Google expands ad targeting methods

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter


(NEW YORK) CNNMoney.com -- Google is now offering more relevant ads to users who view sites on its AdSense network, the company announced in a blog post Thursday.

AdSense is a network of Web sites on which Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) delivers ads. It uses "referral URLs," or information that shows how users arrive at a site, in order to target which ads appear.

For example, a user searching for "baseball glove" might click on a baseball news blog in the search results. The words "baseball glove" used in the original query would appear in the referral URL passed on to the blog's site.

AdSense treats the query words in the referral URL as part of the content on the Web page and uses the overall content to figure out which are the most relevant ads. It doesn't matter where the search originated -- the query could have come from Microsoft's (MSFT, Fortune 500) Bing, Yahoo! (YHOO, Fortune 500) or another search engine.

Now, Google says it has "recently started to expand the use of the query words ... to a few hours so we can continue to deliver more relevant ads."

After "a few hours," Google wrote, the query words are no longer treated as part of the sites' content to help deliver ads. And if a user starts a new search, the process begins all over again -- AdSense does not add new query words to the referral URL.

The referral URL is one of several pieces of information that Google uses to target ads. Users can opt out of the advertising "cookie," or tracking file, used for AdSense. If users opt out they will receive less targeted ads.

Karsten Weide, media analyst at IDC said consumers don't need to be concerned, as Google doesn't know anything about the user behind the machine.

"It only identifies your computer -- they don't know your name or address, and frankly, they don't care," Weide said. "All they need to know is this person at this machine for a few hours has this certain interest at the moment."

Google's move will likely benefit advertisers more in the short term, but over time consumers may change how they view ad targeting, Weide said.

"In 20 years, we'll see this targeted content fit seamlessly with what we're interested in," Weide said. "It will be so well-matched that we won't even think of it as marketing."

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that AdSense is an ad server, and that it uses search history to target ads. It also incorrectly stated that the changes described in this article also affect ads seen on Google.com searches. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,982.59 22.02 0.13%
Nasdaq 4,444.91 -4.65 -0.10%
S&P 500 1,978.91 0.57 0.03%
Treasuries 2.49 0.02 0.89%
Data as of 5:17pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 99.02 1.35 1.38%
Facebook Inc 74.92 -0.27 -0.36%
Bank of America Corp... 15.50 -0.09 -0.58%
Dollar Tree Inc 54.87 -0.08 -0.15%
Family Dollar Stores... 75.74 15.08 24.86%
Data as of 4:03pm ET

Sections

The SEC fines the Massachusetts gun maker for bribing officials when trying to secure sales contracts with overseas military and law enforcement agencies. More

New annual report from U.S. government shows the long-term prognosis for Medicare has improved thanks to slower health spending, while the outlook for Social Security remains unchanged. More

Online dating site OkCupid found its users were more likely to have conversations when it told them they were more compatible than in reality. More

Actor-founded This Bar Saves Lives had Hollywood connections, but learned Start-Up 101 the hard way. More

Ali Ewoldt has performed in Broadway musicals and TV shows. Her days consist of auditions, rehearsals, and being on stage in front of hundreds of people at a time. Here are journal entries from a day in her life. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.