About contextual targeting

Contextual targeting is one of a few different methods that you can use to get your ads on sites and webpages that are part of Google’s Display Network. This method of targeting uses the keywords or topics you’ve chosen to match your ads to relevant sites.

1. You choose keywords and topics

Contextual targeting starts with you adding keywords or topics to ad groups in your Display Network campaigns. Keywords are individual words, whereas a topic is a webpage’s concepts or central theme rather than its individual terms.

Contextual targeting only targets sites that are part of the Display Network. So, you’ll only be able to use the following campaign types:

  • "Search Network with Display Select – All features"
  • "Search Network with Display Select – Standard"
  • "Search & Display Networks – All features"
  • "Search & Display Networks – Standard"
  • "Display Network only – All features"
  • "Display Network only – Remarketing"
2. Our system analyzes webpages that make up the Display Network

Our system analyzes the content of each Display Network webpage or URL, considering factors such as the following:

  • Text
  • Language
  • Link structure
  • Page structure

Based on this analysis, the central theme of each webpage is determined.

3. Your ad gets placed

By keyword

When your keyword matches a webpage’s concepts or its central theme, your ad is eligible to show on that webpage (also known as an automatic placement). Whether your ad actually shows there is determined by a number of factors, including your language and location targeting and the recent browsing history of the person seeing your ad.

Example

Suppose you've created an ad group to advertise your car dealership’s latest lineup and you've included keywords like fuel efficient cars and 2013 electric cars. We use contextual targeting to identify and place your ad on Display Network pages that match those keywords.

Your ad could also appear on pages that aren’t necessarily about cars but are being viewed by someone who has recently looked at pages about cars. For example, someone could begin their browsing session by researching a car purchase and then move on to reading the news. We might show your ad on the news site they’re viewing, even though the page itself isn’t about cars.

Expert tip

Sometimes your ads may show on placements that seem unrelated to the keywords that you’re targeting. In cases like these, it’s possible that your ads are being shown to someone based on their recent browsing history or other factors, rather than the content of the page they’re currently viewing. So, your ads are still relevant to the person seeing them.

To see a breakdown of your automatic placements by whether they were contextually relevant to the keywords you chose versus relevant to the content of pages a person has recently browsed, try segmenting your automatic placements by “Targeting mode” from the Placements tab. The “Keyword contextual match” segment means the placement was contextually relevant to your keywords. The “Extended keyword match” segment means the placement was relevant to your keywords and other factors, including pages a person seeing your ad has recently browsed.

By topic

When your topic matches a webpage’s central theme, your ad is eligible to show on that webpage. Whether your ad actually shows there is determined by a number of factors such as your language and location targeting.

Example

Let's imagine again that you want to show ads about electric cars that are for sale. You could add the sub-topic Autos & Vehicles > Vehicle Shopping > Vehicle Specs, Reviews & Comparisons to your ad group. This would help you target all pages on the Display Network related to car reviews and comparisons, regardless of whether your exact keywords appear on the page.

Next steps