What Is Contextual Targeting in Google Ads?

September 20, 2021

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Contextual targeting is a process through which Google Ads are matched to relevant sites in the Display Network by using keywords and topics.

The most common types of Google Ads are those run on the search network, meaning ads that will show on the SERPs right above the organic results. But the Display Network is Google’s banner ad option in which ads will be shown across millions of websites, part of the service’s Display Network.

Google estimates that these ads can reach around 90% of internet users, so let’s look closely at contextual targeting and see how it can improve your ad campaign.

How Does Contextual Targeting Work?

Google has a system in place to analyse the content of each web page in its Display Network to identify a central theme. Then, your Google Ads will be matched based on your keywords and topic selection, as well as other factors such as:

  • Location targeting
  • Language targeting
  • Behavioural targeting, such as a visitor’s browsing history (also known as behavioural advertising)
  • Negative keywords that exclude certain users or web pages

Google uses this system to ensure they show your ads only on relevant web pages, potential customers most likely to be interested in what you have to offer.

If you’re selling hunting equipment you may not want to spend hard-earned money for your Display Ads to be shown on a vegan cupcake store’s page. You two will have greatly different target audiences.

You would spend money with likely no results, but the vegan cupcake business would also not be too happy about it. Hunting equipment is not a relevant subject for them in the least.

Contextual ads are Google’s way of ensuring consumers get relevant ads on the web pages they visit, and there are 3 main steps to the process:

1. Choosing Keywords and Topics

Contextual ads need content keywords or topics added to your ad groups in the Display ad campaign.

Keywords are the words and phrases that relate to your content, while the topic can be considered the overall subject.

As a comparison: “best smartwatches Australia” is a keyword, while “smartwatches review” is a topic. The keyword targeted speaks to the ad and content of your landing page, which is likely a list or offer for the best smartwatches in Australia, while your topic shows you are interested in matching websites that have smartwatches reviews.

2. Google Analyses the Display Network

Google scans their Display Networks and gives each of them a central theme, considering multiple factors from the content found here. Once a page is given a theme, it can be matched with a display ad.

3. Where the Display Ads Get Placed

There are two ways for these ads to get placed:

  • By content keywords – Google will match your content keywords to a web page’s content or its central theme. This is done under the “automatic placement” setting;
  • By topic – if your chosen topic matches a web page’s central theme, then your ad is eligible to be shown on that page.

However, even if the ad is eligible, whether it is shown or not will be determined on the additional factors of your targeting, such as:

  • Language
  • Use demographic information
  • User behaviour.

This is roughly how contextual advertising works on Google Ads, in a nutshell.

Who Is Contextual Advertising for?

If you plan on running ads solely on the Search Network, then you don’t need to worry about the rules of contextual advertising. This is because on the search network all the other content a user will see directly ties in with their query.

For Display ads, Google wants to show users relevant ads, so the content of the web pages becomes a lot more relevant. But who is this form of advertising for?

Well, anyone when big corporations to small businesses. Contextual advertising ensures you catch your potential audience in the right place, at the right time. On the Search Network, their intent is already well established; people who search for “best Smartwatches Australia” are usually people in Australia looking to buy a smartwatch.

But some potential buyers may not be in the Googling stage just yet. Instead, they may browse another website to read about smartwatches. Wouldn’t they be interested in an ad for a store where they can buy one?

Over to You

If you want to make sure you always show your ads to the right people, we can help. Get in touch with our Google Ads Experts at Australian Internet Advertising today for a strategy session!

Billy P.

About The Author

William Polson founded Australian Internet Advertising in 2013 and has over 12 years of experience immersed in Digital Marketing.

With an in-depth level of digital marketing knowledge, William has been sort after by and worked for, many large national brands including Subaru, Blooms The Chemist, and Nova 96.9.

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