Contextual Advertising: What Is Contextual Advertising?


Contextual advertising is advertising on a website that is relevant to the page’s content. In traditional contextual advertising, automated systems display ads related to the content of your site based on keyword targeting.

Contextual advertising refers to the practice of placing ads on web pages based on the content of those pages. For example, this could be ads for running shoes on a news article about running, or it could be ads for laptops on a tech ecommerce site. This is done through contextual targeting on an ad network, which involves segmenting ads based on parameters like keyword or website topic.


One of the more well-known examples of contextual advertising is Google AdSense. Google robots automatically serve ads that relevant to your users. For example, if you run a movie review blog, AdSense might serve contextual ads to buy movie tickets or sign up for a movie streaming service. The ads are selected from the inventory of advertisers who register through AdWords.

Some more examples of contextual advertising include:

  • In-game contextual advertising: Sony’s Wipeout HD was one of the first games to contain contextual advertising before loading.
  • In-video contextual advertising: An example of this type of contextual advertising would be a YouTube ad for shampoo shown before a video tutorial for how to cut your own hair.
  • Native advertising is a form of contextual advertising, where sponsored ads are designed to look like the native content on a website. (This is sometimes seen as a deceptive advertising practice.)
  • Behavioral advertising is expected to become the next frontier of contextual advertising. Behavioral advertising is designed to target the user based on their behavior rather than just the user’s stated preferences.

What is Contextual traffic?

Imagine scrolling through a website that gives you information about car parts and accessories and getting hit with a dynamic ad for some latest car accessories in the market.

The idea is to target the ad at a section of people who are more likely to hit the “buy” tab. This is where the relevance of the term “contextual traffic” comes in.

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Contextual traffic also referred to as PPV (Pay per view) form of advertising. Since only the relevant ads are put on a particular website, affiliates are required to pay per view of the ad (irrespective of the user clicking on it).

How does contextual advertising work?

Let’s get down to the real deal. How are contextual ads placed, and what is the working methodology behind it?

As mentioned earlier, the concept used here is hyper-targeted advertising. Ads are placed on relevant websites or blogs by selecting the right keywords and pairing them with the content available on the website.

Google Ads analyses the content to understand the core theme, match it against relevant keywords, topics, demographics, users, and their browsing habits, and places it accordingly.

Users may hence not necessarily be searching for you, but their browsing history and real-time data allows Google Ad Sense to place dynamic content in front of them.

For example, you would have noticed YouTube Ads showcasing relevant products popping up at the right time. Imagine the impact when a user gets to see a brief video of your product while browsing through related content!

The process

Following are the key steps that are followed during contextual targeting:

  1. Keyword selection: Target keywords, as well as topics and phrases, are added to the Display Network ad groups.
  2. Google Ads analyses the keywords and co-relates them with matching websites. The software analyzes various features like links, page structure, content, images, etc. displayed on the site. Ads are therefore matched to the website’s central theme.
  3. Ads are placed.

While the steps mentioned above are the basic process of displaying a contextual ad, modern technology and the use of behavior data has made it far more advanced than this.

Behavioral targeting and Native advertising (discussed later in the article) are some additional tools that are used in the contextual ad formats.

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