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Contextual Targeting: Best Practices for Digital Marketers

Wilson Lau

Sr. SEO Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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Advertisements are most effective when the right people see them at the right time. You can test multiple digital ad campaigns over a variety of platforms and adjust accordingly in the hopes of arriving at a definite conclusion, or you can take the more efficient and accurate route: contextual targeting. 

Contextual targeting enables you to streamline your advertising efforts, personalize your ad campaigns, and target people who are already searching for products, services, or brands relevant to your ad message. Targeting the right person, in the right place, at the right time, just got a whole lot easier. 

Understanding contextual targeting will enable you to leverage this form of digital advertising to boost your brand, engage your target audience, and receive a high return on your investment. 

What Is Contextual Targeting?

Contextual targeting is a form of advertising that focuses on delivering automated targeted ads to users on specific webpages. By analyzing webpage keywords, the site content is identified. Then, ads are shown that are relevant to the web page content and the particular user.

For example, if a user reads an article about the best at-home exercises, they may also see a contextual ad for at-home fitness equipment. 

This highly personalized targeting is only available through a few key platforms, but it is set to grow in 2021. Platforms such as Google Ads,, Yahoo, Bing Network, and offer contextual targeting options for marketers. 

Best Practices for Running a Contextual Targeting Campaign

Contextual targeting delivers highly personalized ad content to users. It is the personalization aspect of this marketing strategy that makes it so effective. 90% of marketers say personalization is a significant aspect of business profitability. Even more, additional studies show that over 70% of consumers prefer personalized ads. 

So, if you are looking to enhance your customer experience while also boosting your profitability, contextual targeting is a strategy to use. Here are four best practices for running a contextual targeting campaign. 

1. Choose a variety of ad campaigns

Because contextual targeting is personalized, you will get more for your money by creating separate ad groups for each contextual ad placed. This will enable you to target more people and ensure the ads they're seeing are genuinely relevant. By analyzing your audience data, you will better understand your target audience and segment them into smaller, more clearly defined groups. Doing so will ensure your advertising efforts will be more effective.

2. Get creative with your contextual ad content

For optimal results, use a variety of ad types for your contextual targeting campaign. The three best ad variations include video ads, native ads, and behavioral ads. 

Video Ads 

Video marketing is one of the best ways to highlight your brand and engage your target audience. Coupled with the personalized features of targeted ads, video marketing is an effective contextual targeting strategy. Say, for example, a YouTube user clicks on a video about how to wrap a holiday gift — they may receive an ad for gift wrap on that page or video. With video becoming more and more popular, placing video ads is a strong strategy to use. 

Native ads

Native ads and contextual targeting go hand-in-hand. Native ads are designed to look like they are part of a webpage. Because they look like the page a user is already browsing, they are more "trustworthy" in the user's eyes. By personalizing these ads with your content and the look and feel of a native webpage, you will increase engagement with your contextual targeting campaign. 

Behavioral ads

By tailoring ads to a specific user based on their interests, online behaviors, location, etc., you can enhance contextual targeting's personalization efforts. Combining behavioral ads with contextual targeting helps you reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time. 

3. Include a clear call-to-action (CTA)

Someone only seeing your contextual ad is not good enough (unless your only goal is brand awareness). Most likely, you want them to take action. It is essential to let users know what that action is — "shop now," "click to learn more," etc. — by including a compelling CTA in your ad copy that users simply can't resist. 

When someone can identify the next step to take after viewing an ad, they are more likely to do it without question. This is especially true when the ad copy and creative elements highlight products or services they are already using, viewing or hoping to purchase. 

For more on how to craft a compelling CTA:

4. Get specific with your contextual ads' landing pages

Relevance is vital when it comes to contextual targeting. To maintain relevance throughout your campaign — from a user seeing your ad to browsing your webpage — each contextual ad should have its unique landing page. By building an effective landing page, users will be more likely to take action and further engage with your brand. 

On each landing page, be sure your campaign message is clear. This ensures that an advertising system can identify your page's primary content and place ads for that landing page on relevant webpages. You can do this by strategically placing keywords and phrases relevant to your landing page topic throughout the content on the page. 

Expand Your Contextual Targeting Efforts To See Results 

The benefits of running a contextual targeting ad campaign are vast for marketers. These highly targeted and personalized ad campaigns engage and excite users because they are seeing content they are already searching for, so it is exciting and relevant to them. This excitement leads to increased engagement with your brand and a higher return on investment. 

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