While you might notice eerily personalized ads popping up as you navigate the web, unless you’re in the field of marketing you may not know how online marketing works, or where they’re finding your information.
Google has been amping up its powers with its advertising platform, Google AdWords. Meanwhile most people have been going about their daily lives unaware that they’re quite literally being targeted throughout their day.
AdWords is an online advertising service that allows advertisers to display ad copy to a targeted audience of web users, using some cookies but mostly keywords predefined by the advertiser. While it sounds innocent enough, the new intrusive tools that AdWords has created are pretty shocking and largely unknown to the public.
Here are five ways Google’s use of your personal information through AdWords may make you shudder.
1. LiveEngage Extension lets consumers message an advertiser via SMS, directly from the ad. A user searching for a product or service will see sponsored search results with a messaging icon they can tap to instantly start a text message conversation with the advertiser. While the idea is to allow users to instantly contact to a live person, as opposed to calling a toll-free number, advertisers can and will use every detail of your conversation for future advertising attempts.
2. Demographic Targeting for Ad Campaigns focuses on advertisers’ struggle to match a user’s intent to a web search. For example, if a single woman without children searches for baby bottles, advertisers may target her as a potential customer of baby-related products, not knowing that she’s just going to a baby shower and needs a gift. Demographic targeting allows advertisers to avoid wasting time and money on such mistakes. It allows them to exclude genders or age groups, or create a bid adjustment to target more of one demographic than another. This is pretty creepy, as it means Google’s technology is becoming smart enough to know our intentions, not just our buying habits or search trends.
3. Affiliate Location is huge for advertising and retailers with the upcoming holiday shopping season, but it might not look so shiny and new to consumers. The idea is to help advertisers drive users to retail stores where their products and services are sold. This is good for both the retailer and the advertiser, but it also means that when you look up an item, the results are contrived to suit the needs of the advertiser, rather than show you where you can get the best deal. The ability to promote nearby locations to a user within an AdWords ad is new, as is the generation of store-visit data for advertisers.
4. Display Keyword Targeting allows advertisers to set up a list of keywords related to their product/service/business for Google to use in delivering their ads on sites related to those keywords, but also to users potentially interested in the keywords. This is the big change in keyword targeting: Advertisers now have the ability to target people while they are viewing other content. The creep-factor here is pretty self-explanatory.
5. Cross-Device Remarketing is already being used by sites like Facebook. Now Google has jumped on the bandwagon and taken one more step toward stalking us. This mobile feature allows advertisers to essentially “follow” you as you move from your mobile phone to your tablet or other devices. And it’s not just on websites; ads can also reach you through apps, and anywhere ads can be shown. Targeting the same ads to the same users as they move across platforms is becoming a more widely accepted practice in the world of marketing, but it raises the hair on the back of your neck a little, doesn’t it?
If you think the above is the final tally of stalk-like ad tactics, you’re quite wrong. Just take a look at some of the new technologies Google has acquired and adapted in the past year alone. From Nest Smart Home devices to its own version of Amazon’s Alexa, Google has even more ways to integrate advertising into our daily, private lives by using our personal information.