What Google AdSense’s “Ad Intents” Format Means for Marketers

May 9th, 2024

Heard about the new ‘Ad Intents’ feature in AdSense’s Auto ads program? 

The feature was dropped with surprisingly little fanfare, yet Ad Intents could be somewhat of a breakthrough for many websites using Auto ads.

Here’s why we think marketers should be paying attention to Ad Intents:

  • It provides privacy-conscious targeting that doesn’t rely on third-party cookies (!)
  • It increases user ad relevance (meaning higher CTRs)
  • Increased revenue potential

Let’s delve deeper into Ad Intents and what their introduction means for marketers and AdSense publishers alike.

What are Ad Intents?

Google AdSense’s Auto ads program is hugely popular across all kinds of websites. It makes it easy for anyone to monetize their content – all AdSense publishers need to do is insert one piece of code onto their pages, and Auto ads will automatically scan their site and place hyperlinks ads where they’re most likely to perform well. 

Previously, whenever a user clicked on said hyperlink, they were directed to a separate landing page. This often worked against the site’s user journey, and in some cases discouraged sites from using Auto ads. 

Fortunately, Google recently introduced Ad Intents, which aims to revamp the user experience – providing greater benefit to the user, the site owner, and marketers alike. With Ad Intents turned on, Auto ads will dynamically place contextual text links and anchors on a site in a way that works with page content – not against it. 

Ad Intents works much differently to traditional Auto ads. When a user clicks on a hyperlink or anchor, an overlay appears on the screen (without them leaving the page they’re browsing). The overlay displays paid search ads, followed by organic search results, that are hyper-relevant to the link they’ve clicked on. 

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What Are Marketers Saying About Ad Intents?

Google is calling Ad Intents an “intent-driven format” for a cookieless, privacy-focused world. It’s still early days, but so far marketers are largely on board with Google’s vision for this. 

It’s not surprising – marketers have been crying out for intent-driven alternatives to third-party cookies since the initial announcement of their removal. 

Ali Mustafa, Paid Media Lead at Intelling, thinks Ad Intents could be a gamechanger for publishers as it’s a far more natural way to serve ads. 

Like most marketers, Tomasz Sledz, Lead Media Buyer at Grip, is eager to get more fleshed-out alternatives to third-party cookies that use intent to improve earnings. 

It’s not all sunshine and roses, however. X user @darth_na stated the following concern about Google ‘stealing’ site visitors and directing them back to Google:

Responding to the post, Google Ads Liaison Ginny Marvin wrote the following

“This new format is opt-in and entirely optional for publishers.

Publishers can opt in to ad intent links which converts existing text on their page into links.

There’s also an option to use ad intent anchors which place anchors at the bottom of your page.

When a user closes an ad intent dialog, they remain on the same page on the publisher’s site. Publishers earn revenue when a user clicks on any of the ads in the dialog.”

ginny marvin headshot

Ginny Marvin

Google Ads Liaison

What’s The Benefit of Ad Intents?

Ad Intent ads essentially work like an on-page Google search, meaning all results and ads have a significant inclination towards what the user is searching for. There are several key benefits to this approach: 

Ad Relevance 

By leveraging advanced machine learning algorithms to analyze site content and user behavior, Ad Intents surfaces extremely relevant ads that directly connect with user intent. 

With Ad Intents, each link is an opportunity. A more intent-targeted approach can lead to a significant increase in CTRs for both organic and paid search results displayed within the dialogue box. 

Seamless User Experience

Gone are the days of hyperlinks throwing users around the web so quickly they get whiplash. 

The dialogue box triggered by clicking an Ad Intent link keeps users within a website’s ecosystem – removing the disruption associated with traditional ad clicks that redirect users to entirely separate landing pages. 

Privacy-Conscious Targeting 

Third-party cookie depreciation is finally upon us – and most marketers are currently scratching their heads and wondering what to do about it. 

Fortunately, Ad Intents operate without relying on third-party cookies and the privacy concerns that surround them. They’re also a key factor in Google’s broader strategy of developing privacy-centric advertising solutions that appeal to users, whilst remaining highly relevant.

Increased Revenue Potential

Ad Intents offers a new avenue for revenue generation for advertisers and publishers alike. The contextual nature of these ads will likely lead to a more engaged, proactive audience – translating to higher CTRs, greater ad revenue, and users who are more likely to convert. 

Ad Intents Implementation and Considerations

Ad intents are an opt-in feature within the Google AdSense platform, meaning publishers can decide whether or not Ad Intents are right for them. They will continue to exist alongside existing Auto ads formats, such as overlay and in-page ads. 

It’s likely that due to the improved user experience and ad relevance Ad Intents provides, it’ll see a high adoption rate – with many publishers already testing the feature.

Yet, the new format comes with a few potential downsides that might put some publishers off using them:

Traffic Share

Hyper-relevant hyperlinks may sound hyper-beneficial for everyone involved, however it’s a bit of a double-edged sword for publishers. 

An on-page SERP might sound better than a static hyperlink that sends users to completely separate landing pages. However, some publishers are worried about users spending more time looking at search results than their actual site content. 

The potential loss of control over user journeys can be worrying – however the jury is still out on whether this is a positive or negative for site user journeys as a whole. 

Content Relevance

The overall success of Ad Intents largely depends on the contextual relevance of the generated links and anchors. 

Publishers will need to ensure their content provides a strong enough foundation for Google’s algorithms to accurately identify user intent and place highly relevant ad links on site content. 

User Experience Optimization

The whole point of Ad Intents is to create a much smoother user experience. Yet, the additional dialogue box triggered by a hyperlink click could disrupt the intended user flow. 

What’s more, a cluttered presentation with excessive information (both organic and paid results) could overwhelm users and discourage them from engaging with the displayed content. 

The Future of Ad Intents

The outcome largely remains to be seen, but Ad Intents represent a significant step forward for Google Auto ads. 

In theory, the new format could be a win-win scenario for both publishers and advertisers alike. Publishers gain access to a new, content-relevant revenue stream – whilst advertisers are likely to benefit from highly targeted ad placements in a contextually relevant environment. 

Going forward, we can expect further refinements to Ad Intents and the machine learning algorithm that powers the program. However, it remains to be seen whether the on-page SERP functionality will help or hinder the overall user journey on publisher sites. 

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