How Do Ads Know What’s In Your Gmail Inbox?

Do online ads seem to know a little too much about what’s in your inbox? Find out why in this blog.

Nobody likes unwanted advertising, but unfortunately, that’s often the primary type you’ll encounter when browsing the Internet.

Pop-ups, disguised ads that automatically take you to other sites, and even advertorials (an advertisement written in the form of an article) are commonplace on today’s websites, and it’s not going to change anytime soon.

You may have noticed recently that some ads seem to be based on the contents of your Gmail inbox. While you may assume that your email is private, that’s not necessarily the case…

How Do Ads Know What’s In Your Gmail Inbox

How Ads Align With Your Gmail Messages

By default, companies like Google have arguably unrestricted ad settings that allow them to create targeted ads based on the information they can gather from you.

They can see everything from inbound emails to the websites you have visited. There is still a certain level of privacy allowed to you, as this information is secured by Google and cannot be openly accessed by just anyone.

Regardless, to provide a more tailored advertising experience for any given user, as much data as reasonably possible is tracked on your online activities. This information is then used to provide ads that relate directly to items and topics you’ve been talking and messaging about.

How To Turn Off Personalized Ads

  • Navigate to your Google Account
  • Select Data & privacy.
  • Navigate to “Things you’ve done and places you’ve been.”
  • In the “Ad settings,” section, choose Ad personalization.
  • Disable Ad Personalization

How To Customize Your Personalized Ads

  • If Ad Personalization is disabled, turn it on.
  • Under “How your ads are personalized,” select your personal info or interests.
  • To update your info, select Update. Follow the steps on the screen.
  • To turn off an interest, select Turn off. Confirm by selecting Turn off.
  • To bring back an interest, select “What you’ve turned off”. Choose an interest and select Turn back on.

Online Advertising Continues To Evolve

There are so many facets to “digital marketing” that it’s safe to say the industry is constantly evolving—yes, constantly.

The rules change just as often, and the de facto rule-maker is Google. Google has the famous “Google algorithm”, by which all search parameters are defined.

If a business or brand doesn’t meet Google’s search preferences, they’ve wasted their time and won’t make the first page of a user’s search results—and when was the last time you clicked past the first page of results in an average Google search?

There are ads within emails and ads on websites, and even “sponsored results” in an Internet search. Consumers have ads coming at them from every angle of the Internet, so why would social media—including the leader of the Social Media world, Facebook—be any different?

A Facebook user is valued even more highly than a search user. The Facebook user is already engaged with a website, and it’s one where the content that loads is customized and personalized by each user. Google tries to do this with search results, but there’s only so much Google can do with a string of words and no context.

Both Google and Facebook have the user’s history with cookies. Still, Facebook has the precious position of knowing a user’s friends, and families, what content a user likes—literally “likes” by clicking the blue-and-white thumbs-up symbol—and what news stories, photos, and content a user clicks on and engages with.

In this context, Google’s metric is the click in terms of the value of a visitor, whereas Facebook’s value of a click is a highly-engaged user already on the website and opting to give more of their time and attention. The ultimate competition comes from a visitor’s value versus a click’s value.

Don’t Rely On Default Settings

As with any service or account, you shouldn’t assume the default settings are correct for you. The more you learn about the options available, the better you can customize your experience to suit your preferences.