The basic idea of behavioral targeting is easy to understand. It’s a method of advertising that shows a user ads based on the behavior they exhibit while searching online. But putting it into action is a complex process.

Have you ever shopped for something – a new blender for your kitchen – only to find that blender follow you around the internet and shows up in ads everywhere? That’s behavioral targeting at work.

Behavioral targeting compiles information about a user so it can deliver ads that are specific and relevant to their searches and preferences. If it’s done right, it delivers data about your audience, their interest, what they like, what they avoid, websites they visit, what products they search for, how likely they are to purchase, and more. The more you put into it, the more specific you can be in understanding who your customer is. And the more customization you can put into your ads.

Before we get into how you use it in your marketing, it’s important to understand how it works.

How Does Behavioral Targeting Work

How Does Behavioral Targeting Work?

To create a behavioral targeting campaign, the process relies on capturing data and using this information to create relevancy in ads. The clearer you define preferences, needs, and interests, the more relevant you can make the ads.

This is where “cookies” come into play. As people move around the web, these cookies follow behavior and temporarily store the results. And while web behavior is one of the most important parts of the process, it isn’t everything. It also stores habits in other areas, including:

Mobile data – there’s no denying people are moving more to their mobile devices every day. Because we use them from the moment we rise to the moment we go to bed each night, accessing how mobile is being used is crucial to the future of behavioral targeting.

Subscription data – when you sign up and register for almost any activity or service, part of the process is releasing information about who you are. This information can be used to develop specific patterns about your preferences and interests.

Geographical data – your IP address identifies where you are geographically. By tracking IP addresses, it’s easy to determine where you visit, how often you go, and how long each visit lasts.

Gathering this data over time paints a clear picture to represent who a person is and how they fit into your ideal audience. It gives you a better understanding of how your ads can be relevant; showing up right when your target audience is making decisions.

Personalizing ads based on behavior

The Personalization Factor … Good or Bad?

The idea of personalizing ads based on behavior is nothing new. We’ve been doing it since the beginning of marketing more than a century ago. Salespersons could target specific neighborhoods for certain products. They understood homemakers at home during the day perform certain tasks. Therefore certain tools and resources would have appeal, especially if it made their lives easier.

That same targeting has continued to grow over the years. We use it to place certain restaurants or stores in certain neighborhoods or geographical locations. We use it to send out flyers and postcards based on zip codes. And of course, we use it online.

Some say it’s kind of creepy; it’s as if someone is watching every move you make.

But when it comes right down to it, we also prefer it. Research shows that 71 percent of respondents say they prefer ads tailored to their personalized tastes and shopping habits. 

And when you really think about it, it comes as no surprise. Do you really want ads that are way beyond your comfort zone? Do you want to see things you don’t like or even agree with? Nope. In fact, it can even influence your decision to stay on a site. Even when it’s just an ad being fed in from another source, and has nothing to do with the site at all.

We all want relevancy. We want to see things that align with our needs and interests. We just want to be “heard.” And if behavioral targeting helps accomplish that, then it’s easy to see why that’ll be in our marketing strategies for a long time to come.

Monitor These Behaviors Online

Monitor These Behaviors Online

So how does this work? What behaviors are tracked for behavioral targeting? How do you make this whole thing work? When we put together a campaign, these are the things we monitor:

Pages Visited – the goal is to find out how a visitor moves around your site. What they click on. What pages they visit. What actions they take. And when you see the same actions happening again and again, you can utilize these in your campaigns.

Timing – some pages will get more results. Some pages will have more content, gain more traction, have longer visits. Using our tools and resources, we can tell what pages are most successful and what parts of the page they focus in on.

Clicks – it’s important to know what captures viewers attention. Do they prefer buttons or hyperlinks? Do certain colors gain more attention? It’s also important to monitor whether someone is merely surfing the web or comes with a specific need in mind.

Specific Terms – what brings people to specific pages? Can you use specific search terms to gain better results? Understand what they search, where they click, and add it to final results will help you determine the readiness of your ads compared to final behavior.

Timing – monitoring behavior can also produce a timeline from initial contact to final purchase. This can clue you into creating a more thorough sales process. Can you add in different advertising strategies to reach out during critical time frames to help move the sales process along?

There’s a fine line between using behavioral targeting the right way and doing it incorrectly. If you get too personal, the creep factor rises up in your audience. But if you do it the right way, your customers will happily be a part of your process, be more receptive to your messaging, and add more to your bottom line.

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