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Contextual advertising

What is contextual advertising

What is contextual advertising?

By definition, contextual advertising is a type of targeted online advertising, the display of which takes into account the keywords and content of a web page. In other words, this is the practice of placing advertisements using unique automated systems that display on the site only those ads that are related to its theme and, therefore, should be exciting and valuable to users. So, for example, there may be an advertisement for inexpensive movie tickets on a site with film reviews, an ad for glasses in an article about eye health, another to highlight a new sneaker model in the text about the benefits of running, and so on. That is why such ads are called contextual advertising - they are based on users' interests and search queries.

It is also important to emphasize that contextual advertising can combine several formats and be a regular text ad. It is important to keep in mind that users prefer textual and graphic advertising, consisting of a headline, a brief accompanying text, and a hyperlink or an active picture; by clicking on one of these, you will be redirected to the website for the product.

Contextual advertising can also be in the form of a banner. Search engine contextual advertising typically appears below the query line and offers products that will quickly interest the user and have a chance of becoming an "impulse purchase." Also, contextual advertising can be found on websites, social networks, and YouTube. An embedded commercial can be displayed in a video, reminding viewers of a product or service they may be interested in. For example, when you watch a video on how to apply makeup, an advertisement for a new cosmetics line may appear. This is called contextual advertising.

A marketing tool for placing contextual ads is targeting. This is a common name for online advertising distributed on various online platforms. Thanks to targeting, each ad finds its target audience according to specified criteria and keywords. Google AdSense is one of the most popular and widely used platforms for contextual advertising. This service from Google developers automatically places ads on sites suitable for the context. The monetization process of the site and income depends on the number of clicks and impressions of the ads placed. Therefore, its cost is measured in CPC, or Cost Per Click, the amount the advertiser pays for one click.

What is the difference between contextual advertising and behavioral advertising?

difference between contextual advertising and behavioral advertising

Contextual advertising may remind you of behavioral marketing. The question then becomes, how are these approaches different? After all, both are primarily customer-oriented marketing strategies.

Behavioral advertising involves studying customer behavior, psychology of choice, and economic decision-making. It is based, first of all, on observing consumers and their actions. Algorithms of advertising services specifically collect data about users on the Internet, for example, the history of their actions on sites, key queries in search engines, likes and views, and purchases. The collected data is used to display targeted advertising to the target audience. Let's say you were interested in financial management in business just recently, and now your Facebook page advertises special software for accounting. This means that the mobile mechanism of behavioral advertising has worked.

Meanwhile, contextual advertising is created based on keywords on the web page, not on data about the users themselves. We can say that contextual advertising does not try to study the consumer or analyze their requests and needs. It relies on the content of a particular site. That is, if the user goes to the site about innovations and technology of the future, then, most likely, they will be interested in the advertisement of a new gadget. Thus, contextual advertising is associated exclusively with the content of the web page that the user is visiting. That is why it is so important and beneficial to both parties. Such advertising makes it easier to navigate the agenda and tell publishers what buyers are interested in right now, unlike behavioral advertising, which relies on previous user requests.

How contextual advertising works

How contextual advertising works

Contextual advertising involves targeting using a special platform, such as Google AdSense, as previously mentioned. This service directly deals with placing ads on web pages corresponding to the specified parameters and keywords. Here's how the process works:

Stage 1. Comprehensive analysis

Before implementing any advertising, whether contextual or otherwise, it is necessary to conduct market research and develop a promising and optimal marketing plan to set up, launch, and maintain the campaign over time. You should also study direct competitors, analyze their advertisements, and determine their advantages and disadvantages. After that, you must select the critical goal of launching your advertising: increasing brand awareness, boosting sales, driving traffic to your website, etc. You should then compose the advertisement's text directly and create an illustration or banner to accompany it. And all other processes will take place now on a particular service for targeting.

