How Does Facebook Know What You’ve Searched On Google?

Table of Contents (click to expand)

For companies to create custom-tailored advertisements, they first need to know something about you. There are four main kinds of data that help give great insight into the taste and preferences that can help make tailor-made advertisements.

Let’s say that you go on Google and search for cat food. You flip through various sites that give you different price ranges, flavors and the whole nine yards about every type of cat food imaginable. Curiously, when you switch to Facebook, you notice something very peculiar. For some mysterious reason, your Facebook adverts are filled with cat food!

Now, these adverts might show up instantaneously, or within a day or two, but you will end up seeing them. How is this possible… is Facebook spying on you? In a way, yes… welcome to the world of custom-tailored internet advertisements!

google and Facebook
How does Facebook know what you searched on Google?

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Collection Of Data

The first thing companies need to create custom-tailored advertisements is information about you.

There are four main kinds of data that provide great insights into tastes and preferences that can help make advertisements tailor-made. The first kind of data is clickstream data.

computer data history
An example of Clickstream Data – clickstream refers to the record of webpages you have visited through your browser.

In customized advertisements, clickstream refers to the record of webpages that you’ve visited. This data is collected by using a tiny text file known as a cookie. To give some perspective on what cookies are, it’s a text file sent by a website to your computer so that it can track your movements within the site’s pages.

The second kind of data that is viable for custom advertisements is Search Data. A 2011 Pew Internet Survey showed that 92% of adults on the internet used the services of search engine giants, such as Yahoo and Google. These search giants saw that advertising was a profitable avenue, given the amount of data they were able to collect on such a massive scale.

Natural process
An example of Search Data.

Search Engines can analyze search terms and user habits to place targeted advertising alongside natural search results; they often allow companies to pay them for a higher position among the search results for particular keywords. That’s why, when you search for “sleeping bags”, larger outdoor companies often appear first, while advertisements for sleeping bags will soon line the margins of the page.

The last two valuable types of data are Purchase Data and Profile Data. Purchase data is predominantly used by companies like Amazon, which usually recommend new purchases that are similar to the purchases you’ve made in the past.  That is because online stores often use cookies or user registration to keep track of what you buy—and even what you put in your cart and later abandon—to personalize your shopping experience. Profile Data is usually collected when you create a profile on a social media platform (like Facebook).

facebook sign up page
When you create a profile on Facebook, Profile Data is usually collected.

In these websites, as a user, you often voluntarily provide crucial data, such as age, interests, favorite movies and a plethora of other data that gives companies an accurate description of your tastes.

Also Read: How Do Advertisements Lure You To Buy Products?

IP Address

The IP part of an IP address stands for Internet Protocol. The address part of it refers to a unique number linked to all the online activity you do. This is more intuitively understood as the return address to the mail you’ve sent. The first thing you need to realize is that your computer is connected to the Internet in one way or another. Whether you go online to write an email, to shop, or to chat, your request must be sent out to the right destination, and the responses and information you want must come directly back to you.

An IP address plays a significant role in that. It helps you and your computer connect to the Internet in somewhat of an indirect fashion. The IP address first enables you to connect to the network, which gives you access to the Internet. The second thing it does is permit you to access the Internet. The network might be your Internet Service Provider at your house or a network in a shop or office.

wifi ip address
All devices that access the Internet have a unique IP address.

IP Targeting

Now companies use a particular method known as IP targeting. IP targeting is a way to deliver an online display of advertisements to a specific consumer they choose without the use of cookies. Every Wi-Fi network you connect to has an “IP address” assigned to it—a numeric code that helps that network communicate with the Internet. With programmatic IP targeting, you can deliver your online display advertising to all devices connected to a given network, provided you have its IP address.

In conclusion, companies like Facebook curate data with the aid of technological tactics, such as IP targeting, to provide users with the best and most relevant advertisements to increase the purchase probability of the consumer. Customized advertisement is a cross-platform endeavor that strives to use a plethora of methods to tailor the user experience towards recognizing and engaging with relevant ads.

Also Read: What Exactly Happens When You Visit A Website?

References (click to expand)
  1. What are cookies? - IU KB - Indiana University. Indiana University
  2. What Are Cookies?. The University of Montana
  3. S Young. Getting the Message: How the Internet is Changing Advertising. Harvard Business School
About the Author

Venkatesh is an Electrical and Electronics Engineer from SRM Institute of Science and Technology, India. He is deeply fascinated by Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. He is also a chess aficionado, He likes studying chess classics from the 1800 and 1900’s. He enjoys writing about science and technology as he finds the intricacies which come with each topic fascinating.

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