Tools for Semantic Targeting

The goal of advertisers, when placing online ads, is to find the best sites and pages to position those ads, so that they will get in front of the best consumers for that offer. Unfortunately, this is much harder than it sounds.

First of all, there are quite a few moving parts when dealing with media buys, ad serving, creative units, and target audiences. To make things more challenging, there are also a number of blind spots that prevent media buyers from being able to plan ahead for possible contingencies and mishaps. This posting on my blog will give you a few examples of what I mean.

The reality is, contextual pairings aren’t always that contextual. While the keywords may be spot on, the different ways those words and concepts are being used by the rest of the world may interfere with your well-laid plans. After all, there’s a huge conceptual difference between the headlines, “Local business owner donates SUV to orphanage” and “Runaway SUV plows into festive crowd–18 dead.” The bottom line for an automotive advertiser looking to pitch their new SUV offering is: which article would you want your ad associated with?

As a result of frequent cringe-worthy contextual mishaps, more attention is being paid to the semantic value of Web sites and landing pages to try and avoid these unfortunate mashups.

Semantic targeting is emerging as a way for publishers to better serve the needs of advertisers by delivering highly targeted ads that better meet the current needs of their audiences. By actively engaging consumers based on their contextual needs and interests, their future behavior and intentions can be plotted and effective ad campaigns can be positioned to target these receptive and relevant audiences. Consider semantic targeting as a solid first step to accurately identifying a consumer’s behavioral future.

While semantic targeting is still in its infancy, several companies are rolling out promising solutions that can help identify more meaningful connections between articles and advertisers. Here are a few solutions you should know about:


Peer39, a New York City based company with a development center in Israel, has been around since the middle of 2008. It focuses on providing solutions to publishers and ad networks to allow them to do a better job of matching advertisers with contextual page content. Using its natural language parsing engine, SemanticMatch, Peer39 helps publishers do a better job of getting relevant ads in front of consumers.

Peer39 also offers publishers its SemanticProtect product, which is designed to keep on top of dynamic page content. It is used to flag any changes on a page that could cause a negative association between that page and the advertiser’s brand. SemanticProtect also allows publishers to blacklist any words that should be taken out of matching consideration and to better identify negative page and content sentiments.


Wingify‘s business focus is providing publishers with the ability to identify who the target audience for a Web site or page is and how to best position ads on that page for maximum results. Through its Conversion Rate Optimization Suite, Wingify offers publishers a range of behavioral targeting tools as well as tools that can provide insight into the semantic meaning of a page or site.

Wingify’s Semantic and Contextual Targeting solution, ContextSense, offers a testing page to allow publishers to measure the emotional sentiment of a page and score it on a contextual range of highly negative to highly positive. ContextSense also returns keywords from the Web that have the highest score in relation to the page. It’s worth checking out.


Ad Pepper’s iSense product bills itself as a semantic network. Like the other semantic targeting tools, iSense gives publishers the ability to better understand the semantic value of sites and pages. However, iSense also offers advertisers its SiteScreen ad network, which is based on its semantic targeting technology and can be used to increase ROI (define) by reducing wasted impressions. Likewise, these targeted campaigns can avoid being associated with topics or content that could be damaging to a brand.

Semantic targeting is still very much finding its way in the world and has a way to go to prove its worth against more established contextual targeting technologies. That said, advertisers need tools that will allow them to reach their target audiences while simultaneously protecting their brands. Semantic targeting may just be the path that gets them there.

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