Behavior Targeting: An Advertiser’s Best Friend

Technology is adapting and changing the way advertisers reach consumers with their messages. Behavior targeting is quickly overtaking the digital advertising industry as one of the most effective marketing tactics for reaching the perfect audience.

Digital marketing has come a long way in the past few decades. In fact, technology changes so quickly that it seems like every time you start to get a grasp on the latest marketing trend, a more precise and accurate tactic is being introduced. It can be hard to keep up! The digital marketing world really took off in the mid to late 90s with the arrival of search engines—like Yahoo! and Google—and e-commerce sites like Amazon and Ebay. (Yes, Amazon has been around since the mid 90s. Remember when it was just an online bookstore?!) Email marketing became the latest and greatest way for businesses to reach their intended audience. A discount or offer could be in the (virtual) hands of a customer instantly, without the added cost of print materials.

Fast forward to a new millennium and a few decades later. 

Email marketing is still an effective way to advertise, but we’ve added tactics like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and content marketing. In the age of the smartphone and the rise in social media usage, we began to see additional digital marketing opportunities like social media marketing, influencer marketing and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising.

PPC advertising has become more and more popular in the last several years, and for good reason. It’s cost-effective, quick and allows advertisers to get super precise in their targeting. But even PPC advertising has come a long way in its evolution. Demographic targeting has traditionally been the preferred way to serve PPC ads, but behavior targeting is increasingly growing in popularity because of its accuracy in reaching the RIGHT AUDIENCE at the RIGHT TIME to ensure the highest likelihood of a conversion.

So what’s the difference between demographic and behavior targeting?

Demographic and behavior targeting do share some similarities, and many advertising agencies don’t actually differentiate between the two tactics. Both tactics use consumers’ personal data to determine who will be most likely to respond to an ad. They both target individuals based on predefined criteria set by the advertiser. With both demographic and behavior targeting, ads are served via laptop, tablet and mobile devices. But there are some key differences that can have a huge impact on the success of a campaign. Let’s take a look at the unique features of each tactic.

Demographic Targeting

Demographic targeting segments consumers into categories based on concrete attributes. When an advertiser uses demographic targeting to segment their audience, they use data such as:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Location

  • Income level

  • Occupation

  • Religion

  • Education

Consider the following scenario. An upscale, trendy, women’s swimsuit company wants to increase online swimwear purchases in preparation for the upcoming summer season. They use demographic targeting to serve ads to women between the ages of 18-45 who live within a 50-mile radius of the ocean. They won’t be wasting their advertising dollars on men, which is great since they only sell women’s swimwear. And they’re targeting people who live near an ocean, so they’re probably likely to need swimwear. Sounds like a pretty good strategy, right?

Now let’s dive into behavior targeting and what that might look like. Think we can take our precision even further??

Behavior Targeting

Behavior targeting, unlike demographic targeting, considers a person’s actions and behaviors, rather than their personal attributes, to determine the likelihood that the consumer will engage with the advertisement and ultimately take an action that will result in a sale. Behavior targeting takes into consideration data such as:

  • Websites a user is visiting

  • Keywords they’re searching for

  • Articles a user is reading online

  • Social media pages and content a person is engaging with

  • Physical locations a person has visited recently

  • Purchases a consumer has made, either online or offline

Let’s go back to our friends at the swimsuit company. Instead of using demographic targeting, they use behavior targeting to serve ads to people who:

  • Have searched for swimsuit deals online

  • Have booked a cruise or beach vacation

  • Are reading articles online about getting “beach body ready”

  • Are browsing the websites of their competitors

  • Have visited physical swimwear stores across the country

  • Have recently booked a hotel or condo near the beach

We could go on. And on, and on, and on. There are seemingly endless options when it comes to behavior targeting. And the best part? You aren’t missing out on a huge segment of your audience who is likely to be interested in your product or service. Now the swimsuit company is not only targeting women, but men who may be shopping for a gift for a loved one. Their demographic targeting excluded women over the age of 45. But with behavior targeting, they’re getting retirees who are planning to spend their summer poolside. Rather than stopping at people who live close to the beach, now they’re getting those midwesterners who are preparing for a vacation full of sun and sand at the beach. You get the picture.

Other Effective Ways to Use Behavior Targeting

Behavior targeting tactics open a whole new set of opportunities for advertisers looking to reach a precise audience. Below are just a few more ways that behavior targeting can help companies put their advertisements in front of the right consumers:

  • Geofencing allows advertisers to serve ads to people who are visiting the locations of their competitors. (A local coffee shop can geofence and serve ads to people who visit the nearby Starbucks or Dunkin’.)

  • Event targeting allows advertisers to serve ads to people who have attended a specific event, for up to 30 days after the event has ended. (A sports apparel company can serve ads to people who have attended NFL, MLB or NBA games across the country.)

  • A band can sell tickets for their upcoming concert to people who listen to certain stations on Pandora, Spotify or other streaming sites.

  • A flooring or appliance store can target new homeowners by serving ads to people who have recently applied for new construction loans.

We could do this all day. The opportunities are truly endless. But to summarize, behavior targeting allows you to get very precise with your advertising. By using behavior targeting, you aren’t wasting impressions (and your hard-earned money) serving ads to people who aren’t interested in your product or service. And you aren’t missing out on a large chunk of potential customers by excluding people based solely on their demographics. If you’re ready to have some fun and put together a campaign that meets your needs, connect with us today!


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