I recently conducted several online searches for vacation deals to Tahiti, as it’s my unvisited fantasy vacation destination. I searched many sites to gather information and the for the next 10 days or so, I was amused at the consistent volume of Tahiti display and text ads that “magically appeared” on almost any website I visited. I even saw the sparkling turquoise waters and straw bungalows of Moorea (Tahitian city) on lawn fertilizer and screen enclosure sites. But this wasn’t a clever coincidence.
It’s part of a highly sophisticated process that takes place in milliseconds over the Internet and is referred to as behavioral ad targeting. It’s the practice of digital ad networks using a variety of methods to serve online ads that are relevant and unique to each Internet user based on their web browsing actions. Early e-commerce sites like Amazon used consumer web browsing behavior to showcase relevant products and Google’s original text ad targeting was primarily based on words alone, matching specific terms found in gmail accounts to related keyword terms in corresponding ad requests. But Google and social networking giants like Facebook have moved toward a more robust behavioral-focused ad targeting model which is increasing advertiser relevancy and efficiency.
Today, ad servers can display interest-based marketing content that is based on the types of pages consumers visited, the content viewed or material downloaded. However, in respect to user privacy, the major search engines like Google and Bing will not associate served ad content with sensitive search interests based on race, religion, sexual orientation, health or sensitive financial categories. Everything else is fair game.
Behavioral ad targeting technology is a billion dollar business for Google because it matches consumer purchase or interest intent with relevant advertisers. The objective is simple, designed to show the right ad to the right consumer at the right time.
Even though there’s a distinction between a consumer’s purchase intent, displayed by their search query behavior, and their socializing preferences, the most popular social networks like Facebook have also adopted the concept of behavioral ad targeting. Digital media has excelled in speeding the consumer’s adoption cycle and nowhere is that more evident than in Facebook’s real-time marketing system.
When a Facebook user updates their status, referencing their desire to acquire a particular favorite product, within minutes, a corresponding ad pops up in the sidebar offering an incentive code to purchase the very same product. And even if the user doesn’t take action, they can also “like” the brand’s Facebook page and begin interacting with the brand and its loyal followers, bringing them one step closer to purchase.
In the next phase of behavioral ad targeting already being rolled out, digital rainmakers will target the sharing of content that takes place every day on social networks. As a complement to search behavior, marketers will also serve up ads based on the content being shared and it will be an opportunity for publishers who create the original content. The new ad targeting technology platforms will reward publishers with a more precise way of monetizing their content and collecting data about how it’s being shared.When someone clicks on the share button and clicks through the relevant pop-up ad that appears, the publishers receives 100 percent of the revenues that click-through generates.
The new “ad filters” that are the core of behavioral ad targeting are positioned to increase efficiency for advertisers and relevancy for consumers.
Al Quintana, aka, The Digital Raindance is a marketing and communications expert who has developed award-winning campaigns based on measurable business value for global brands and small businesses. As an adjunct professor of marketing, his expert blog highlights best practices in digital, social media marketing and new platforms that create new customer leads, improve existing customer engagement and secure conversions. Read and register for email updates at The Digital Raindance blog.