personalized cupcakes

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Many marketers are asking me about personalized marketing, which you should expect to see more and more of in the next few years. We've already seen behavioral targeting in display ads and personalized search, and we'll see more personalized advertising emerge. But are we marketers just assuming that users will allow all this personalized marketing in? What if they clean their cookies regularly? Will that prevent those users from being exposed to personalized ads?

These are good questions. To answer them, we need to understand a bit about how personalization on the Web works. You can expect that any personalized approach depends on at least one of three basic techniques:

  • Cookies. This is the most common approach, and it can be interfered with when people "clean out" their cookies (by deleting them).
  • User IDs. This is an increasingly popular approach, where users have registered with a Web site, so that Web site can personalize whenever they are signed in. Deleting cookies can somewhat affect this approach, because users would surf anonymously until they signed in again.
  • IP detection. By examining the network location of a user, Web sites can determine your geographic location and possibly even the company whose location you are working from.

So, how does cleaning cookies affect these types of personalization techniques?

Behavioral targeting generally depends on a combination of cookies and IP detection. If users are blocking cookies (ensuring they are never set), that would affect behavioral targeting a great deal. If they are cleaning cookies, it would erase the memory that behavioral targeting depends on, but behavioral targeting could work in between cleanings.

Search personalization generally depends on User IDs and IP detection, but uses cookies to remember the User IDs so that users are automatically signed in. Cleaning cookies means that personalized search would not work until users signed in again. Because the act of searching itself does not require signing in, users might not sign in until they want to see their Gmail or their Yahoo! Finance page.

Personalization can use many different methods, of which cookies enable just some. Personalized marketing is coming, even for those who clean or even block cookies.

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January 27, 2009





Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.






Comments(5)

Very important information! So how can I block the personalization for sure?

Personalization will happen if we like it or not. What really is the problem? If I'm in South Africa I certainly don't want to be told I've won a cruise in Jamaica only to be told that it's only available to US citizens. Added to that when searching for local products I don't want results based else where in the world. Google has been trying to do this for years and is generally quite good with localized results (although still offer far too many commerce sites when searching for plain information).

Big Brother has been watching from the moment of our conception, it's about time we made him work for us too.

Robert's right. There's no way to totally block personalized ads, any more than you can block the impersonal ones. Frankly, I prefer the personal ones because they have a better chance of being something I am interested in.

To cut down on personalized ads, block all cookies from sites that show ads, and do not register or sign in to any sites that show ads. You'll still get ads targeted by IP address, even when you do that.

I'm not sure why you'd want to do that, however. You'll just replace personalized ads with generic ones that are even less relevant. And you'll freeze yourself out of lots of free services on the Web that require registration.

I understand that there's a creepiness factor here, but we all need to remember that someone has to pay for all the great content and services on the Internet. Personally, I'd rather it be an advertiser than me.

Mike, what's your opinion about "cookies stuffing" which become popular now among affiliate marketter?

Cookie stuffing is clearly against the affiliate agreements and unethical, because cookie stuffers are stealing commissions that rightly belong to others. (For those who don't know, affiliates are supposed to collect their commission when they are the first to send a visitor to a merchant site. Cookie stuffers over-write the cookies of the first affiliate with their own code so that they get credit for any eventual sale.)

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > Does cleaning out cookies stop personalization?