Let’s face it. Despite the tremendous rise of productivity and organizational tools that computers, then the internet, then mobile devices give us, we sometimes forget things that at one point were important to us. This is where Google and other retargeting services come into play and I love it.
In essence, it’s a tracking system. You’re being tracked through cookies that are placed on your computer systems when you visit certain sites. Google and others then takes this information and knowing that you’ve visited a site before, they present you with ads for that site when you visit others on the web.
On the surface, some may scream about privacy issues associated with such activity-tracking systems, but it’s not as bad as you think. They aren’t necessarily tracking the data as much as they’re checking particular cookies on your computer when they have a web page with ads on it and then custom tailor the ads to your “preference by past choices” of places you’ve visited recently. Keep in mind – you can always turn off cookies in your browsers and this technique will no longer be able to affect you.
For others, it can be a blessing. Take the ad above, for example. I was researching a story and ran into Goal Zero. I remember thinking that it was an interesting concept and that I should consider exploring more thoroughly later, but at the time I was in the middle of something and didn’t take the time to check it out. They are retargeting. I was retargeted. As a result, the ad keeps popping up for me and I get a regular reminder to check it out.
Google’s days of “do no evil” are arguably well behind us, but this is not one of their evil ways. I would rather receive ads from places that I’ve already visited because if I visited them in the past, I obviously demonstrated some interest in their products. Even if you keep your cookies on, you still have options to opt out of certain ads and even of ad networks altogether.
I am completely against online tracking of any sort, but this is slightly different. It’s no aggressive. It’s not data that’s stored and used against me (even though there is plenty of that happening outside of the realm of retargeting). This is about as safe and passive as possible. If you don’t like it, you can do the things mentioned above or you could always clear your cookies regularly. After all, you should be doing that as a best practice anyway.