The New Frontier of Contextual Keyword Targeting

Working for an agency with global clients has its tradeoffs, especially with online marketing. Our European publishing counterparts aren’t as sophisticated as our U.S. media partners. Yet we’ve come across an interesting media model crafted in the U.K. with potential for marketers and tremendous payoff for publishers. I’ll dub it “contextual keyword targeting” for lack of a better phrase.

Contextual Keyword Targeting What?

The model is derived from Vibrant Media’s contextual advertising technology.

Here’s how it works. Using the same process to determine optimal keywords for a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign, you determine a similar list of keywords and key phrases related to your advertising. Vibrant Media then flags these keywords in future content served by a publisher and matches that content with your advertising.

If you have an airline ad for a future fare sale, you’d establish keywords such as “airline,” “air travel,” “fare sale,” and “discount tickets.” These, of course, match the creative that promotes an incredibly low fare available for a limited time.

Keywords are noted in dynamically driven content, which is scored and flagged as desired content. The ad is then set up by the ad server to appear with the content desired. Presto! The ad is served within contextually relevant content keyed from information in the article.

Because we know target audiences search the Internet for specific content and information, we anticipate the page view and serve an appropriate ad message.

Sounds rather sexy to us interactive media types, eh? In theory, the direct marketing power of keyword searches is combined with the message impact of online ad units to create a one-two punch. If you implement a campaign for a highly vertical product or service — say, a chip maker or security software firm — this approach could be highly effective for category publishers and marketers. Is this the next great frontier for hyper-targeting ads? Almost.

The Rub

Though it sounds compelling, there are challenges:

  • Delivery. Because ad creative is tied to content, rather sophisticated models must be developed before a publisher can reasonably predict delivery. Dynamically driven content will be tied to choices the site editor makes on a daily basis. And if a day’s content isn’t effectively tied to your keywords choice, you could be left with little to no impressions.

  • Frequency. Unless someone is actively surfing many pages with similar content, a frequency of 8-10 times for a given campaign is difficult.
  • Tracking and optimization. Although you could optimize a keyword list to trigger an ad serving and boost impressions, this theoretically reduces the relevancy factor. A more precise match of several keywords and key phrases will generate a more highly targeted impression — sort of a targeting paradox.
  • Reach. The technology must be deployed with a broad enough list of sites within your plan to generate enough impressions to make an impact — especially for highly concentrated strategies where you need quick tonnage for something such as a product announcement or future event.

I’m compelled to try this approach, especially with technology clients; content makeup within vertical sites tends to be hyper-focused. If you’re in the chip-manufacturing business, you could hit within enough targeted content to make an impact. But beyond business-to-business (B2B), it might be pretty tough to pull off a broad-reach plan.

How would you use this novel approach? Share your thoughts. I’ll share the best ideas in a future column.

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