Yes, In Text Advertising is a form of Contextual Advertising
I was browsing through a magazine – a real one with paper pages – and noticed a lifestyle article about a new mattress that uses three-dimensions. Well, I wondered, don’t most mattresses have three dimensions? But then, on the next page, a full-page advertisement announced a new 3D mattress. Hmm… was that a coincidence? Of course not. The magazine sold the mattress ad and probably added an editorial article about the new technology. Most magazines try to separate editorial content from advertising, to keep appearance of professional writing. Separation of paid-for ads and actual content is considered ethical. In this instance, they were not that subtle. But wait, what’s so wrong about relevant ads? There seem to be a big difference in our expectations between the offline world and the online arena. While in traditional paper publications we prefer content which is clear of advertising interests, when it comes to the Internet, we actually expect the ads surrounding the content to be highly relevant to the content.
As website publishers we in fact insist of showing the most relevant ads, hoping they will yield higher click-through rates and revenues. The visitors somehow accept this as being supplemental to the content. Google AdSense ads are responsible for this revolution. Since the ads are placed through automated algorithms, we don’t see them as affecting the editorial considerations of the publisher. Moreover, if the ads are not relevant, we usually complain about it.
In text advertising is a form of contextual advertising. As such, in text ads are attached to hooks – highlighted terms within the content – and they are relevant to the terms and the content of the page. So, if your question is simply – are in text ads relevant? The answer is positive. Yes, in text ads are relevant to your content. But since there are examples where they are less relevant, this question calls for some further discussion.
No Perfect Guarantees
One of the publishers I’ve been working with has integrated in text ads for the first time. During the first month, we served ads to no less than 20 million unique visitors. When summarizing the first month’s results, the publisher was generally very happy with the revenues and feedback, but he highlighted one email from a frequent visitor, who complained about an ad that was not relevant. My first response to the complaint was – Great, this is good news! How come? Simple. It’s true that an irrelevant ad is not a good user experience. But, if we had one complaint out of 20 million visitors, we have a very good success ratio. There are no guarantees that any contextual advertising technology would be perfect. There’s nothing like a bullet-proof method with perfect relevance, not even Google AdSense, and as long as the vast majority of ads are relevant, this should suffice.
Is it really not relevant?
In text ads can be less relevant when the content is not focused. Any contextual algorithm, as smart as it can be, would have problems with pages that are a mix of issues. In such cases, the ad should at least be relevant to the hook – the highlighted term.
Another factor that can reduce relevancy is geography. When the visitor comes from a country with less online advertising, it could be difficult to match the ads with high relevancy. To improve this, make sure with your provider that he has enough advertising coverage in the countries where your most important visitors come from, and be tolerant to less relevant ads in other regions.
Last but not least, relevancy is in the eye of the advertiser. While you may think that an ad is not relevant, take into consideration that the advertiser has specifically chosen to match the ad to the term and context. A professional in text ads provider only places ads with direct response to advertising campaigns which target context and terms. For example, if the chosen term was “London Hotel”, you would probably expect a travel ad. But then, if you see an ad for a t-shirt website, don’t be alarmed. It could be that this t-shirt website is now selling new Madonna merchandise, and Madonna is on her way to a big concert in London; hence, the advertiser is trying to target tourists who head to London for the show.
Are your Hooks Relevant?
In addition to measuring the relevancy of the ads to the content, another important factor would be the relevancy of the highlighted terms to the content. Before any visitor hovers over an ad, visitors show interest in links which are relevant to the content. When the highlighted terms are relevant, you should see higher rates of hovers. Matching the ads themselves comes next. So first, ask yourself – are the terms relevant? This should be a good start.
You can improve In Text Ads Relevancy
In these cases when you still feel that the in text ads on your website are not relevant enough, consider the following options. First, calculate how serious this issue is. If you’re thinking about just a few ads out of thousands, then it’s probably not a serious problem. Second, consider the context and the geography – the more focused the content, and the bigger the market for online advertising in this country, the higher the relevance should be. If the market is not that big and the content is not very focused, achieving high relevancy would be difficult. Third, look from the advertiser’s point of view – he thought the ad is relevant, so try to understand it.
If, after considering these options, you still feel that the ads are not relevant, then it’s time to contact your in text ads provider. There’s much you can do together. Your provider can work with you to improve the algorithm and customize it to your website, direct specific advertisers to your website, and assist you with monitoring and analyzing results. After all, it is contextual advertising.