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Contextual targeting - blocks
May 30, 2024

Contextual targeting isn’t a third-party cookie replacement, but it’s part of a greater solution

Dayna Lang
Author Dayna Lang

Contextual targeting is not a one-to-one replacement for third-party cookies, but it is an important part of a holistic targeting strategy in the wake of Google’s decision to remove third-party cookies from its platform. 

Contextual targeting is effective because it connects users to relevant content, increasing the impact of ad campaigns and reducing ad fatigue. While marketers often use third-party cookies to achieve this same goal, contextual targeting relies on analysis of existing webpage content. Instead of tracking user data and behavior, marketers can use context clues from consumed content to decide how to and what to advertise. 

Contextual advertising uses algorithms and programmatic platforms to scan websites or app content. These algorithms scan keywords, phrases, and themes to determine the most appropriate ads to display. 

For instance, a make-up tutorial video would display ads for make-up or beauty products, relying on the content of the video to target users rather than user data. 

While this contextual targeting doesn’t replace the need for user data, it does provide marketers with an effective targeting tool. Marketers need a holistic strategy when looking for a replacement for third-party cookies. In addition to other techniques like behavioral targeting and first-party data, contextual targeting provides marketers with a framework for moving past their reliance on third-party cookies.

How does contextual targeting help replace cookies?

Contextual targeting helps publishers use first-party data to place ads effectively. By thoroughly analyzing content themes and topics, publishers gain insights into audience preferences and interests. They can provide advertisers with audience segments using this data – providing more valuable advertising opportunities.

Similar to third-party cookies, contextual advertising provides advantages for products and services by ensuring ads appear on relevant websites and pages. This increases the chance of reaching the right audience and finding potential customers. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) also plays a vital role in the impact of contextual targeting. One of the key advantages of AI-powered contextual targeting is its ability to target beyond keyword matching. Keywords are an essential factor of contextual targeting, but with AI, marketers can do so much more. 

AI algorithms can help marketers understand sentiments, emotions, intent, and broader content themes to better target customers. By having a holistic understanding of context, marketers can easily place ads where and when they will meaningfully resonate with users. 

Can marketers replace third-party cookies with contextual advertising?

Contextual advertising isn’t a full replacement for third-party cookies. The data available to marketers through cookies can’t be replaced one-to-one, nor should it be. The entire point of eliminating third-party cookies is to protect user data and to bring consent into the conversation surrounding data privacy.

Instead of looking for a one-to-one solution, marketers should seek out a well-rounded selection of other targeting techniques. Because of its effectiveness, contextual targeting easily fits within this realm. That said, marketers should diversify. If Google’s decision to eliminate third-party cookies has taught us anything, it’s that reliance on a single targeting method is unstable. 

Going forward, marketers should seek out multiple targeting strategies and diversify. They should also prioritize user consent and privacy at every step, protecting their potential customer and themselves in an ever-uncertain online landscape. 


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