Is There a Flaw in Google's Behavioral Targeting?

Oct 29, 2007 • 10:10 am | comments (4) by twitter | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Eric Lander wrote an interesting post over at Search Engine Journal about a "flaw" in Google's behavioral targeting.

Here's an example:

First, do a search for "florida ford dealers" and look at the sponsored results. Everything looks fine and there are no strange ads.

Behavioral Targeting: "florida ford dealers" (Click for larger size)

Now let's do a search that immediately follows that for "new york yankees." Look at the sponsored results!

Behavioral Targeting: "new york yankees"

He and forum members believe that this is a problem. After all, I wasn't searching for Ford that time around.

Clearly, advertisers are put at risk with their ads being served up on irrelevant result pages. To make matters worse, it’s clear that the maximum cost per click associated with an ad can allow it to effectively dominate keyword markets it has no business being in.

In some instances, however, it works well. The chances, however, for that to occur seem to be rare from my testing. For example, I searched for "florida dodge dealers" and then for "car dealers." Only one sponsored result was geared to Florida.

Behavioral Targeting, Take 2: "florida dodge dealers"

Note that it is the third sponsored result:

Behavioral Targeting Take 2: "car dealers"

So what's your take? Is behavioral targeting a good idea or not? Google has appeared to be unexcited about it and it makes sense. I can see that people are not enthusiastic about it. Forum members hope that advertisers aren't charged as much.

Forum discussion continues at DigitalPoint Forums.

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Jonathan Dingman

10/29/2007 08:33 pm

What's odd is that I when I go and try those exact search queries, they return the correct sponsored listings. Is this possibly a particular issue to geo-targeting or potentially just a datacenter issue?

Xavier VESPA

10/29/2007 08:53 pm

@Jonathan: The same happens to me. I believe they should mix individual targeting (like Google's) wih socially-powered searches (check out Sproose's idea, socially-powered search engine) to make their ad system more intelligent.


04/04/2008 10:38 pm

There are a handful of patents relating to the issue such as covered here; I do agree that it certainly can miss the mark. More tweaking of the dials. Interesting when they try and think for us :0) Dave

No Name

03/11/2009 06:17 pm

Google’s new Behavioral Targeting: Looking Beyond Keywords - I’m writing a series of blog posts about the beginning of main stream network traffic mapping: The natural evolution of Search and Advertising is to move beyond keywords alone and to start using the preference data that emerges out of our individual decisions as we navigate through the gamut of media content. I think this will get really interesting. -ThinkSketch

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