Does Content Imply User Intent?

Ra Cohen
Does Content Imply User Intent?
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

When was the last time you clicked on an ad while browsing social media? While scrolling through your feed of friends and family, ads for random gadgets or cheesy games annoy many, but why? The ad itself is undoubtedly tailored to your own personal interests or brands that you like. So why is it irritating? Because you as a user, had no intention of shopping. Your purpose in logging on was to socialize, not to shop.

Intent is irreplacable

Search ads have been the dominant form of display ad since they were invented over 20 years ago and to no wonder. If a user is actively searching for a flower store, there is already an intent to purchase flowers present which motivated this search. The same can be true of software products and solutions. If a developer is using a search engine to find a cloud hosting service, chances are good that they intend to utilize a cloud hosting service in the near future. User Intent is the greatest individual factor to convert a potential candidate into a paying customer.

But search engines are not the only places where software developers exhibit their intent. From using online tools like rendering their html edits in real-time to scouring package documentation to fix their latest bug, software developers telegraph their intentions primarily through the content that they are viewing. This can be numerically demonstrated in the comparison of Click through rates (CTR) on content-targeted campaigns vs non-content targeted campaigns.

What our data says

First we'll examine the average weekly CTR across all of our advertising flights that are targeting geographic locations only. If we had no campaigns ending that week, it's been logged as a 0. As you can see, almost every week our geo-only campaigns fall below our network average CTR of 0.1%.

A screenshot of the Click through Rates for untargeted campaigns

the average weekly CTR for untargeted campaigns in Q3 and Q4 of 2021

But how do our content-targeted campaigns fare? Using the same weekly aggregation, it's evident that our content-targeted campaigns frequently exceed our network's average CTR.

A screenshot of the Click through Rates for content-targeted campaigns

the average weekly CTR for content-targeted campaigns in Q3 and Q4 of 2021

Our CTR (click through rate) is consistently higher on campaigns which employ content-targeting in addition to geographic targeting. Which leads one to wonder, given that geography is a factor of the user whereas content is a factor of the publishing website, why has so much of ad-tech been focusing on user-targeting and surveillance advertising as opposed to content-targeting?

The Return of Content Targeting

Content Targeting is by no means a new invention. It's been around for as long as niche publications have existed. Fishing pole ads in fishing magazines and motor oil ads in car magazines have existed for decades. However, in the last 15 years, the ad-tech industry largly swapped over to user-targeting under the misguided notion that intent doesn't expire. Buy 1 dvd player online and you'll continue to get dvd players showing up in ads for months although the problem that these ads are trying to fix is already solved. So how did we get here?

One marketing company Invoca said on the topic, “For years, marketers have been addicted to using third-party data, but it wasn’t because third-party data was the most effective way to reach their target customers. Actually, it was because that data was just so easy for them to access and execute short-term campaigns." And we're inclined to agree.

We have been operating the EthicalAds network for almost 2 years now and have achieved our highest revenue month to date just last month in March, all without ever using any user tracking. By matching developers with ads relevant to their interests, here and today, based on what they're currently reading we can garauntee our advertisers connect not only with the right software developer audience, but more importantly, reach those valuable potential customers right when they're grappling the problem that you're trying to solve. When developers posses a problem, they use the EthicalAds network to find answers and thus posses the intent to try your solution.

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