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How to best use contextual advertising

How to best use contextual advertising

By Ben Manning (pictured) and Andreas Andreou, TradeDoubler UK.

Online consumers are becoming ever more savvy, and the need for solutions to more effectively engage with them through targeted, relevant advertising is growing. The good news is: contextual advertising can do just that and all for low hassle and high returns.

Essentially, contextual advertising systems help make your online advertising campaigns more targeted and relevant to the user. The system will scan the text of a website for keywords and serve up ads to that webpage based on what the user is viewing at that time – either through placed ads or pop-ups.

For instance, if you’re on a football website, the system may serve up ads for a sports retailer or ticket-seller. 

By improving the relevancy of advertising on publisher websites, internet users are more likely to respond, helping to drive higher quality click-throughs and increase results for both publishers and advertisers alike.

Many solutions enable ads to be served across a variety of text, product and display ad formats.

Most importantly, good contextual advertising allows you to be relevant, but not random. You can customise your campaign without diluting your brand value or consistency.

Most market-leading solutions ensure complete control and transparency, with advertisers only appearing on approved sites and publishers only receiving ads for advertisers they have applied to. 

It is important to remember, however, that one-size does not fit all when it comes to contextual advertising.  The performance of the ad depends on the type, topic and tone of the site – web directories as well as targeted, vertically themed sites, blogs or user generated content all perform particularly well, whereas heavy news or medium-sized generic sites can be less effective.

Depending on the type of site, the performance of different ad formats will also vary.

So, how can advertisers make sure they are getting the most from contextual advertising solutions?

Do your homework: There is a whole host of different contextual ad formats available – inline, intext, pop-ups, pop-unders – it is important to get to know the difference and choose the method that best fits your objectives.

Take your time: Contextual advertising works best on an ongoing basis – short-term campaigns are difficult to track and won’t have time to get real traction and start generating revenue. You’ll also need time to test and refine your approach.

Bespoke content:  Consider using unique creative for your contextual campaigns. The more focused the content and the more commercial it is, the better it tends to perform.

Be relevant:  Contrary to popular belief, contextual targeting doesn’t affect the performance or ranking of your ads, but clearly the more relevant your keywords, text and landing pages, the better.

Be specific: Contextual advertising works particularly well in some situations, but not in all so take the time to find out what works best for you. Invest the time and money in testing and trialling contextual advertising so that you can find the right formula.
Be exhaustive: Look for size and depth of contextual networks to give your advertising the greatest chance of positive matches to content.

Back it up: For the instances when no match is made, make sure you have a back up ad available and a solution that allows you to place it, just in case.

Be sensitive: Choose a flexible solution that allows a combination of manual and automated matching and make full use of any blocking or sensitivity filters.  Ensure you opt for a network where your ads will only appear on approved publisher sites.

Look beyond the big search players: There’s more to contextual advertising than Adsense and Contentmatch and more to it than simply a bolt-on to search engine marketing – shop around and make sure you find a solution that offers you full control and transparency.

Made to measure: Make sure you closely track your ROI through analytics or conversion tracking to ensure you are getting the most out of your contextual ads and can better plan how to focus your efforts going forward.

Where possible, ensure you are tracking content campaigns uniquely e.g. by specific keyword and url and via a range of different metrics.

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