Behavioral targeting


Behavioral targeting

comprises a range of technologies and techniques used by online website publishers and advertisers aimed at increasing the effectiveness of advertising using user web-browsing behavior information. In particular, “behavioral targeting uses information collected from an individual’s web-browsing behavior (e.g., the pages that they have visited or the searches they have conducted) to select advertisements to display”

When a consumer visits a web site, the pages they visit, the amount of time they view each page, the links they click on, the searches they make and the things that they interact with, allow sites to collect that data, and other factors, create a ‘profile’ that links to that visitor’s web browser. As a result, site publishers can use this data to create defined audience segments based upon visitors that have similar profiles. When visitors return to a specific site or a network of sites using the same web browser, those profiles can be used to allow advertisers to position their online ads in front of those visitors who exhibit a greater level of interest and intent for the products and services being offered. On the theory that properly targeted ads will fetch more consumer interest, the publisher (or seller) can charge a premium for these ads over random advertising or ads based on the context of a site.

Behavioral marketing can be used on its own or in conjunction with other forms of targeting based on factors like geography, demographics or contextual web page content. It’s worth noting that many practitioners also refer to this process as “Audience Targeting”.

Onsite behavioral targeting

Behavioral targeting techniques may also be applied to any online property on the premise that it either improves the visitor experience or it benefits the online property, typically through increased conversion rates or increased spending levels. The early adopters of this technology/philosophy were editorial sites such as HotWired,  online advertising with leading online ad servers, retail or other e-commerce website as a technique for increasing the relevance of product offers and promotions on a visitor by visitor basis. More recently, companies outside this traditional e-commerce marketplace have started to experiment with these emerging technologies.

The typical approach to this starts by using web analytics to break-down the range of all visitors into a number of discrete channels. Each channel is then analyzed and a virtual profile is created to deal with each channel. These profiles can be based around Personas that gives the website operators a starting point in terms of deciding what content, navigation and layout to show to each of the different personas. When it comes to the practical problem of successfully delivering the profiles correctly this is usually achieved by either using a specialist content behavioral platform or by bespoke software development. Most platforms identify visitors by assigning a unique id cookie to each and every visitor to the site thereby allowing them to be tracked throughout their web journey, the platform then makes a rules-based decision about what content to serve.

Again, this behavioral data can be combined with known demographic data and a visitor’s past purchase history in order to produce a greater degree of data points that can be used for targeting.

Self-learning onsite behavioral targeting systems will monitor visitor response to site content and learn what is most likely to generate a desired conversion event. Some good content for each behavioral trait or pattern is often established using numerous simultaneous multivariate tests. Onsite behavioral targeting requires relatively high level of traffic before statistical confidence levels can be reached regarding the probability of a particular offer generating a conversion from a user with a set behavioral profile. Some providers have been able to do so by leveraging its large user base, such as Yahoo! . Some providers use a rules based approach, allowing administrators to set the content and offers shown to those with particular traits.

Network behavioral targeting

Advertising networks use behavioral targeting in a different way than individual sites. Since they serve many advertisements across many different sites, they are able to build up a picture of the likely demographic makeup of internet users. Data from a visit to one website can be sent to many different companies, including Microsoft and Google subsidiaries, Facebook, Yahoo, many traffic-logging sites, and smaller ad firms.  This data can sometimes be sent to more than 100 websites. The data is collected by using cookies, web beacons and similar technologies, and/or a third-party ad serving software, to automatically collect information about site users and site activity.  This data is collected without attaching the people’s names, address, email address or telephone number, but it may include device identifying information such as the IP address, MAC address, cookie or other device-specific unique alphanumerical ID of your computer, but some stores may create guest IDs to go along with the data. This data is used by companies to infer people’s age, gender, and possible purchase interests so that they could make customized ads that you would be more likely to click on. An example would be a user seen on football sites, business sites and male fashion sites. A reasonable guess would be to assume the user is male. Demographic analyses of individual sites provided either internally (user surveys) or externally (Comscore \ netratings) allow the networks to sell audiences rather than sites. Although advertising networks used to sell this product, this was based on picking the sites where the audiences were. Behavioral targeting allows them to be slightly more specific about this.

Contextual Advertising

Contextual advertising1427561287

is a form of targeted advertising for advertisements appearing on websites or other media, such as content displayed in mobile browsers. The advertisements themselves are selected and served by automated systems based on the identity of the user and the content displayed.

How contextual advertising works

A contextual advertising system scans the text of a website for keywords and returns advertisements to the webpage based on those keywords. The advertisements may be displayed on the webpage or as pop-up ads. For example, if the user is viewing a website pertaining to sports and that website uses contextual advertising, the user may see advertisements for sports-related companies, such as memorabilia dealers or ticket sellers. Contextual advertising is also used by search engines to display advertisements on their search results pages based on the keywords in the user’s query.

Contextual advertising is a form of targeted advertising in which the content of an ad is in direct correlation to the content of the web page the user is viewing. For example, if you are visiting a website concerning travelling in Europe and see that an ad pops up offering a special price on a flight to Italy, that’s contextual advertising. Contextual advertising is also called “In-Text” advertising or “In-Context” technology.

Apart from that when a visitor doesn’t click on the ad in a go through time (a minimum time a user must click on the ad) the ad is automatically changed to next relevant ad showing the option below of going back to the previous ad.

Service providers

Google AdSense was the first major contextual advertising network. It works by providing webmasters with JavaScript code that, when inserted into webpages, displays relevant advertisements from the Google inventory of advertisers. The relevance is calculated by a separate Google bot, Mediabot, that indexes the content of a webpage. Recent technology/service providers have emerged with more sophisticated systems that use language-independent proximity pattern matching algorithm to increase matching accuracy.

Since the advent of AdSense, Yahoo! Bing Network Contextual Ads, Microsoft adCenter,, Sponsored Listings (formerly Quigo) and others have been gearing up to make similar offerings.


Contextual advertising has made a major impact on earnings of many websites. Because the advertisements are more targeted, they are more likely to be clicked, thus generating revenue for the owner of the website (and the server of the advertisement). A large part of Google’s earnings is from its share of the contextual advertisements served on the millions of webpages running the AdSense program.

Contextual advertising has attracted some controversy through the use of techniques such as third-party hyperlinking, where a third-party installs software onto a user’s computer that interacts with the web browser. Keywords on a webpage are displayed as hyperlinks that lead to advertisers.