specific search term, but also on the immediately previous search, she said.

A user who types “Italy vacation” into a Google search box might see ads about Tuscany or cheap flights to Europe. Were the same user to subsequently search for “weather,” Google will assume there is a link between “Italy vacation” and “weather” and deliver ads tied to local weather conditions in Italy.

Has anyone seen this in the wild? Have you seen any searches that include AdWords that appear to anticipate your current search intent?

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Google’s Approach to Behavioral Targeting
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