Google is not just the largest search engine, with billions of queries each month. It also powers a large portion of the internet’s display ads through the Google Display Network.

According to SEMrush, the Google Display Network:

  • Serves ads across roughly 2 million websites and 650,000 apps.
  • Includes 65 of Comscore’s top 100 sites.
  • Reaches 210 million unique monthly U.S. users and 90 percent of global internet users.

Ad Personalization Profile

Google does most of its tracking through a user’s account. If you’re logged in on your phone or browser, Google is accumulating a lot of data. And it’s willing to show you.

To see what Google believes you’re interested in, navigate to Ad Settings. Once logged in, you’ll see a page like this.

Data questions

With so many avenues for data collection, Google rapidly acquired a good deal of information on each user. This begs the question: what is the company doing with all this data?

And the answer circles back to its core monetization stream, and the personalization of ads, also known as targeted advertising.

This is particularly valuable, as rather than just showing random adverts to random folks, as was traditionally done with television, radio and print advertising, Google can instead target ads at specific users.

It all starts with search

Google’s data collection begins with its search engine, as this keeps track of the topics you search for. The company then shows adverts relevant to those searches, and furthermore keeps track of which ads users click on to gauge interest, and therefore further target ads.

Google then collates a whole list of topics that are relevant to the particular individual.

Managing Your Data

While it collects a lot of data about you, Google is entirely transparent about it. You can view that data at “My Google Activity” The page provides detail about what Google has recorded.

For me, it includes searches I performed while using Gmail as well as websites I visited with GDN ads, which feed data back to Google.

It’s eye-opening to see how much is here, especially if you’re using an Android-based phone.

Short conclusion

In summary, Google collects a lot of data to improve targeting — and results — for its advertisers. At the end of the day, Google is a publicly-traded company that is trying to earn a profit for its shareholders.