| Dennis Clerke

Some things are best avoided while blindfolded. Race car driving, competitive archery, operating power tools – for starters. I’d also put ad targeting on that list. And yet advertisers and publishers increasingly find themselves in this very position.

Major industry transitions are chipping away at ad-targeting fundamentals once considered sacrosanct, that can no longer be taken for granted. As standard audience qualifiers become murky, intent becomes more important than ever. Let’s take a look at what’s going on.

Exhibit A: the cookie

In the rush to provide a veil of privacy, to own the audience data, or countless other motivations, the standard cookie may hit the endangered species list sooner than later. Browser and platform providers are moving away from the ubiquitous cookie as a universal identifier in favor of platform-specific audience identity codes. Recent announcements from Mozilla, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple are likely just the tip of the iceberg. Whether empowering consumers to take charge of their online data or building a valuable, proprietary repository of audience profiles, this audience information is destined to become more siloed than not in the future.

Exhibit B: the search keyword referral

Another change for marketers and content owners has been the surprise of “keyword (not) provided.” Earlier this year, a search engine giant startled the industry by obscuring keyword-referral data in their standard analytics. For businesses of all sizes and site owners, such as publishers, that’s a big deal. Search-query keywords are critical data points for optimizing a website, a site’s content – and its monetization strategy.

As a publisher, if you and your search-based ad partners can’t discern what brought a reader to a page in the first place, how do you know how to message them once they arrive? Until recently, these ad partners could monetize keyword referral data from search engines by populating relevant ads on the resulting editorial page. Without that info, however, there’s a missing link between query and content. It’s the equivalent of flying blind. So now what?

This requires a new approach to fill the keyword data gap, which is where content-driven Concept ‘signals’ come in. We use Concepts and our proprietary ConceptGraph to unearth the strongest signals of intent from the content of any page, and automatically disambiguate words with multiple meanings – just like the human mind. In our labs and across our publisher network, we’ve found Concepts to be high-performance proxies for keywords, with a level of accuracy that’s on the money for click-through rates and engagement.

Accessible via a lightweight API, Concepts offer a high-yield, low barrier to entry option for your inbound monetization strategy. Publishers keep their ad revenue streams intact, your ad partners gain access to the signals they need to surface related ads, and readers receive relevant messaging related to what they’re reading. In this way, Concepts can act as a much-needed source of illumination.

It’s like taking off the blindfold, and donning night-vision goggles.