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What Is Behavioural Targeting, and Why Is It Important?


Want to know a bit more about how your Google Ads campaigns work? Behavioural targeting is an important part of any search marketing strategy, which helps focus the aim of Ads campaigns within Google’s key ad markets: Search, Display, YouTube, and Gmail.

Each of these four markets is massive in their own right, and behavioural targeting is how we navigate these markets in order to deliver the best possible results. To find out more about how it works, and just why it’s so vital to the success of Google Ads campaigns, read on.

How does behavioural targeting work?  

Behavioural targeting is a tactic used for online advertising and published content in which user data helps narrow down the ideal audience for the delivery of the ad or piece of content. This user data is drawn from their online behaviour, which can include search terms they use, their browsing history, and past purchases. With this data, ads can zero in on the users that are most likely to respond to them. This kind of data is usually collected by the browser they use (e.g., Google) or by the websites they visit, and users can opt-in or out of the data collection.

Behavioural targeting can also help companies track potential customers across the web to other websites. Say someone has put a product from your website in their cart and then closes the window or tab before checking out. You could use behavioural targeting to display ads of the item they didn’t buy from you across other websites that they visit, reminding them to come back and complete the purchase.

The above is just one example of who you might want to target. Behavioural targeting works best when it can be used to sort users into groups based on a whole range of factors, and then display ads based on these groups. These are called ‘audiences.’

What are some examples of audiences?

Below are a few types of audiences our SEM team here at Pure SEO uses most often. This list is just a small slice of what’s possible, but it will give you some idea of how precise behavioural targeting can be:

  • Affinity Audiences. These audiences can be used to reach potential customers based on a holistic picture of their lifestyles, passions, and habits. This means you could target broad groups like ‘sports fans’ or something more niche, like fans of a particular team.
  • In-Market. Designed for advertisers focused on getting conversions from likely buyers. In-Market audiences are better equipped to reach consumers who are already close to completing a purchase, or actively researching a big purchase online.
  • Life Events. Audiences can also be based around important life milestones, such as marriage, graduation, buying a new home or car, and more. These are particularly useful for businesses who exclusively cater to users who are at these parts of their life, such as maternity wear brands.
  • Custom Intent. You can also define your own audiences using keywords, URLs, and/or apps related to the products and services your ideal customer may be researching. This can be complex but highly rewarding depending on the service or product in question.
  • Also called Retargeting, this is the audience used to target people who have previously engaged with your products/services, just like the example from earlier of someone leaving a product in their cart without checking out. Remarketing can also display ads to users who have successfully bought something from you, or even just clicked on your site.

Why is behavioural targeting important?

Before behavioural targeting was common, digital advertising was based entirely on context. If you sold cars, for instance, you’d probably only want to place your online ads on websites related to cars, like motorsports blogs. This approach still exists, and can work very well, but behavioural targeting allows ads to be placed in more effective locations, with less effort. Without behavioural targeting, you’re simply not making the most of the full capabilities of the internet itself.

How to target the right customers

As effective as it can be, however, behavioural targeting does require some forethought. Because user data is so helpful, and so readily available, many businesses try to use it to cover all their bases, so to speak, and target every element of their ideal customer base at once. 

In practice, this never works as well as one might think it would. Instead, it’s always better to start small and scale up. This means finding out who in your target market are your core customers—those who stand to gain the most from you—and targeting just them first.

This gets the best results because it will quickly gain you repeat customers. To start with this approach, you need to think critically about your audience, and try to put yourself in their shoes. To help you do this, ask yourself what their primary goal is, and what’s keeping them from achieving it. From there, you can continue to build an understanding of your core market.

Find out more today!

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Sam Mannell

Sam Mannell has been a writer for the Pure SEO content team since August '18. He quickly found his place in the company as resident Dungeon Master and coffee expert. Sam holds a BA from University of Auckland, where he double-majored in Linguistics and English.

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