Why Contextual Targeting Is Back in Vogue

Global Industry Analysts Inc., a market research company, announced in a recent report that the global contextual advertising market will be $335.1 billion in 2026. With privacy regulations tightening around third-party tracking and Google aiming to eliminate third-party cookies soon in Chrome, it’s no wonder contextual targeting is enjoying quite the resurgence – emerging as a strong identity alternative to reach and engage the right audiences at scale in the coming cookieless world.

The Research Is In: Contextual Targeting Works

Dentsu Aegis Network and GumGum partnered for a recent study and discovered contextual targeting was more efficient than behavioral targeting with these results: a 48% lower CPC, a 41% lower cost-per-viewable impression and 36% lower eCPMs.

In another study, GumGum along with SPARK Neuro looked at how contextual relevance influences consumers and found contextually relevant ads achieved 43% more neural engagement, 2.2 times better ad recall, 10% more engagement than the overall article content and a statistically significant purchase intent increase.

Here at Goodway, we also know the power of contextual targeting firsthand. In fact, our contextual targeting is award-winning. Working with Oracle Advertising, we recently were able to increase contextual revenue for our automotive client by 194% and exceed benchmarks – our standard conversion benchmarks by 60% and our standard contextual conversion rates by 12% using Predicts segments. Our clients could reach in-market audiences and those people who had opted out of cookie pools to build incremental exposure.

Matching the content of a webpage to the content of an ad is beneficial because you’re able to reach the right consumers when they’re in the right mindset – without tapping into their user data and invading their privacy. In fact, here are 5 reasons why contextual targeting is popular again.

1. It Adheres to Regulations and Restrictions.

Contextual targeting only crawls site or app content to target an ad, so it doesn’t require users’ personal info nor does it track or target users directly. With privacy regulations expanding all the time and the end of third-party cookies looming on the horizon, contextual targeting operates outside the bounds of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as well as other privacy regulations and browser-specific restrictions, making it a solid and appealing tactic once again. Unlike many of the current proposed cookieless alternatives, contextual is a tactic that can be implemented in nearly every programmatic channel; provide reach while retaining user privacy; and offer efficient pricing in comparison to third-party audience data and proven success newer options lack.

2. It Makes Sense to the End Users.

Aligning brand messaging with content can drive more action. If users see relevant ads next to content they’re reading, listening to or watching, the advertising feels natural; it fits in. Your ads may be more interesting and impactful simply because users come across them while they’re already in the right mindset and in the right place at the right time.

3. It Offers Broad and Niche Reach.

Expanded audience pools lead to new customers. Contextual targeting provides better opportunities to cast a wider net from the start and engage qualified audiences who are interested in the moment as they move through the purchase funnel. Contextual targeting can help you find hard-to-reach audiences too. For instance, to extend a Hispanic audience with CTV, you can use ACR data to find streamers watching Spanish-language content, and this offers one way to reach those niche audiences without having to rely on third-party signals.

4. It Reduces Ad Fatigue.

Contextual targeting can reduce ad fatigue and improve reach and frequency performance. Securing the right contextual ad placement on the web can appear as if you bought an expensive advertorial, paid to sponsor content to reach high-intent audiences. Except with contextual, you can affordably get in front of a ton of people at one time and gain a larger reach with less frequency, and at higher-value touch points.

Contextual targeting on the web is equivalent to how it works in real life: It’s like when a sunscreen manufacturer buys a large retailer’s brick-and-mortar store aisle end cap to display its sunscreen in the seasonal section. Placing sunscreen here along with the life jackets and sand toys is a natural fit because the products go together. Interested, qualified shoppers are already looking to buy related items for the beach or pool and may be ready to take that assumed next possible step, buying sunscreen. Contextual targeting is one smart way, on the web and off, to help boost sales.

5. It Gives You More Control.

Here’s how to make contextual targeting work for you. Identify a few articles where you’d like to appear and use a keyword scraping tool to pull all the existing keywords from each webpage. Select the keywords from the list that make the most sense for your product or service and use those keywords to find comparable articles until you’ve built out your ideal keyword list.

You’re in charge and can easily revise your keywords whenever you need. You can use pre-built contextual segments or build them yourself and can give a higher priority or scoring to different keywords and layer on sentiment. You can even blend tactics to accomplish your goals. For instance, now you can layer site targeting for more granularity, behavioral targeting or brand suitability and safety measures to optimize your contextual targeting approach. 

Get properly prepared to go cookieless. Contact us for a free consultation and chart your path to a more privacy-focused future. Or get more knowledgeable now by exploring all our free cookieless advertising resources – from white papers to POVs to videos to blogs to infographics – all available in our Identity Resource Hub.