New Gmail Ads: For Better or Worse?

The internet may have come a long way over all these years, but making money from the internet hasn’t. Advertisements still constitute a lion’s share of revenue for a lot of Internet businesses, primarily those engaged in the content and freemium verticals.

It’s easy to pick on Google for slapping ads left, right and center based on our search and browsing habits. But if it wasn’t for Google there may have been no contextual ads. At least now we usually see only those ads that might actually be useful based on the keyword we are searching for, or the content we are reading.

Google has recently announced that it plans to roll out ads in Gmail that are more in line with your tastes and interests. Unlike lot of other companies, they are placing notifications prominently in our inboxes and after the jump, let us take a look at the pros and cons of their latest announcement.

Aren’t there ads in Gmail already?

Yes, Google already displays contextual ads alongside the emails that you read. But their latest mission is make those ads more relevant and useful. They believe that the current algorithm isn’t perfect and at times displays irrelevant ads that are totally out of context. Bad ads tend to annoy people and ads being the bread and butter of Google, they don’t want incur the wrath of users.

No Google, I want to get work done, and I don't want to play Facebook Games!

The latest goal is to cut down on these ads, and make the ones you do see much more useful. To be more clear, they want to make use the principle behind Gmail’s Priority Inbox to serve ads. By now, we know that priority inbox uses a bunch of signals to rank mails that matter to you the most. In the same vein, new Gmail ads will start using signals like those too.


For example, let us assume that I receive a lot of emails regarding blogging and content creation. The new algorithm might show me ads about better content creation tools or affordable web hosting rather than, say, pharma ads. Likewise, if I constantly mark some emails as spam, Google will skip displaying ads associated with those topics and keywords. As an icing on the cake, you might also start seeing cool offers and coupons based on your location.

Google already blocks ads on emails mentioning sensitive events and topics, but these new changes should help them not only avoid the sensitive topics but also offer ads that are more targeted to your tastes throughout Gmail. Sounds real useful doesn’t it?

Could the Web Clips bar be made useful?

Privacy Concerns

At the outset, I have to disclose that I don’t really care about big companies like Google tracking and data mining my online habits. In fact, I have opted in to save all my Google searches and often I search those saved searches to find that link that I found months ago. Like always, Google employs algorithms to read mails and no humans are involved in this process. That said, there are many users who still are concerned about anything reading their emails, even if it’s Google’s servers.

One has to understand that if something is available on the Internet it necessarily shouldn’t be free. Gmail is a free web app, but it probably costs Google hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the service running. They are not in the business of charity and they will have to make money to run a profitable business too. Besides, I have not come across an Internet empire that offers so much for free while expecting next to nothing in return. They don’t even ask for an acknowledgement that you have read and found the advertisement useful.

Another fact to remember is that most advertisement networks store data about their users, even if the advertisements aren’t directly targeted to your tastes. Google at least uses the data it gathers from users to show ads that are more likely to interest you. The only thing Google could do better would be to let you opt out of a specific ad, similar to how you can remove Facebook ads you’re uninterested in.

I don’t a see a valid reason to complain. If you still aren’t convinced, then you can always pay up for Google Apps Pro and go ad free if you have your own domain. Or, you could use a different email service, though Gmail’s main competitors are advertising supported as well.

Share Your Thoughts!

What’s your take on the new Gmail ads? Do you feel that Gmail ads are irrelevant? Would you rather have more target ads that align with your interests, or would you prefer the aura of privacy with less targeted ads?