A Review of Google’s Ad Preferences Manager

Google recently updated its display ads by adding a ‘Why this ad’ link. The update is designed to give users more control over the ads they see while browsing on Google’s search and Gmail networks.  The update ultimately serves as a platform to encourage users to stay put and subtle encouragement to advertisers.

Google to Users: Don’t opt-out!

Like it or not, Google retains a lot of information about its users. In its quest to provide the most valuable, relevant search results, Google walks a fine line between maintaining user’s privacy and using enough data to serve its personalized advertising machine.

Google’s update gives users limited control over the type of ads they see by providing an explanation as to why ads are being displayed to them.  By clicking the ‘Why this ad’ Google now displays an ‘Ad Preferences’ page, allowing the user to either block specific advertisers or opt out of personalized ads.

From a user’s perspective, this update is reminiscent of the fine print you find on the back of a credit card statement. While you have the ability to opt out of personalized advertising, Google encourages users to consider the value of leveraging personal information for the sake of quality advertising.  On the ‘Opt out’ page, Google provides an interesting statistic: Opt-in users see 10% fewer ads than opt-out users. So, while you can Opt out of Google’s personalized ads, you are potentially opening up the floodgates to more (less relevant?) advertising.  There’s a sense of being penalized for denying Google the right to use your personal information.


Google can highlight this feature as an important step in protecting personal information. If Google wants to give more control to its users, it should present the data it has and let user decide what he/she is willing to share.

Google to Advertisers: We’re here to help

Adding an option to block or opt-out of personalized ads can be seen negative for advertisers. Naturally, you don’t want your ads blocked or hidden from potential customers. Then again, if you’re blocked, do you really want to continue serving PPC ads to that individual? In this case, Google is doing advertisers a favor.  Being blocked means the target market just got that much more relevant. No need to waste resources serving ads to  users that will only hurt your conversion rate.

As an advertiser, it would be valuable to know why ads are getting blocked. It doesn’t appear this functionality exists. Yes, a poor conversion rate should indicate a problem with a PPC campaign, but an email from Google would come as welcome news to advertisers – ‘hey, your ads have been blocked by 30% of your target market – rethink your strategy.’

The next question is whether the ‘opt-out’ option is good for advertisers.  As with the block advertisers option, this is another positive enhancement.  Google shares that Opt-in users are 40% more likely to convert than opt-out users. If you need  a value statement for the benefits of running precision PPC campaigns,  Google has just given it to you.  Additionally, if you want to reconnect with opt-out users, Google hasn’t deleted their number:

“When a user opts out of personalized ads on search and Gmail, your ads can still reach them but the targeting might be a bit less precise”

Keep Running Precision Advertising Campaigns

How should advertisers take this information? If you’ve been running precision PPC campaigns, continue doing it. If Google’s Ad Preferences manager gets attention and use, it will improve the performance of your campaigns by keeping your audience relevant.

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