IN THE CROSSHAIRS
This chapter introduces the practice of behavioral targeting, which is a way of targeting ads at us on the web so as to match what we are most likely to be interested in and most likely to respond to in a positive way.
To understand behavioral targeting, it is necessary to have an understanding of search engines and search advertising as well as ads that are placed on the web generally. There is more about these in Chapter 25, 'The web: advertising in a new age', so only the general concepts will be touched on here.
In this era of the Internet, most of us use a search engine like Google to access information from the web. The results of each query are displayed as a list of relevant links. Advertisers can buy the right to appear as a paid link (a.k.a. sponsored link) on that same page of results. Search adver- tising, as this is known, is not very exciting from a consumer's viewpoint but it does work and it has certainly been a growth phenomenon.
Of course, advertisers don't want their paid link to appear on the results page for any old query. This only works if their ad link is placed on results pages for queries that are related in some way to their product or service. That is, when search words are typed in that indicate that the searcher may be in a frame of mind to be interested in the advertiser's particular product or service.
So the paid links that are displayed are triggered by particular words or phrases that appear in our search query. Paid search advertising is sold to advertisers on the basis of keywords (Google calls them 'adwords'). Advertisers bid against each other for the right to have their link displayed whenever a particular keyword is searched in a query.
The point is that the keywords we search for indicate something