How badly targeted “personalized” ads can be

Picture by geralt on Pixabay

One of the main reasons – and quite possibly thé main reason – why the big platform players, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon are collecting data by the bucket load on everyone (obviously including you, dear reader) using their platforms, product and services is the belief that this enables them to serve “better” a.k.a. “more personalized” ads, and thereby deliver you a better user experience.

An important element during this data collection effort is keeping track of all the websites you have visited, the underlying logic being “if you have visited that website, it is very likely that you are interested in the products and services shown there, and might even be tempted to buying some of them”. Which then qualifies you as an excellent target for being shown ads for these products or services. Which then qualifies those ads as personalized. Which then causes you to see them everywhere, due to the wonderful technique of retargeting.

But is it always true that a visit to a website reflects the possible future intent to purchase? That most certainly is not the case for that weird subspecies of humans known as Google Local Guides. They often visit websites to check if the URL entered in Google Maps or suggested by a fellow Local Guide is actually the correct URL for the website of the company it is entered for. Or they visit a site in the process of adding a newly opened shop to the map, when they are trying to find the telephone number for that shop.

Being an avid Local Guide myself, I can most certainly confirm that this leads to a worse, not a better user experience. Probably I will start seeing ads for golf clubs soon, as the newly added category ‘golf store’ on Google Maps has recently caused me to visit some golf related websites. But that does not change the 0% chance that I will ever start playing golf, let alone buy something in any of those shops.

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