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Contextual Advertising: The Best Way To Reach Your Target Audience

Contextual targeting: is it just the latest advertising fad, or is it a topic worth exploring? If you’re an advertiser, the answer should be clear: contextual ads are a must to reinvigorate and future-proof your campaigns! Why is this targeting method making such a big comeback into the spotlight, and how does it measure up to behavioral targeting?

In this article, we’re going to answer these exact questions. We’ll take a closer look at contextual advertising, how advertisers can benefit from this targeting method, and:

  • Explain what contextual targeting is and why it’s important for advertisers.
  • Discuss the differences between contextual and behavioral targeting.
  • Cover the benefits of contextual advertising.

Let’s start with a brief explanation and example of contextual advertising.

What Is Contextual Advertising And How Is It Relevant For Advertisers?

Simply put, contextual advertising refers to the method of targeting and matching ads with the content of the page where the ad is displayed. By doing so, brands, businesses, and services can connect with their audience at the perfect moment - when users are actually consuming content relevant to the ad or brand.

rev•amp scans the pages from our publishers’ network to ensure our system understands the content and context of the pages. We use that information to match our client’s ads to the perfect relevant content. In doing so, we increase the chances of interested users clicking on your ads, boosting your CTRs and return on ad spend.

Contextual Targeting Vs. Behavioral Targeting

As we mentioned above, contextual targeting is all about displaying ads relevant to the content and context of the page. For example, if a user is looking at an article recommending the best web design tools, an advertisement for Elementor or WPBakery would be considered contextually relevant.

Behavioral targeting shows the user ads based on their actions before reaching the current page. For example, let’s say that you spent yesterday browsing different types of accounting software. Today, you’re reading about your favorite celebrities on a news site, and you suddenly see an advertisement for accounting software. While the ad isn’t relevant to the page itself, it might be to you - after all, your cookies and browsing behavior indicate that you’ve recently been looking for just this type of software!

That’s the difference between contextual advertising and behavioral targeting in a nutshell.

The Benefits Of Contextual Advertising For Advertisers

Advertisers can undoubtedly benefit from including contextually targeted ads within their campaigns. Below, we will look at a few of the most prominent benefits.

Future-Proof Ads: No Reliance On Cookies

One of the most significant benefits of contextual ads, and likely one of the reasons for its return to the spotlight, is that it doesn’t rely on third-party cookies. Instead, ads relevant to the content and context of the page are displayed.

Once cookies are completely phased out, likely by 2023, traditional targeting methods like behavioral targeting will struggle to compete with relevance-based targeting methods like contextual ads. In short, contextual ads will remain effective regardless of the changes to third-party cookies and user privacy regulations.

Cost-Effective And Higher Click-Through Rates (CTR)

Behavioral targeting can become extremely expensive. There are several ways these ads can be personalized, relying on data collection, analytical tools, and skilled teams to make the campaigns remotely effective. These cookie-based ads typically get a 0.01% click-through rate despite the time, effort, and expense they demand.

Contextual ads are a lot more cost-effective in comparison. It takes far fewer resources and, while not as customizable as behavioral ads, is still significantly more effective. According to our research, contextual ads that are appropriately matched with a page’s content can boast a click-through rate up to x3 times!

More Relevant To A User’s Current Needs

Rather than focusing on what your audience has done before (behavioral targeting), contextual ads focus on what they want right now. For example, suppose a user is currently looking at an article regarding cybersecurity solutions. In that case, they might be more interested in an ad for a VPN than seeing one for a microwave they looked at two weeks ago.

That hyper-relevance is one of the reasons why contextual ads enjoy far higher click-through rates than behavioral targeting.

Non-Intrusive And Compliant With User Privacy Requirements

According to the General Data Protection Act (GDPR), cookies collect personal user information. It, and other privacy laws, have strict rules as to how this private data can be collected and used. Consequently, collecting data regarding a user’s online browsing behavior is far more challenging than just a few years ago. Today, your target audience must consent to allow cookies and data collection. Without the permission of your audience, you’re blind to their movements, interests, and buying behavior.

Other factors also affect the efficacy of behavioral targeting, even without the issue of privacy. Many consumers might find it intrusive, repetitive, and even downright creepy. For some, it feels like ads stalk them across the internet, and the feeling of being “surveilled” is not a popular one.

Contextual advertising doesn’t depend on the same methods of gathering data or intruding on a user’s privacy. As such, it is already compliant with these privacy laws and regulations. More importantly, it focuses on providing users with non-intrusive ads relevant to their current browsing activity.

Brand-Safe Method Of Advertising

Brand safety has been a concern since the beginning of programmatic advertising. Traditionally, advertisers have very little control over where their ads show since they target users rather than content. That has seen several near-catastrophic events in the past few years.

For example, in 2017, several brands saw a massive backlash as their advertisements were displayed on terrorist and hate speech videos. Consequently, the video giant had to revamp its entire advertising approval process. Similarly, due to reliance on the automated advertising process, brands have seen ads displayed on disreputable sites and offensive content without their knowledge or approval.

With contextual advertising, brands can rest assured that their creatives will be displayed next to relevant, approved content, protecting their image and consumers’ perception thereof.

Conclusion - Which Is Better: Contextual Advertising Or Behavioral Targeting?

There are disadvantages to both behavioral and contextual targeted ads. For example, contextual ads might not always align with the commercial interests of a website’s visitors. However, behavioral targeting can make users feel like their privacy is being invaded and, with third-party cookies being phased out, might soon be far less effective.

We can’t claim that it’s the single best targeting strategy available - there are far too many pros, cons, and relevant factors to consider. That said, contextual targeting is quickly growing in popularity due to successful campaigns, excellent ROIs for advertisers, and affordability. More importantly, hurdles such as stricter privacy and cookie-collection laws weaken the efficacy of behavioral targeting.

It’s critical to consider your options and campaign goals and then speak with an expert to see which method will deliver the best results. Even so, we’re confident that contextual ads are an excellent addition to any advertiser’s strategy. 

Richard is the Adtech Product Lead at Softonic. As Adtech Product Lead, Richard is responsible for improving overall revenue and ad performance for all our properties, including rev•amp, Softonic’s new publisher monetization platform. Within rev•amp Richard oversees development for the rev•amp monetization stack, both innovations and the improvement of existing technologies.
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