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What is behavioral targeting & why is it important?

For the longest time, contextual targeting has been the traditional digital marketing method. And millions of marketers used it in all their campaigns.

But competition is a lot more fierce than it used to be. And this brought a decline in consumers’ interest in ads; hence, the need for marketers to rekindle their marketing ROI.

The advent of web-tracking tools and Data Management Platforms was the answer. Marketers were now able to monitor and measure their marketing campaigns digitally. This ability gave them a much deeper insight into consumer behavior and browsing patterns than ever before.

Now marketers can use these consumer data to show the right content and ads based strictly on a customer’s trackable interests, behavior, and preferences.

Why is behavioral targeting so important?

The most significant boost of behavioral targeting over contextual targeting is that the latter is platform-specific, while the former is consumer-specific.

A contextual targeting strategy makes sure that the advertiser and the publisher deal in related products or services. A kitchen product store like BisettiUSA will post ads to buy kitchen knives on a cooking blog.

In behavioral targeting, advertisers show ads or content to customers based on what they’ve been doing online. What this means is that the kind of ad or content that shows are not set in stone. They can change attributes based on the customer’s internet activity.

In other words, two site visitors can be surfing the same website and see completely different ads.

Optimizing this process comes with its own challenge. The scale of ads in question is humongous with large organisations. Adverts with completely different message & product or service highlight churned in real-time to stay relevant.

Here’s the question – what makes behavioral targeting so important? The main thing is the wealth of consumer data that marketers now have access to. With this data, they can make more personalized advertisements and overall user experience on a per-customer basis.

Besides its data-centric positioning and the attendant tailored advertising in bulk, there’s also the gift of retargeting. This strategy understands that a lot of times, a consumer has to be exposed to your brand multiple times before deciding to purchase — this principle is known as the Rule of Seven.

Retargeting shows ads multiple times on the consumer’s favorite and most visited websites and pages, increasing the likelihood of an eventual buy.


Multiple brand exposure builds familiarity; familiarity leads to trust, and trust is what drives conversions.

Benefits of behavioral targeting

Data Management Platforms track a myriad of consumer behaviors to make behavioral targeting a reality. Chief among them include:

  • Frequently visited pages
  • Actions taken on these web pages (purchases, subscriptions, the amount spent, etc.)
  • The time when they visit these web pages
  • Duration spent on each web page
  • Links and ads clicked by the consumer

These metrics help marketers build a knowledge bank about where their customers visit online and why. And while contextual marketing is still useful in specific contexts, there are immense benefits that come with access to this kind of data.

Increased Ad Click-Throughs

Since 72% of consumers are only keen on only engaging with personalized marketing, it makes sense that behavioral targeting will boost click-through rates. If a consumer sees an ad that aligns with a deep interest they already have, they are more likely to seek out more information, hence moving further down the sales funnel.e

Much better conversion potential

This is a direct corollary of higher click-throughs. If your targeting is based on behavior, you stand a greater chance of seeing higher conversion. However, always use the consumer’s behavioral data at all the other touchpoints down the funnel to avoid a growing drop off rate.

Better and quicker ad efficiency

Because ads in this context are sufficiently personalized, it helps to cut the route from ad click to purchase. You don’t have to create interest in the viewer because they already have that coming in. So the process from ad click to purchase is much shorter and quicker.

A more pleasant consumer experience

While consumers are wary of giving away their sensitive personal data to marketers, they hate obstructive and irrelevant data even more. So deploying customer-personalized ads along a customer’s browsing journey makes the overall experience more pleasant for them.

Cons of behavioral targeting

Negative consumer sentiment

As mentioned earlier, most consumers do not mind personalized messaging and marketing tactics. But there is a thin line between personalization and invasion of privacy. Consequently, many consumers are beginning to use ad blockers. As a marketer, it is imperative to tailor your offering to a customer in a personalized way without being creepy.

Exploitation and hacking of sensitive personal data

This is also a real fear among consumers. This is why, even with its efficiency, behavioral targeting still has many critics who describe it as unethical. This is due to the genuine dangers of mass-scale data exploitation. These critics have been pushing for behavioral targeting to be deemed as illegal. Besides exploitation, there’s also the real fear of a data breach. What would happen if hackers get their hands on consumer data from a data collection company?

How does behavioral targeting work?

Behavioral targeting follows four straightforward steps to work its magic for any marketer/advertiser. These steps, if followed correctly, will work for any digital marketing campaign.

Collect customer data with cookies

The data collection tool helps to study and store information on new customers from the first time they visit your site. Depending on the type of cookies, this data collection can last only as long as the browser is open or can take up more permanent storage on the hard drive.

Develop a user persona

Thankfully, with customer behavioral data, you no longer have to guess who your ideal customers are or what they want. As the cookies pick up data from your customer’s search and purchase actions, a proper analysis will reveal behavioral patterns that you can use to profile your ideal customer.

Create customer segments and groups

All your ideal customers won’t be interested in the same things. This fact will become clear from the data you collect on them. Use this data to separate them into different market groups.

Share personalized information with your customers

When you get to this point, crafting personalized content and ad material for your different target market groups will only work if you follow the first three steps correctly. If the shared information is congruent with their past online behavior, customers are more likely to connect with it.


The danger of overusing a customer’s personal information is ever-present. But it doesn’t dent the effectiveness of behavioral targeting. The strategy is critical to marketing success in today’s competitive digital clime at the end of the day.

Leverage a proper data management platform. Use it to gather behavioral data, and segment your audience as needed. You will experience better engagement and conversion on all your onsite and offsite marketing efforts.

This does not mean that contextual targeting is entirely obsolete. It is still useful in the right context — no pun intended. A good strategy should be to use contextual targeting in marketing situations where any personalization may be frowned upon.

Aaron Swain

Aaron Swain

Aaron Swain is a writing specialist who is currently working in the company Best Writers Online service for writers and as an editor at review service Online Writers Rating He is constantly trying to find new ways for personal and professional growth and is convinced that it's always important to broaden limits. That's why Aaron expands and improves his skills throughout the writing process to help and inspire people.
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