Advertising Trends – Love them or Hate them?

I’ve heard about this becoming a trend with Google, but only recently recognized it as happening to me. The ads I see as I browse my favorite websites are perfectly tailored to me… or at least to recent activity on my computer.

For example, as I was researching wedding bands, within just a day or two, I started to see ads popping up everywhere for wedding bands. But not just ANY bands. They were a near perfect match to the one I was just looking at.

I’ve since purchased my band and have moved on. I don’t recall when the wedding band ads went away, nor do I recall what ads were showing in the weeks past. I simply don’t pay that close attention to them.

Then I started to look for a new car. Next thing I know, I’m seeing the car I’ve been researching pop up everywhere I go. Again, not just any car ads… THE car.

I’m not certain who is powering these ads. Is it Google? Maybe. What I do know is there is some definite snooping going on as far as what I tend to research on the internet. Kind of scary actually, and it makes me want to rid my computer of the cookies that allow this to happen.

On one hand, this can be a good thing. It offers me more information on something that I am undoubtedly interested in. But it can also be annoying in a “don’t call me, I’ll call you” kind of way. I want it when I want it. Not necessarily when you want me to have it.

From a Web Designer’s standpoint, it drives me crazy. Sometimes I want to know what natural search engine results will be without them being affected by my own browsing habits. Are my search results displaying “real” results, or custom results based on my history? What if I want to know what my potential clients might see when they search for a particular term? How do I gauge the performance of my own SEO efforts if the results aren’t based on SEO?

I guess it’s back to the drawing board… or at least regular deletion of my cookies.

What do you think of this method of targeted advertising? I think it’s pretty ingenius, if only slightly disturbing.