Using cookies to track users across its content network and YouTube, Google will serve ads based on assigned categories such as sports enthusiasts or car buyers.
But to avoid the controversy that behavioural targeting has attracted so far, Google will give users the ability to access and edit the interest categories it has compiled via its Ad Preferences tool, or opt out entirely.
Google is one of the partners behind the Internet Advertising Bureau's new code on behavioural targeting, published last week. Speaking at ISBA's annual conference on 4 March, IAB chairman Richard Eyre described behavioural targeting as "a game changer for advertisers ... but it is easier to attack than defend".
The beta-test of the Google initiative, called interest-based advertising, gives advertisers the opportunity to draw on Google's wide reaching network to target users based on their interests.
"We think we can make online advertising even more relevant and useful by using additional information about the websites people visit," a Google statement said.
"Over time we expect our ability to get the right ad in front of the right person at the right time to improve as we build interest categories with the help of our users and publishers."