You’ve probably seen a number of stories about internet privacy. It may not be clear what our search history and other factors tell advertisers about our preferences.

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Cross-Selling

The search engines learn a number of things about us from our search history. If you’re looking for a Christian elementary school in Florida, for example, you may also be a consumer for warm-weather children’s clothing. The search engines don’t reveal us individually to advertisers, but they include us in a group of people who may be interested in related searches.

Retargeting

Retargeting is a higher level of attention that may come your way after you visit a given advertiser’s site. If you’ve ever had the experience of seeing a number of ads for a product or a category after viewing a site which sells that product or category, you’ve experienced retargeting. The logic is that those who have considered a site and seen it may be more responsive to the advertisement.

Platform-Dependent Marketing

The websites you visit are aware of some details about your system. They need to be, to properly serve the page. But this information can also be used to prioritize different information to different consumers. If you are browsing using the latest iPhone or Surface Pro, you are likely to be a different consumer than one using Windows 7.

Geographic Targeting

The search engines serve different content to us depending on where we are. For the most part, this improves search results for us. If we’re looking for a tire store, most likely we’re looking for one close to where we live or work. This information also tends to tell advertisers something about our income and lifestyle.

These are some examples of what advertisers can learn about their audience from our internet browsing. For the most part they help bring us search results that are more relevant, but we can adjust browser settings to minimize the information that advertisers get from us.