Google Advertising Patents for Behavioral Targeting, Personalization and Profiling
Google filed two patents this week dealing with ad targeting based on user search history behavior and personalization in what seems an attempt to enter the post-search behavioral advertising market that Yahoo is already offering to its advertisers and will be available in MSN’s AdCenter. The patents also follow a line of filings, including the Google filing of a creative and landing page optimization patent filing in September.
The first Google patent filing discussed is ‘ Determining ad targeting information and/or ad creative information using past search queries‘ which was authored mainly by Sumit Agarwal. The patent abstract describes this patent as follows : Ad information, such as ad targeting keywords and/or ad creative content for example, may be determined using aggregated selected document-to-query information associations. For example, popular terms and/or phrases also associated with a selected document may be used as ad targeting keywords and/or ad creative content for an ad having the document as a landing page. Query information may be tracked on a per document level, a per domain level, etc. The determined ad information may be used to automatically populate an ad record, or may be provided to an advertiser as suggested or recommended ad information.
Google already suggests relevant keywords for AdWords campaigns based upon the initial keywords used by the advertiser. However, this patent goes beyond such recommendations, with generating both the recommended keywords AND ad creative for the advertiser based upon the content of the advertiser’s web site or landing page. The new Google service would also change and upgrade these keywords and creatives based upon ad performance on behalf of the advertiser, placing keywords in the creative, changing the creative around..etc.
The service is especially targeted towards Google AdWords advertisers who find writing copy or updating copy to be, well, difficult : The creative associated with an ad may also affect the performance of the ad. Some advertisers may find generating good ad creatives difficult. Thus, it would be useful to help advertisers by providing them with ad creative information, such as terms for inclusion in the content of the creative for example.
Note : The service will also take into account the past search behavior of the searcher, looking at their geo-specific location, age, past search queries, multimedia and videos viewed via Google, and ads delivered to that searcher (or the viewer of the AdSense advertisement) in the past. The Patent App goes into some tech detail of how this will be done, but to sum it all up : MSN and Yahoo take into account the registered members of their networks who enter age, sex, geo location into their user profiles manually (see next Google Patent Application Below). This is, well, too non-tech for Google. Expect Google to use more NASA-esque types of methods for defining user profiles which may be more detailed and scientific than asking the user to enter their information.
Paired with the Google Patent from September (which Bill Slawski, who introduced me to these Google patents, reviewed) where Google is planning on building and probably optimizing ad creatives AND landing pages for their advertisers, Google is becoming a one stop advertising shop and network, cutting out the graphic artists, copywriters, landing page designers, and keyword researchers out of the equation with their automated offerings. While Google is describing that these offerings are more or less designed for novice marketers, it will only be a matter of time before Google gets them running live and markets them to their larger advertisers.
As noted previously, the second major Google AdWords patent filed this week deals with profiling Google users based on their search history in order to personalize Google ads with behavioral targeting. The patent, Results based personalization of advertisements in a search engine, was filed yesterday by Google and is described in the abstract as : Personalized advertisements are provided to a user using a search engine to obtain documents relevant to a search query. The advertisements are personalized in response to a search profile that is derived from personalized search results. The search results are personalized based on a user profile of the user providing the query. The user profile describes interests of the user, and can be derived from a variety of sources, including prior search queries, prior search results, expressed interests, demographic, geographic, psychographic, and activity information.
Just like Yahoo, Advertising.com, AlmondNet and other search-behavioral targeting networks have been specializing in, Google is processing user search behavior to build a profile and then determine which ad creative is best served to that profile. Ad creatives could include AdWords text ads, AdSense ads (here’s some filler for all of those PSA’s), and AdSense/AdWords graphic site targeted ads. From the patent application : The system obtains a profile of the user that expresses the interests of the user. The user’s interests may be expressed as terms, categories, or links, or any combination thereof. The user profile information is derived from any of prior searches by the user, prior search results, user activities in interacting with prior search results, user demographic, geographic, or psychographic information, expressed topic or category preferences, and web-sites associated with the user. The system executes the search query to obtain a set of relevant documents, and then uses the user profile to personalize the documents by reranking the documents in a manner that reflects their relevance to the user’s profile. The personalized search results are then analyzed to further determine a search profile, such as key words or topics that are descriptive of the documents therein. The search profile is used to select one or more advertisements, which advertisements will thus be relevant to the user’s interests. The selected advertisements and the personalized search results are combined and provided to the user.
Fine, it’s not like we’re all surprised by Google using our search or user behavior to target us with relevant advertisements. Heck, since Google considers its AdWords and AdSense advertisements as part of search, our user profiles are enhanced everytime we visit a site serving Google AdSense advertisements. Without even clicking on the ads, once those ads are served, Google considers them a search, sending back site visit information to their profiling database and adding a new tidbit of information about our user behavior. And how does Google determine our age, sex, locale?
Google Local, geo-specific searches, and geo-specific sites are one possibility. Sure, you may not use Google Local, but perhaps you read local news on Topix.net, which serves Google ads, or the Baltimore Sun. Google determining sex? Visit Fark, Slash Dot, Maxim Online, Political Blogs (let’s not even get into political affiliation profiling) or search in Google News for football scores? That’s right, chances are you’re a male. This sheds a bit of light on the battle between Google and Yahoo over placing contextual ads on network and news sites like CNN and the Washington Post. It’s not just a battle over advertising revenue or big names, it probably also has something to do with expanding the reach of user profiling applications.
Example: Live in Pittsburgh, visit Basketball sites and searched for shoes or sporting gear info in the past 48 hours on Google or any of its partners, then.. go to some random blog (not about shoes, ball, or shopping…) and get served an AdSense ad with a coupon for 20% off a pair of Nike’s and a free t-shirt at the local Footlocker which is 4 miles from your house. Click on the ad and get served an optimized landing page with a map to the store, trackable phone number, ..etc.
Expand this beyond shoes into fields such as class action lawsuits, home improvement, or health insurance and I’m sure Google would tickle the interest of some powerful advertisers.
One sentence which really got my attention in this patent application is the following : The invention also has embodiments in computer program products, systems, user interfaces, and computer implemented methods for facilitating the described functions and behaviors. Is Google talking about Desktop applications and WiFi here? Sure, they have pretty tight privacy policies, and I’m not going to get into the controversies of personalization or profiling, but no wonder Google is pumping out so many desktop applications like Sidebar, Google Talk, Google Toolbar and possibly even Google Office (in conjunction with Sun Microsystems).