Contextual Targeting

As a marketer or business owner, you need your marketing efforts to reach your intended audience. Whilst there are various methods for getting your marketing products/ services in front of the right people, contextual targeting is a cost-effective and simple strategy to reach your targeted audience. 

Using contextual targeting, you can create more relevant advertising and attract audiences who showed an interest in trends connected to your products or services.

So, if you wish to create relevant ads to expand your online presence, contextual targeting is your solution! Read the article from start to finish to gain a thorough understanding of how contextual targeting works.


What Is Contextual Targeting? 

Contextual targeting, also known as contextual advertising, is an advertisement technique that places ads based on the content of a specific web page or website.

For instance, let’s assume you own an apparel business. In such a case, you could leverage contextual targeting to show ads for gym gear on websites that discuss workout programs, review protein powders, or offer personal gym trainers.

Contextual targeting allows your adverts to appear on web pages with content that is relevant to your products or services. There are various contextual targeting strategies businesses can employ to run ads. Some of the common Contextual targeting techniques include:

  • Category contextual targeting: The type of contextual targeting that displays adverts based on broad categories, such as beauty, automobiles, or money is called category contextual targeting. It is the simplest type of contextual targeting, and due to its large scope, it is not always entirely accurate.
  • Semantic contextual targeting: It is a more advanced technique that often employs machine learning to assess the context of a certain internet page to determine if your ad is a suitable fit or not.
  • Keyword contextual targeting: Your ads are displayed on web pages based on the target keywords you define. This form of contextual targeting gives you greater control—and possibly more accuracy — when placing ads.


How Does Contextual Targeting Work?

Once a website undergoes crawling or the content of the site or application has been assessed, the acquired data is forwarded to advertising networks. These advertising networks, in turn, make this information available to advertisers for contextual targeting.

As Google explains, this is how the process of matching relevant ads to the content is followed, 

Google’s system analyses each webpage’s content to identify its central theme, which is then aligned with your advertisement via your keywords or topic preferences, location targeting and language, the visitor’s recent browsing history, and various other factors.

As you can see, contextual ads rely on keywords, topics, location, etc., rather than individual user behaviours or interests when configuring your ad targeting.


Contextual Vs. Behavioral Targeting

Many people confuse contextual targeting with behavioural targeting. While behavioural and contextual advertising are both types of targeted advertising, there are some key differences between the two. 

Contextual advertising focuses on the setting in which users are browsing, whereas behavioural targeting is directed at the consumers themselves. In spite of the type of contextual targeting you choose, this technique works by placing ads on websites and pages based on their semantics and categories rather than user activity.

Behavioural targeting, conversely, considers user activities and behaviour patterns to position ads accordingly. For instance, a behavioural targeting tool might observe that a user has visited several websites offering kitchen knives and then utilise this data to display ads for kitchen knives on other web pages the user visits. In behavioural targeting, the focus is on matching the behaviour patterns of an individual user rather than enhancing the relevance of on-page content.

However, did you know that since the introduction of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, behavioural targeting has almost gone off iOS? Which makes contextual targeting much more critical than before

Take a look at this table to have a better understanding of contextual and behavioural targeting. 


Aspect Contextual Targeting Behavioral Targeting
Basis for Targeting Contextual targeting bases its ad placements on the content of the web page being viewed by the user. Behavioural targeting bases its ad placements on the user’s actions and behaviour patterns observed over time.
Data Used Uses keywords, topics, and the overall content of the web page to determine the most relevant ads to display. Uses data such as browsing history, search queries, purchase history, and click patterns to determine which ads to display.
Primary Focus To align advertisements with the content of the current page that the user is viewing. To align advertisements with the past behaviour and interests of a particular user.
Personalization Level Generally, it offers a lower level of personalization because it targets based on page content rather than individual user behaviour. Offers a high level of personalization by tailoring ads to the specific interests and behaviours of the user.
User Privacy Concerns Typically, it raises fewer privacy concerns since it does not track individual user behaviour across different websites. Can raise significant privacy concerns because it involves tracking and analysing individual user activities over time.
Effectiveness Particularly effective for placing content-relevant ads that align with the topics users are currently engaged with. Effective for placing interest-based and retargeting ads that align with the user’s past behaviours and interests.
Adaptability Quick to adapt to new content Requires continuous monitoring and updating of user profiles


What Are The Benefits?

Contextual targeting offers many benefits that make it a valuable advertising strategy. When implemented effectively, it can help you reach a broader and more relevant audience for your products and services. Here are some of the key benefits of contextual targeting.

  1. Reach a Receptive Audience: A major benefit of contextual targeting is its ability to quickly reach a receptive audience. Whether your contextual ads are based on categories or keywords, the ads can appear on pages where they provide users with value.
  2. More Affordable Advertising Methods: Setting up a contextual targeting campaign is generally simple and more affordable than a behavioural marketing campaign. Businesses with smaller budgets can display relevant ads while getting more value for their money by using this technique. 
  3. Easier to Implement: It is convenient as it doesn’t require much time or data to set up. You can get a contextual targeting campaign started in just a few steps. 
  4. Increase Sales: Contextual targeting helps you increase sales by serving relevant ads to a receptive audience. Expanding your audience through contextual targeting can get more people to visit your business website and boost sales. Some studies show that they can raise purchasing intent by 63%.
  5. Cookie-less Advertising:  One advantage of contextual targeting over behavioural targeting is that it doesn’t need to use cookies. This makes it much easier for advertisers to stay compliant with relevant laws when engaging in contextual marketing.



Contextual targeting is a great way to ensure that your marketed products or services reach their desired audience. Unlike behavioural targeting, it focuses on placing ads based on the content of specific web pages or websites. This approach is not only affordable but also easier to implement. Serving relevant ads to users engaged with related content can help you drive increased website traffic and, ultimately, greater sales. Not only that, its cookie-less nature ensures compliance with privacy regulations.

In short, if you’re looking for a practical solution to maximise your advertising impact and reach your desired audience effectively, Contextual targeting is the best way to achieve it.