Google is applying the Priority Inbox technology it built for Gmail to improve the relevancy of ads it serves in its messaging application.
The search engine last August launched Priority Inbox, which automatically sorts incoming email. The software uses a ranking algorithm to analyze and designate each message as important, important and unread, starred items, and everything else.
Now Google is bucket testing those same signals to improve the relevancy of ads it serves, which are automatically generated based on a user's email messaging content.
A user who exchanges group emails with his softball teammates about where to go for dinner after a game might see more ads for deals or coupons from sporting goods stores and restaurants, and less ads from credit score report purveyors and financial planners.
This is a big deal for many of Google's 150 million-plus Gmail users. Ads in email applications are bad enough, but ads that hold no meaning for users are worse.
"Bad ads tend to annoy people," the company acknowledged in its Gmail support center. "We're trying to cut down on these ads, and make the ones you do see much more useful."
That Google is including offers or coupons brings up an interesting point. While it hasn't explicitly stated as much, it's entirely possible Google will apply its Google Offers local deals service to Gmail. That would be one way to find a massive audience to target for Groupon-style coupons.
Only a few users will see the change in the early going, but Google will roll it out to people more widely over the next month. Users are opted in by default, but will also be able to turn off the use of relevancy signals from their Gmail settings page.
How many users actually click on these Gmail ads, which are tucked under the search bar and directly above the task bar, is another story.