Contextual advertising: its types, principle of work and tasks

Contextual advertising Contextual advertising

Business owners are constantly working to increase sales and brand awareness. To do this, they increasingly use the Internet (the number of its users is growing every year and forecasts for their future growth are very optimistic).

And for several years now, contextual advertising has remained the most popular and effective advertising tool on the Internet.

What is contextual advertising?

Contextual advertising is an Internet marketing tool that is based on displaying ads (text, display, video, product) to the user based on the context of his search query and the content of the page he is viewing.

The essence of contextual advertising is to convey the marketing message of the business owner to the target audience, which is most interested in his offer (based on their interests, search queries and previous behavior on the Internet).

In simple terms, contextual advertising, by definition, is designed to effectively attract interested visitors to the target resource to ensure sales growth.

What does contextual advertising look like?

Surely you have seen such ads while surfing the Internet:

At the very top of the SERPs (similar to organic search results, only with a small “ad” tag):

Example: what contextual advertising looks like

Before or while watching a YouTube video:

Video Ads

In the form of banners with a picture and text on news and article sites:


While searching for a product in the form of a card with a price offer and a photo:

Google Shopping Ads

Tasks of contextual advertising

In general, the goals of contextual advertising are similar to the goals of any other marketing campaign, but there are some peculiarities. Its main purpose:

  1. Quickly attract the target audience to the site. You can get the first visitors to your site within a few hours after creating an advertising campaign. This is especially important when you need to quickly gain wide coverage or test a new sales offer.
  2. Increase brand awareness. Regular appearance of your company’s name in advertisements helps to increase recognition among the target audience and create a positive image in a particular topic.
  3. Remind those who have already used your services about yourself. Using remarketing tools, you can show advertising to those users who have previously made purchases or other targeted actions on the site. This way you can stimulate repeat sales.
  4. Improve the site’s performance in organic search results. By attracting additional interested visitors to the site, contextual advertising improves behavioral factors, which has a positive effect on positions in search engine results.
  5. Increasing the number of sales of desired goods or services. Of course, the main task of contextual advertising is to get as many conversions on the site as possible (purchases, newsletter subscriptions, applications or calls).

How does contextual advertising work?

The basic principle of contextual advertising is Pay Per Click. Earlier in the field of online advertising, another principle was common – payment for impressions (or CPV). However, now it is used much less often, and you only pay for real clicks to the site.

The exact cost of a click depends on many factors, among them the level of competition in the topic, the position of the ad in the search results (the most expensive clicks are on top of the first page, but there will be more of them from there). The position of the ad in the search results is determined on the basis of the auction – the one who pays more is the one who is higher.

Advantages and disadvantages of contextual advertising

Context advertising or SEO promotion

PPC has many advantages over other types of advertising, such as radio, TV, SEO.


  1. You can customize impressions for specific regions. If your business operates only in a certain city, you do not need to pay for users from other areas or countries. Moreover, you can set up ads only for the desired area of the city.
  2. Quick effect. Advertising starts working immediately after launch. There is no need to wait several months, as is the case with SEO promotion. This is especially true for young sites that cannot yet compete in organic search results.
  3. You can track the result. You see the exact statistics on clicks to the site (from which cities users came, for which keywords, how many, which of them ordered). To do this, we recommend configuring end-to-end analytics on the site. This is a big advantage compared to offline advertising, where the exact result cannot be analyzed.
  4. You can control the message that the user will see. You can choose the images, videos, text information that you want to show in the ad, choose the platforms where they will be broadcast and segment users by interests, gender, age and other demographic characteristics.
  5. The ability to disable ads at any time. If the company temporarily does not work, moves to another address, or managers cannot cope with a large influx of customers, you can temporarily disable the campaign without affecting it in the future and not spend funds.
  6. Working for a warm audience. Advertising is seen only by those users who plan to make a purchase or order a service. Moreover, they are already looking for where to purchase the selected product. Compared to other advertising tools, contextual advertising allows you to attract the most targeted customers.
  7. Pay for results. Working according to the Pay Per Click scheme, the advertiser pays only for real clicks on the ad. Everything is as open as possible – you can predict traffic and calculate an approximate media plan for a future campaign even before it starts.
  8. Works on small budgets. Provided that you yourself know how to set up advertising, it is possible to run a campaign with very small budgets.

However, with all these advantages, PPC is not without some disadvantages.


  1. Requires constant monitoring. The advertiser must control the rates per click, work with negative keywords, launch new product groups, change messages in ads. If this is not done, the effectiveness of contextual advertising may come to naught.
  2. May not pay off in highly competitive areas. If the cost per click in your topic is above average, it’s better not to try to set up ads on your own. This indicates that only professionals with many years of experience work here. In order not to waste your budget, it is better to contact an agency.
  3. User trust. Sites in organic results cause great loyalty among many users, since if a resource is in the TOP of organics, a lot of efforts have been made to promote it. Anyone can run ads.

