How Does Google Target Ads to Me?

Internet companies are becoming smarter and faster at understanding what you like, using that information to sell you products and services in extremely specific ways..

Google is the grandmaster of all online user data collection. With 1.2 trillion searches in the year of 2018 according to Google Trends, Google has enough information to know exactly what people are searching for. Have you ever been on a website and up pops an advertisement for something you shopped for weeks ago but decided not to purchase (maybe some black friday shopping)? Now here it is in your face again, but now at a discounted rate, and you ask yourself- how on Earth did google know I was searching for that?

It’s mildly creepy but fascinating nonetheless, how much information Google has about us. Google even extends this gold mine of information to its business partners, or anyone who uses Google Analytics, to provide insightful data for their business and marketing needs. This data collection is what enables Google to connect the dots between the far reaches of the internet and create Google Knowledge Panels, which are essentially grouped bits of information about one thing. Google Analytics is also a useful tool for evaluating your website page ranking in search results.

As much as people like to think that Google hides all of this information from the public, a bit of research can actually reveal how open they are about their data collection, which is exactly what we've found.

How to see which ads Google targets for you

Google Ad Settings is a tool that lets you see precisely which types of advertisements Google sends you, based on which websites you visit, what settings you’ve turned on your google account (age, location, etc) and much more. This tool also allows you to turn off certain interests, so you won't see any more advertisements about that topic (at least, we can hope).

In the Google Ad Settings page, you can also turn off affiliate data collection. This means that any apps or services you use that connect to Google will no longer store your activity or information. Above this setting is a big on/off switch for “ad personalization”, which you can turn off altogether, ceasing any future targeted advertisements.

Google My Activity

Many of the topics that are listed in the Google Ad Settings page will refer to a My Activity section of Google, where you can find essentially a more detailed version of your browsing history. From here you can delete your individual google searches, as well as view more detail about what time you searched, and how you searched for it. My Activity also lets you view “Other Google activity” which tracks things like device information, survey answers, YouTube comments, and much more. I highly suggest taking a look around.

Of course, running an effective ad-blocker may already put you well outside the data grasping clutches of the almighty Google, but I have heard even the most “secure” of internet dwellers find SOME shocking information about them in the Google Ad Settings page.

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Aleksey Weyman

Aleksey Weyman is a web designer, music artist and creator of Millennial Moderator