All about contextual targeting

Data & Targetings
July 8, 2021 / Author: Christina Gaydova

Banner blindness, ad blockers and user irritability towards ads are forcing the digital world to use different ways in different combinations to reach audiences. Moreover, we will face the world without cookies, and it gives the contextual targeting even more actuality. Contextual targeting is one of the most effective marketing instruments, and it doesn’t lose popularity by the time. So, let’s see how it works, why it’s so cool and what are the myths about it?


Contextual targeting is a type of targeting in which an ad is shown according to the interests of users and the context of a particular web page. To set it up, the advertiser needs to collect a list of phrases and words that can be customized to find a product.

For example, if you want to promote a sports brand, your relevant context will be the gym, training, home sports equipment, physical activity or situations when people need to use it: how to lose weight, recovery after pregnancy etc. 

Also, we can use contextual targeting for searches that search for offers from competitors and lead to a warm audience. In this case, using the tool, you can bypass targeted advertising of competitors and present yourself to the target audience.


Contextual targeting is the backbone of contextual advertising. It is used on social media, marketplaces and search engines. The process of preparing to launch contextual targeting consists of compiling a list of relevant phrases and words and creating the advertising campaign itself. It is easy to create an advertising campaign – it is enough to formulate the title and text, specify the keywords, select the audience and the theme of the sites, set the display mode, and the rest of the work will be done automatically due to platform technologies. Then the crawler bot scans the web and classifies pages based on context and semantics. When a user visits a page, information about the content of that page is sent to an ad server, which then matches it with relevant ads for keywords and content.

As a result, your ad campaign impressions match the interests and needs of the targeted audience.


  • It doesn’t annoy the audience because it is based on their searches and shown only to them. It is not shown by itself, but only in response to direct search queries of the users or by their interests. 
  • It has a small format and contains only basic information about the commercial proposal. After seeing the ads, users can go to the site or catalogue and learn about the products. 
  • Many users still perceive contextual ads in search as an element of organic search results and have fewer doubts. 
  • An accurate hit to the target audience. Using contextual targeting immediately weeds out uninterested users, and in conjunction with other types of targeting, you can further specify the audience.
  • Contextual advertising is advertising for a defined and interested audience, which, it would seem, should reduce the reach, but thanks to the versatility of the sites on which ads are placed, it is possible to attract users not only from search results. 

So, as mentioned earlier, contextual targeting has never lost its popularity. But today, on the eve of abandoning cookies (more about the cookieless era) and switching to other types, it is essential for a marketer to turn to contextual targeting in time. And they often get in the way of mistaken stereotypes and myths about what contextual targeting is and what can be done with it. Let’s take a look at the most common ones.


Contextual targeting can take over ID-based targeting
Of course, contextual targeting is an effective solution in the absence of cookies and users’ personal data, but it cannot completely replace them with its help. Even when cookies disappear completely, ID-based targeting will remain its main conductor in performance advertising. The role of context in such a scenario is to enable advertisers to different audiences] based on their relevant search queries and interests without using personal data. And this is a great contribution to the digital future.

Contextual targeting and keywords are the same things
Without a doubt, contextual targeting is directly related to keywords because this is one of the stages of setting it up. But this is at a basic level; if you look deeper, then everything is not so transparent and elementary. If you want to squeeze all the juice out of context, you need to think non-trivially and take a little risk to test all sorts of relevant content.

For example, if you are promoting a real estate agency, credit sites, banks, interior designers, and furniture can be used primarily for context. But it is also necessary to consider the life stages at which people most often buy new housing. Here, the broader context becomes relevant: wedding, childbirth, moving, a promotion at work, buying a new car, etc.

Thus, for a high-quality contextual targeting setting, you need not only to collect keywords that are relevant to the advertised product but also to predict possible situations when the product may also be relevant.

Contextual advertising is expensive
Since contextual advertising is very popular with advertisers, there is intense competition and a fairly high cost of clicks and impressions. In addition, the more keywords are used in promotion, the more expensive it is. But with the right setup and the right approach, unnecessary spending can be minimized, thereby saving your budget. Again, contextual targeting is not necessary for everyone and is not the only advertising tool.


The popularity of contextual targeting is justified and marketers should keep this in mind. With a deliberate approach and a combination of contextual targeting with its other types, the volume of targeted traffic will be higher, resulting from the advertising campaign.

Any advertising campaign requires individual decisions based on tests and experience. Now you can abandon the stereotypes about contextual targeting and try it in action.