Types of contextual advertising

There are three main types of contextual advertising, each of which is aimed at different user groups and topics. In some areas, combining all types of advertising works best to achieve maximum results.

Text ads

It can be found in Google search results as text ads with a title and the obligatory mark “advertising”. Displayed in response to a user’s search query, above the organic results (up to 4 ads) and below it (up to 3 ads).

The ad impressions are tied to the keywords that the advertiser assigns in the campaign settings. When the user enters the selected keywords into the search bar, they see the advertiser’s ad.

Thus, the visitor receives a relevant response to his request, and the advertiser receives a potential client who can use his services if he is satisfied with the price and conditions.

Such ads look like a static or dynamic media banner with a text description and an active hyperlink to the advertiser’s website. Such advertising is shown in the Google partner network, which makes up at least 80% of the world’s Internet traffic.

Display advertising is able to generate search demand. If you enter the market with a new product, then there is no point in advertising it in the search, because the demand for it will be minimal. If you first launch a media campaign and tell users about your product, then later this will lead to an increase in the volume of search queries for this product.

The advantage of advertising on the Display Network is a wide range of targeting options. You can select an audience based on geographic location, interests, age, purchasing power.

Video ads

Represents the video that the user sees before or while watching a video on YouTube and partner sites. Used to increase brand awareness. It can be used as a remarketing tool (if the user has already visited your site, you can remind him of yourself using a video).

Video ads have the same broad targeting options as display ads. You can also select the audiences, venues, user interests, and video topics in which your ad will appear.

Main types of advertising campaigns

There are four main types of contextual advertising, each of which helps the advertiser achieve different advertising goals.

Google Search Ads

Search ads

Displayed in response to a user’s search query in the SERPs or Display Network. It is a text ad. Thus, you can directly contact a potential client by answering their search query.

Display Network Advertising

Display Network

Shows on millions of Google partner sites around the world. It is an ad in the form of an animated banner with a link to the advertiser’s website. It has flexible settings, selection of sites for display, and the cost of a click is lower than in the search.

Google Shopping

Google Shopping

Demonstrated in search results, but not as a text ad, but as a product card with a photo, description, price and a link to the site. Differ in higher conversion than regular text ads. Another advantage is that they can be shown simultaneously with text ads, which expands the reach.

Advertising on YouTube video server

YouTube Ads

The service allows you to show not only videos, but also text ads. Videos are skippable and unskippable and are designed to increase brand or company awareness. You can choose sites for demonstration, target audience and interests.

Remarketing ads


Allows you to show contextual advertising to users who have already visited your site or performed some actions on it. This helps bring back customers who searched for something or added something to their cart but did not complete the purchase. At the same time, the cost of transition is very low, since ads are shown to already interested customers, and the conversion is higher.

Advertising campaigns Performance Max

Google Performance Max

These advertising campaigns use the power of machine learning to automatically optimize and distribute budget between the search network, YouTube, Discovery Ads and other channels. This makes it easier to set up and manage your campaign. The advertiser only needs to set goals for the number of conversions, reach or return on investment, the system will take care of the rest.

What platforms do contextual advertising run on?

The choice of a platform for contextual advertising depends on your target audience, budget and other factors. Among the leaders in this niche are the following advertising networks:

  • Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) is the world’s largest platform for placing contextual advertising. Allows you to reach a huge audience: more than 3 billion users in Google search, 2 billion on YouTube and hundreds of millions on sites from the partner media network. Has the broadest capabilities in the field of targeting and automation.
  • Microsoft Ads (formerly Bing Ads) is the main competitor of the Google advertising network. Allows you to post ads on Bing and Yahoo search engines. It is an excellent addition to Google advertising, giving you the opportunity to reach additional audiences. Well, a nice bonus – the cost of clicks here is 20-40% lower, depending on the niche.
  • Taboola is one of the largest display advertising networks. Allows you to place advertising on more than 9,000 sites, including NBC, Bloomberg, The Independent. Media banners are shown to website visitors in the format of recommended articles at the bottom of the page. The network’s audience reaches approximately 1.4 billion unique users.
  • Outbrain is a competitor to Taboola that also allows you to place ads in featured articles below the main text on the page. Among the system’s partners are The Guardian, Fox News, CNN, Spiegel, etc. Monthly coverage is more than 545 million unique visitors, according to the company.
  1. The concept of “contextual advertising” is quite multifaceted and includes not only the usual search ads, but also video ads, harassment ads (remarketing), shopping ads and other varieties;
  2. The Google search engine covers about 90% of users worldwide and is the undisputed leader, head and shoulders ahead of its closest competitors. For comparison, the Yandex search engine, which is popular in Runet, covers only 0.5% of global Internet traffic;
  3. Contextual advertising works best for medium and large businesses. In some cases, it works well for small businesses, but often clicks are prohibitively expensive for them;
  4. For highly competitive niches, we advise you not to set up advertising yourself, but to contact a specialist (agency or freelancer), since only professionals work in such topics and the cost per click is high there, which means you will have to spend a lot of money on tests.
Сергей Шевченко
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