Contextual Advertising Simplified: A Beginner’s Guide

Contextual Advertising Simplified: A Beginner’s Guide

A couple of weeks ago, I was searching for the perfect hair care products to rejuvenate my hair. Needless to say, I did my complete research – browsing websites, seeing YouTube video, asking friends and even checking posts by influencers on social media. Eventually, I logged into my Amazon account, added the products to the cart but right before I could click ‘Buy’ I changed my mind. I didn’t want to purchase the products anymore until today when I finally purchased one of them. 

Now, you might be wondering why am I sharing this here? Well, that’s because I realised, what you see frequently is what you end up buying. But more than that, it is the location or relevance where you see it. In our context – I am talking about an Ad. 

Take, for instance, these two images listed below: 

Note: The two products being shown in the images are brands I was actively searching for in the last couple of weeks and are actual screenshots.

Image 1: Source: Instagram

Image 2: Source: Look Like This (beauty, makeup & fashion blog)

There are 4 main inferences, I would like to call out: 

  1. Both these products are different in terms of what they are, and the brand, however, hair care is the common thing
  2. These were the brands, if not the actual products I was actively searching for
  3. One ad is on my Instagram homepage while the other was on a website I follow
  4. And most importantly, which product did I end up purchasing and why? 

The answer is, I purchased a Kama Ayurveda product shown in the 2nd image. However, the crux of this article is not what I bought but the ‘why.’ Why did I choose to go back to my abandoned cart and make the payment for only one product? And does this impact the decision making of other users as well? Let us begin with understanding advertising:

What is Advertising?

Advertising is a way to communicate with the consumer with a motive of persuading them to take action. The primary goal of advertising can thus be said to promote or sell a product to the consumer in an effective manner. 

Advertising includes the advertiser, the page that promotes the advertisement, and the consumer who views it and decides to go through the purchase. 

There are various types of advertising models available, some of the widely incorporated ones are:

  1. Social media advertising
  2. Native ads and sponsored content
  3. Paid search advertising
  4. Broadcast media
  5. Targeted advertising

Depending on the type of advertising you think is suitable for your business you can incorporate it. Two of the most commonly known advertising types are pay-per-click advertising which falls under the paid search advertising model and contextual advertising under targeted advertising. 

In this article, we’ll be covering contextual advertising. Namely, what contextual advertising is, its benefits and how to set it up.

What is Contextual Advertising? 

As a user, many-a-times you notice blogs and websites you frequent displaying ads for related products. Sometimes, you might find Ads that have no relation to the niche of the website, other times, they do. You’ve just seen a contextual ad! 

Contextual advertising is a targeted type of advertising technique where the ad campaigns and the website or page the ad is placed is directly relevant to the user. 

From a user point of view (me in this case), I purchased Kama Ayurveda Oil because I was being targeted with it every time I visited the fashion website to check a new product or review. 

Now, from the business point of view, take, for example, if you are running a ‘Fashion and Beauty blog/website’, but your page displays a hosting or cooking Ad, the context is lost. The idea is that your website display Ads based on the product you sell, or the niche you write. In the same example, if the ad displayed on your website is a lipstick or perfume, then it will be contextual advertising.

So, even though the type of ad doesn’t mean anything to the user, you have just lost on some brand building, ROI and conversions. Context is crucial when you’re trying to ensure that your users click on the Ad displayed on your web page, so you benefit from it. 

Benefits of Contextual Advertising 

  1. Offers better user-experience to the viewers– this increases the chances of the Ads displayed on your page being clicked as they are based on website content. This also enhances the relevancy of the ad.
  2. Contextual Ads also improve the engagement rates of ad campaigns running on your website as it targets users based on context and not content alone. 

How does contextual advertising work?

Now that we’ve seen what contextual advertising is, how do you get relevant ads to display on relevant websites? Well, the answer to this is keyword targeting, topics and placements. Specific targeting helps to narrow down your pool and offers you a hassle-free experience. For this reason, Google AdSense is the perfect platform for contextual advertising.

AdSense allows you to place text-based, video and image ads on the web pages of the relevant pool of websites. This way, your ad is visible to users who aren’t necessarily searching for you directly. 

Take, for instance, the example shown below. As a user, I searched for ‘Relaxing Stress.’ However, before the video plays, I see an advertisement for ‘Mindvalley’ that talks about embracing our body energy etc. Now as a user, I didn’t search for Mindvalley, but since the YouTuber has chosen contextual advertising I could see this ad, and the chances of me clicking on it are high as it relevant to the content I searched. In this way, it is a win-win situation for both the advertiser and the page displaying the ad.

So, what contextual advertising aims, is to target the user relevancy to the ad, such that the main purpose of ROI, conversions and clicks are fulfilled. 

There are multiple advertising platforms available, however, Google AdSense is one of the leading tools. Google AdSense is one of the best and simplest tools to get started with contextual advertising. Follow the below-mentioned steps to kickstart your advertising journey!

Steps to set up contextual advertising on Google AdSense:

  1. Setup your Google AdSense account
  2. Next, to set up your Campaign, select ‘Display Network’ and click on the what you want to optimise your ad for
  3. Next, you’ll be asked for ‘Campaign Subtype’ select ‘Standard display campaign’ over ‘Gmail campaign’ as this will give you a greater audience reach 
  4. Post this you need to select your target audience and their demographics. For this, your audience pool needs to meet certain criteria they are:
    1. Affinity – This allows you to target people based on long-term interests
    2. Intent – This is the actively purchasing products space
    3. Remarketing – this allows you to target your ads to users based on their age, gender, income, parental status etc.
  5. Once you’ve set up your campaign, it is time for customising it for ‘content targeting.’ After setting up the demographics, you will see this sign ‘+ Content Targeting’ click on this to choose keywords, topics, and placements. This is of the utmost importance when it comes to contextual advertising.

Although content is said to be the king, this perspective is slowly changing with context being the new king. After all, ad campaigns targeted to users at the right place and at the right time, yield better results and improve the effectiveness of the ads to both the publishers and the users. 

Have you switched to contextual advertising? If yes, do let us know your experience in the comments section below!


H. Fatima used to be an Engineer by profession and Writer by passion until she started pursuing full-time writing. She is presently a Content Marketeer at Newfold Digital (APAC). She mostly writes what she deeply perceives and analyses, it is her way of unwinding. Her interests include writing, reading (an avid reader), watching foreign-language movies and public speaking.