If you’ve recently searched on the internet for, say, just about anything, you might have noticed that ads seem to be stalking you. Maybe stalking isn’t the friendliest word to use; perhaps “targeting” is a nicer way to say it. Either way, if you have ads following you around the internet, then you are probably seeing site or search retargeting in action. These are two methods online marketers can use to make sure ads are finding their way to the people who might actually want to see their product.
For the most part, this is great news for online shoppers. You can search for shoes today and be alerted to a big sale at a shoe store tomorrow. If you researched a smartphone this afternoon, you might find ads for phone plans on your browser tomorrow morning. It’s really quite convenient – except when it’s a little bit creepy. It can be unnerving the first time your email page picks up the thread of a “private” email conversation you had and, as a result, displays relevant ads. It might make you wonder how private your conversation was. If it really bothers you, you can turn off that function in your email or browser settings area, but then you might miss out on some good deals. Also, if someone is checking your email box, there is already an assumed level of confidentiality, so it shouldn’t be an issue. All in all, it’s a pretty nifty feature.
A word to the wise: there is a downside to these modern marvels. If you were planning on keeping a pair of concert tickets a secret until you could give them to your spouse as a birthday present, then maybe you don’t want ticket ads popping up on the homepage of a computer-savvy gift-guesser. This would be a good time to use that “disable” button in your settings area. Just be sure to enable again when you’re done keeping your fun little secret – you don’t want to miss out on ads that are custom-made just for your searches.