If you’ve been keeping up with the trends in online
marketing, you’ve probably been hearing about something called
“behavioral advertising,” “behavioral targeting,” or “behavioral
marketing.” What is it, and how is it different from the kind of online
marketing you’re already doing? Keep reading to find out.
marketing has actually been around for a few years. In its crudest
form, pre-Internet, it may have consisted of special mailings to repeat
customers. Today, behavioral marketing involves serving up ads to a
particular individual based on his or her previous online behavior. It
is not to be confused with contextual advertising, which serves up ads
that are related to the content of the web page on which they're
This means that two people seeing the same web page
could see completely different ads. For example, let's take two
surfers, one an outdoorsman who likes to visit hiking-related websites,
another a big theater buff. They're both planning a visit to South
Florida. Maybe they both end up on the same site with general
information about the area, but the outdoorsman sees ads for the local
parks or hiking groups, while the theater enthusiast sees ads for
tickets to upcoming theater performances.
You can probably see
why many online advertisers are very excited about behavioral
marketing's potential. It promises the ability to reach an even tighter
audience with more relevant ads than contextual marketing can achieve.
In theory, this means advertisers can show (and pay for) fewer
impressions of their ads, while enjoying a higher click-through rate -
and more importantly, a higher conversion rate.
With this kind
of potential, you would expect to see a lot of advertisers eager to try
out this new form of online marketing. The truth is a little more
mixed. According to figures quoted by Search Engine Watch,
only eight percent of all online advertising is behaviorally targeted.
That number seems a little low, but there are reasons for this, as I'll
go into shortly. Some of them will become obvious when I explain more
about how behavioral targeting actually works.