Semantic technologies are maturing and this is good news because they can be used to fuel semantic ads, ads that promise a lot to both advertisers and publishers. Still, if the technology is reliable, why don't we see more semantic ads?

What is a Semantic Ad?

The term "semantic ad" is somehow self-explanatory but in order to avoid confusion, I will define it as a type of ads, which use semantic technologies to determine the context of the page on which the ad will be served. Semantic ads go beyond the literal meaning of words on a page and try to capture the context. The idea is that this way more relevant ads will be served, which in turn will improve conversion.

Semantic ads are not mainstream. This is partly due to the fact that even though they are usable, the semantic technologies to power ads are far from top shape. There are many reasons why semantic technologies are still not mainstream and one of the most prosaic ones is money.

The development of semantic technologies isn't cheap and even though there is funding from sources like government -- for example the IKS project got money from the EU -- there is still much work to be done.

If semantic technologies are making money, this will draw more investors. Could semantic ads be this turning point for semantic technologies?

Why Semantic Ads Are Better Than Traditional Ads?

Semantic ads are still exotic because not many ad networks serve them. In fact, semantic ads could reshape the ad landscape altogether. When semantic technologies are used to identify the contents of a page looking beyond the literal meaning of words, chances are that these ads will match user interests better.

In turn, more adequate ads will stimulate users to act (i.e. click on ads, or make purchases), thus making more money for the webmaster and bringing new clients for the advertiser. It is a win-win situation.

However, in order to make use of the power of semantic ads, there is one more factor to take into account -- the availability of adequate ads. Small networks generally don't have a huge ad inventory, especially across many niches, so no matter what the semantic analysis deems as adequate, the ads that are served are limited and rarely well-targeted. If you have a huge ad inventory, then you can target precisely at what users want; if you don't -- you serve what you have.

Semantic Ad Networks Do Exist

There are more than a dozen semantic ad networks, but these are relatively small agencies and their coverage is really modest. Admantx, Peer39, Yahoo's Dapper, Chrystal Semantics and Ad Pepper are some of the pioneers of semantic advertising.

If these agencies succeed, others will follow. If others follow, this will increase the role of semantic technologies. Maybe this is exactly the push we need in order to arrive at the semantic Web faster.