There is a problem with the way ads are served online

Shocking revelation, I know.

I don’t really want to get into the whole online advertising discussion, but I have a peeve that I wish Google would fix.

When sites serve ads, they mostly do so using some clever technology that serves ads to YOU, as opposed to serving the same ads to everybody. A good tool for this is Google Adsense: as a site owner, you show Google where you want it to place ads, and Google then uses various bits of info it has collected about the reader to serve ads that the reader will be interested in. The idea is that the reader then clicks on the ads, and the revenue is split (not equally) between the site owner and Google.

This is all well and good in practice, but it has a fundamental flaw. Google serves ads based on your browsing history. And for some reason, Google thinks that I want to see ads for sites that I have ALREADY visited. Now, that may make sense if we are talking about an e-commerce site that I browsed once upon a time, and that Google wants to nudge me back to re-visit.

But it does NOT make sense to serve me ads for sites of which I am already an ardent user, or (even worse) a customer! Example: I use WPEngine and extensively. I pay these companies money every month. I visit their sites all the time. And yet, I am served ads for them pretty much everywhere I go on the web.

This is a) annoying and b) stupid. It doesn’t help Google or the owner of the site where the ad is served. Worse, if I click on the ad to go to the advertiser’s site because I have just been reminded I need to do something there, that advertiser has to pay Google for that click!

This particularly applies to my bank. I log in to online banking all the time, so it is part of my browsing history. But ads for FNB pop up all the time. And not ads that talk about new products, but ads that tell me to “Switch banks in under 10 minutes”. Surely the algorithm there should be something along the lines of:

> If Eve logs into Standard Bank website, then serve FNB ads

>If Eve logs into FNB site, then serve Standard Bank ads OR serve FNB product ads.

This ain’t rocket science.

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