When the holidays have finally come around and it’s time to tackle your shopping list, it’s normal to browse multiple websites and products looking for the perfect pick. It’s just as common to see those same products popping up in targeted ads on your social media and web browsers long after you’re done shopping.
Is someone tracking your online activity? Can you stop these ads from following you around the web? Learn how these targeted ads are made and how you can stop Facebook ads and other nuisances from haunting your holiday shopping and following you around the web.
How do targeted ads work?
Many consumers swear their web browsers and social media accounts are listening to their conversations. That belief is understandable given the accuracy of some of the ads users are seeing nowadays. However, there’s a system to the way advertisers get their ads in front of the right eyes. They work closely with social media platforms (like Facebook) or web browsers (like Google) to do it.
So, let’s say you’ve been shopping the TJ Maxx home section for something to add to your living space and discussing your options with a few friends. Not even a week later, those options are showing up in display ads alongside your newsfeed. Here are a few ways this can happen:
- You were logged into your social account while browsing the products.
- You fit the target demographic the company asked their ads to be shown to.
- You’ve purchased from the company before and they’re targeting you specifically.
- You’re active on one of Google’s many web-based services (Google Maps, Google Chrome, Gmail, Waze) so they have a detailed profile on your likes and dislikes.
If you have social media apps on your phone, the odds are you’re logged in to those accounts and they’re monitoring your browsing activity on other sites. Facebook, in particular, is especially skilled at this thanks to Facebook Pixel, a technology that sends messages back to Facebook from sites you’ve visited.
You may also be seeing ads because you fit the company’s target audience or you’ve purchased from the retailer before. But if you’re seeing the exact products in your cart displayed in ads elsewhere, that information was passed along to the social media app via Pixel.
Google is able to put together a pretty extensive list of who you are, where you go and what you’re into, based off of your activity on any of their various services. So if you frequent any of Google’s popular platforms and you’ve never altered the settings, those platforms are constantly learning from you in order to serve up ads specifically for you.
How to stop targeted ads
You don’t have to let shopping decisions of the past haunt you forever. There are a few simple hacks and edits to your settings that can make targeted ads a thing of the past on social media and your web browser. Take a look at how to stop Facebook ads and some steps you can take on popular platforms like Google.