Google AdWords has a very useful targeting feature for delivering ads to users within its display network called interest categories. Interest categories are buckets of users who have been classified as interested in a category based on their browsing behavior. There are over a thousand of these categories and some 500 million users classified. If you browse the Web, you’ve been classified.
From an advertiser perspective interest categories are awesome. We use them here at SEO Services to deliver outstanding results both for client branding and direct response initiatives. We like interest categories because they expand the targeted audience available to an advertiser and provide a layer of control when combined with other display targeting options such as contextual or re-marketing.
On the other side of the coin are the internet users who are being classified. Their perspective is not always so rosy because for some it seems like a violation of privacy. Personally I think that behavioral targeting is a great thing. I want to be shown ads that are highly relevant to my interests. I don’t want to see ads for senior living or baby toys – I want to see ads for solutions to my particular wants and needs. If an advertiser can figure out what I need based on my browsing history they have saved me time and made my life more efficient.
Like them or not you’ve probably been classified. Here’s how to view, edit, remove and even opt out of interest category ads. Navigate to the following URL http://www.google.com/settings/ads/onweb. Under the “Your Categories” section select “remove or edit” which should bring you to a page that contains table like this:
It’s definitely an interesting experience see the categories that Google has matched to your browsing history for the first time. My demographics are spot on and I’ve been browsing eCard sites for a client which explains that category.
If you’re like me you’d rather not see ads for Cards & Greetings, but marketing and search engine solutions would be useful. First click “remove” on any existing categories you don’t like, then add your preferences:
Google’s transparency and user enabled controls for interest categories are impressive, but there’s much more to the Web than Google. If you’d like to know more about how you’re being tracked online beyond Google try downloading Collusion, a Firefox add-on that allows you to see all the third parties that are tracking you across the Web.
How have you been tracked and categorized and what is your opinion of behavioral targeted advertisements? If you have an interesting experience as a user or advertiser lets continue the conversation in the comments.