masteringContextual marketing refers to online and mobile marketing that provides targeted advertising based on user information, such as the search terms they’re using or their recent web-browsing activities. The goal is to display ads to customers that promote products and services they seem to be interested in. The textbook example of such “contextual advertising” is Google’s AdSense program, which uses the terms entered into each Google search to select an appropriate advertisement for each and every individual surfer.

Nevertheless, putting the two words together – contextual and marketing – feels strange, as there always has to be context to marketing. In practice, though, contextual marketing means something more specific, though it's not 100% clear what exactly.

Fact is that contextual advertising knows what we’re searching for, what websites we’re visiting, and even what physical location we’re in. And armed with that knowledge, the companies that are using this type of marketing can definitely sell more.

To succeed in today’s digital business environment, companies have to focus on absolute customer-centric interactions that are tailored for each user, which makes contextualization a perfect solution.

To master contextualization, companies should gather at least three types of data: demographic data (who is the customer), historical data (what did the customer do in the past), and situational data (what’s happening with the customer now), besides factoring in a user’s current situation - such as time of day, geographic location, device, browser, or even weather.

Achieving a high advertising ROI is of course the dream of every marketer and contextual advertising seems perfect to increase the conversion of sales leads to actual sales, besides decreasing customer annoyance and eliminating unprofitable ads. Which is why it is used not only by search engines, but publishers and social media as well, as any website with a variety of content can use contextual advertising by matching the content viewed with the ads displayed.

With the advent of mobile devices, a new type of contextual marketing has developed - especially due to the fact that more and more people carry the beloved technology around everywhere they go. Mobile devices can use your location to provide contextual ads (e.g. showing only local businesses and promotions in your vicinity) or even involve billboard advertising, embedding cameras in certain well-populated billboard locations, such as bus terminals or malls that will track how many people are in front of the advertisement, and how long they’re looking at it, triggering different ads.

Additionally, software that recognizes the gender of the viewer can be used, so men and women are presented with different targeted ads, making contextual marketing undeniably more effective the more customers spend time online, or otherwise are connected to the Internet through mobile devices.

It is through interacting with networks that customers provide the information that makes contextual marketing work. Of course, providing this information is not always a conscious decision. When people use a search engine to get information about a particular person, place or product, they’re probably not thinking about the fact that they’re also providing information for contextual marketing. As long as the contextual advertising is doing its job without being invasive, they simply go on with their online activities—and perhaps click on a few more ads, since they find them more interesting. The more comfortable a customer is with online shopping and media, the more responsive they are to contextual advertising that is in general perceived as less annoying, therefore in turn enhances the overall impression of the site.

Content-based advertising starts with the embedding of the advertising code on the landing page of the publisher and the contextual advertising system automatically learns from the product data of the advertiser. The artificial intelligence, based on machine learning and semantic analysis, goes even so far that any languages can be supported.

By Daniela La Marca