Stage 2. Choosing parameters for contextual targeting

For advertising to be as effective as possible and attract new customers, the targeting service needs to understand what the company does, what products it produces, and what target audience it is aimed at. To determine this, there are two main parameters:

  • The topic is the most expansive criterion and is virtually limitless. It can be fashion, sports, industry, agriculture, transport, music, or science. For example, a technology company that develops artificial intelligence can relate to innovation, a small family cake-baking business to cooking, and the educational platform Lectera to education. So, after defining the topic, that is, the key area of application of the advertised product, its advertising will be displayed on all sites of the Google network related to the chosen topic. After that, you can decide on a subtopic for the query in order to be more precise. For example, in the case of the Lectera platform, its advertising can be displayed both on general education sites and on specific websites, for example, online learning, self-development, and soft skills training.

  • Keywords are designed for more accurate and detailed targeting within the previously selected topic and subtopic. Each company should be characterized by at least ten words that will help match the advertisement and the website's content. An ad placed by a car company, for example, could have keywords such as car models, their main parameters, and descriptions. For Lectera, the keywords will be the names of the courses, the skills and abilities that can be enhanced on them, and the professions that can be learned.

With the chosen topic, keywords can form the most detailed and reliable understanding of the company and on which sites its advertising will be most useful.

Stage 3. Website analysis and targeting

After receiving a detailed description of the company and its product, the advertising system should analyze all the network pages and match the advertisement with the most relevant content. In advertising, all parameters are taken into account: writing style, volume, keywords, links, images, and format.

At this stage, you can also select and specify a wide or narrower coverage. In the first case, ads will be displayed on all sites related to the general theme of the product; that ad will be based on thematic targeting. And in the second case, advertising will be displayed only on those web pages that match the keywords. However, the probability of interest and attracting new customers will be much higher since the request is more specific.

Stage 4. Advertising

After taking the necessary actions in the previous stages, the algorithm of the advertising service determines the most suitable and optimal place for an advertisement.

Benefits of contextual advertising

Benefits of contextual advertising

Contextual advertising is based on the environment or ecosystem in which the user lives, visits sites, makes purchases and performs other actions. So, it has several advantages for publishers and users. Among them are:

  1. Simplicity and accessibility of implementation

Unlike behavioral marketing, contextual advertising does not require collecting a large amount of data about users and further systematizing and analyzing it. Furthermore, contextual advertising uses fewer tools, simplifying its implementation while maintaining similar effectiveness.

  1. Unlimited by privacy law

It's no secret that many internet users are wary of disclosing their personal information. However, to run an effective behavioral advertising campaign, you need to collect a lot of user data, such as the websites they visit, the videos and links they follow, what comments and reviews they leave, and what materials they like. As this information needs to be kept up to date, data protection law (GDPR) can be a significant hurdle in obtaining the users' permission. But contextual advertising does not require personal information, simplifying its use and not raising suspicion among users.

  1. Control and easy management of brand reputation

One of the main risks of behavioral advertising is the inability to control the user's digital behavior. More and more companies are discovering their ads on unsafe sites related to extremist content, for example. This is the main danger of advertising dependent on user behavior. However, this risk practically disappears if you use contextual advertising based on keywords and thematic targeting. It only depends on what sites users visit, what they watch on video hosting sites, or what links they follow.

  1. Invisibility for users

It is rare for users to recognize contextual advertising because the calls for purchase are not so obvious. Thus, there is no desire to skip the ad unit immediately.

  1. Potential benefits for users

Contextual advertising offers products or services that can be useful to the user since they are already interested in the related topic. The proposed product might be helpful in solving the problem or avoiding other difficulties. For example, suppose a user watches a YouTube video on making repairs independently and comes across an advertisement for suitable building materials. In that case, this offer will be helpful to and in demand right now. Furthermore, the same characteristic contributes to the rapid transition of users to the site and increases traffic, as they are initially interested in the products offered.


Thus, contextual advertising is an effective alternative to behavioral marketing. At the same time, it is okay to introduce only one of these types of advertising. You can actively use contextual and behavioral marketing because these methods can give the best result. However, the benefits of contextual advertising are hard to miss. At the lowest cost, it can increase website conversion and brand awareness, attract new customers and increase sales. Contextual advertising is one of the fastest and most effective ways to promote a brand, which rapidly leads to positive results without requiring significant economic investments and time costs.