Have you ever wondered how Facebook knows what you were browsing by serving you some really relevant ads? Before I learned how a website works, I always found the retargeting Lululemon ads on the side of my Newsfeed creepy – they are watching me!

Websites use cookies to track the user’s actions on the website. Google and Facebook use advertising cookies to better user experience and gather accurate information about the users.

A cookie is a piece of text that a Web server can store on a user’s hard disk. Cookies allow a Web site to store information on a user’s machine and later retrieve it. The pieces of information are stored as name-value pairs.

For example, a Web site might generate a unique ID number for each visitor and store the ID number on each user’s machine using a cookie file.

To learn more about how cookies work, read here.



With Facebook, ad targeting is even more precise because it will try to ‘guess what you like.’ You directly share your name, age, location, school, relationship status, etc. when you first signed up as a user. As you browse on Facebook, you’re also giving Facebook information on the things you ‘liked’, the networks you’re in, the events you attended and more. Combined the previously mentioned personal information with the Internet cookies, Facebook can serve you tailored ads that it thinks you might like.

Facebook makes money off these ads; there is no way to hide all the ads on Facebook. To opt out, you’ll simply have to stop using Facebook. However, you can control what you see by clicking the upper right corner of an ad and click “Why am I seeing this?” The link takes you to your ad preferences. You can edit the preferences that don’t apply and add new interest, but updating preferences won’t change the frequency of ads that appear on your Newsfeed.



Search Network

Google Search Network Example

The reason Google ads are so powerful is that it gives you the results you are looking for. Google feeds you results that have search terms related to one of your keywords when you search for something. For example, 4 search ads pop up when I searched for ‘electrician.’ It targets me – an ‘active searcher’, who is on a mission to find an electrician. Using my search histories, Google can then distribute electrician related ads via its various platform ie. Display Network and YouTube videos later.


Display Network

Google Display Network Example

Display ads are graphic/ video displays that are placed on a variety of sites across the Internet (i.e. Websites, blogs, YouTube). Take a look at the giant display ad on the DailyHive website. I am 99% sure I wasn’t searching for “Indian Restaurant Vancouver BC”, nor was I looking for “part-time online work.” To make ads I see more useful, I can go into Google Ads Settings and update my ad preferences.


You can’t really “hide” from Internet services like Facebook and Google. Being “spied on” isn’t entirely a bad thing. It helps businesses understand you better and in return, you get the right information. Information that you want. As a digital marketer, I don’t have AdBlock installed on my work computer. Even though there are a lot of annoying ads, it is important to do market research and stay updated with the Digital Marketing world. To make your online experience a little better, take a proactive approach and set your Google Ads Settings and Facebook Ad Preference today.