Behavioural Targeting

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One of the most exciting developments in online advertising in recent years has been the introduction of ‘Behavioural Targeting’ (or ‘Behavioral Targeting’ as it is spelt by our stateside friends). But what exactly is behavioural targeting? And why should you be paying it any attention?

facebook-logoAn Introduction to Behavioural Targeting

One of the most exciting developments in online advertising in recent years has been the introduction of ‘Behavioural Targeting’ (or ‘Behavioral Targeting’ as it is spelt by our stateside friends).

But what exactly is behavioural targeting? And why should you be paying it any attention?

What is Behavioural Targeting?

As you might expect, the idea is to target people based on their ‘behaviour’ – ie the way they behave while they’re online.

You will sometimes see the phrase written as ‘behavioural marketing’, but the overall accepted term uses the word ‘targeting’ – because targeting a particular group of people is the essence of what we’ve trying to do. (See the Internet Advertising Bureau UK’s definition here).

OK, so just what does ‘behaviour’ mean when we’re talking about how people act online?

This is the core of the whole concept.

Someone’s ‘online behaviour’ is made up of the record of websites they’ve visited and search terms they have searched for.

Let’s break that down into the 2 main elements:

Search Behaviour – Google’s Bag

Many digital marketers will have you believe that behaviour targeting is all about a person’s browsing history in terms of the sites they’ve visited.

However, for many years now Google has been ‘personalising’ the organic search results it shows to people, based on their previous searches.

So, for instance, if you have recently been searching for phrases such as ‘new cars’ and ‘new car reviews’, when one of your subsequent searches is the word ‘golf’, you are more likely to be shown results that include reference to the Volkswagen Golf as well as links to pages related to the sport.

Google has been a pioneer when it comes to tracking people’s internet usage through its own search results pages.

When it comes to online advertising, though, Google has found itself having to catch up with Facebook’s extremely sophisticated targeting systems.

Google does, incidentally, offer Behavioural Targeting within its own AdWords interface, but I’ll come back to that in the future. For the time being, let’s have a quick look at Facebook.

Online Behaviour – Facebook’s Killer App

It is the way people behave when they’re online that is generally being referred to when we talk about behavioural marketing.

Facebook uses various methods to track your internet usage. These include the use of a bit of code (called the Facebook Pixel) that can be inserted onto any website, as well as tracking your behaviour while you are logged in to Facebook itself.

So, continuing the car example we used with Google, Facebook will also know if you’ve been visiting websites that are car-related. Plus it will know if you’ve ‘Liked’ or ‘Commented’ on posts within Facebook that feature cars as part of their content.

Given that you will have included demographic information about yourself when you originally sign up to use Facebook – age, gender, geographic location etc – Facebook will now have quite a lot of information about you that can be used by advertisers when it comes to targeting you with their products and services.

Hence the fact that you will often come across adverts that seem quite relevant to your own interests, when you’re using Facebook.

(Read more at my Facebook Ads service page).

Focused Targeting Rather than Broadcast Targeting

One way of illustrating the difference between online advertising and traditional advertising is to compare broadcast media adverts with the type of targeting available using Facebook and Google.

For example, you will find plenty of businesses that are happy to advertise their products during the advert breaks for the popular soap opera, Coronation Street. And the TV companies that sell these adverts will be able to provide certain levels of demographic data, such as the proportion of the programme’s viewers that are in a particular age bracket or are of a particular gender.

However, Coronation Street is a very popular programme, with a wide range of people who watch it.

So you are really ‘throwing things at the wall to see if they stick’ when you use this kind of broadcast media advertising. (Obviously, the fact that companies are still prepared to do this certainly indicates that it is deemed to be a beneficial thing to do, of course.

When you use the Behavioural Targeting capabilities of online advertising, however, you can narrow your focus to the type of demographics and interests that just wouldn’t be possible with a TV advert.

Just to take that a step further, it would even be possible to target people who have expressed an interest in Coronation Street, with our Behaviour Targeted ads, as well as incorporating a whole raft of other elements to really focus on the type of people we specifically want to target with our messaging.

The overview I’ve given above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Behaviour Targeting – a method that I believe will come to dominate the way we market things in the future, in the way that the internet has already taken over from broadcast and print media.

Get in touch if you want me to help you take advantage of the extraordinary potential of behavioural targeting.