Complete Guide to Understanding Contextual and Behavioral Targeting
The digital marketing world continues to experience seismic shifts as a result of new technologies and innovative approaches. From programmatic advertising to “Big Data,” there’s a brave new world of branding out there.
Consumers have changed, too. As a result, you must adjust to meet their expectations and target their behaviors. Besides these changes, there’s a longstanding debate between contextual and behavioral targeting.
This debate has proven spirited with passionate supporters on both sides. When you take an either-or approach, however, you risk missing many potent marketing opportunities.
You see, contextual and behavioral marketing both come with pros and cons. When you understand what these are, you can choose the best approach based on your campaign goals, branding, and niche market.
With that in mind, let’s dive into an analysis of these two types of targeting to find out which one’s right for your company.
The Debate Between Contextual and Behavioral Targeting
As a decision-maker at your company, it can be challenging to know where to allocate your marketing budget. Instead of offering clarification, the debate between contextual and behavioral marketing has muddied the waters.
Some marketers have suggested that more traditional approaches, such as contextual targeting, should make way for newer methods like behavioral targeting. Does this argument make sense in real-world marketing settings, though?
That’s where the views of another group of marketers come into play. They argue that both contextual and behavioral targeting have their place.
How? As complementary tactics that can give your company a distinct advantage.
We agree that a more measured approach works well. Whether you opt for contextual or behavioral targeting should depend on a variety of factors.
In other words, there are no clear-cut answers or black-and-white distinctions.
Nonetheless, gaining a greater appreciation for how each form of targeting can help your next marketing campaign will, in turn, help you choose the right approach.
Contextual Marketing 101
When ads get displayed based on a website’s content, we call this contextual targeting. This approach works effectively for many reasons.
For example, if you’re on a website about family travel, seeing advertisements for a fantastic portable stroller or innovative luggage for kids makes sense. The proposition is simple, place ads in places where people search for similar topics.
It’s easy to see how this targeting practice evolved. It’s fundamentally the digital extension of placing a print ad in a niche magazine.
Contextual marketing tactics fall into several categories, including:
- Keyword contextual targeting
- Semantic targeting
- Pre-assigned categories
With keyword contextual targeting, ads appear based on matches with specific keywords. As for pre-assigned categories? This approach allows for ad placement on pages that fall into a certain category.
Last but not least, there’s semantic targeting, which represents the most advanced form of contextual targeting to date. It relies on machine learning to understand what each page means rather than matching keywords to it.
How does the process ultimately work? A crawler scans the web.
This crawler categorizes pages relying on semantics and context. Then, each time a visitor goes to a page, the content information gets sent to the ad server.
The ad server matches it with relevant ads based on the content and keywords a marketer chooses to target.
Of course, success in contextual marketing relies on your system’s ability to understand the actual context of a given page. The better a system does this, the more likely your ad will match up with the needs of readers.
The Benefits of Contextual Marketing
When it comes to marketing, you’ve got one ultimate goal: to send the right message to the right people at the right time.
Contextual targeting helps you do this. It enhances your customer’s overall experience through data-driven content personalized to their:
- And more
It delivers engaging content to your target audience consistently, which helps your brand cultivate meaningful, long-term relationships.
It also proves cost-effective, and it doesn’t put customers off with what some perceive as stalker-like retargeting ads.
If your brand appeals to a group of customers who hate the disruption of retargeting ads, then go with the contextual targeting approach instead. Not everyone likes ads interrupting them throughout the day.
Contextual targeting means your customers see ads less often. What’s more, they see these ads in places that make sense. This ad contextualization can be critical, especially for consumers who dislike the concept of behavioral targeting.
For example, if I’m on a website about makeup and your company’s eyeliner ad comes up, it’s hard to find fault with that. There should be a natural contextualization between the research done, the site visited, and the ad seen.
If I start seeing those eyeliner ads pop up when I check my email or try to make reservations for a campsite? This is ad inundation. It’s unwarranted attention your customer may not appreciate.
Like behavioral targeting, contextual targeting leads to increased customer engagement and more sales and revenue. Unlike the behavioral approach, it fosters a greater sense of consumer privacy and respect.
After all, some consumers prove more sensitive to aggressive advertising, and you don’t want this audience to feel cornered by your ads.
Behavioral Marketing 101
Behavioral marketing is also known as audience targeting. It involves segmenting customers based on a variety of behaviors, including:
- Pages visited
- Links clicked
- Searches performed
- Products purchased
When you couple this with physical and mobile data, you can segment your audience by in-store purchases, location, and more. The result? A more personalized approach to marketing that speaks to individual customers.
With this targeting approach, you can also combine information about shopping behavior and purchase intent to craft and deliver ads when consumers need to see them most. Here’s where retargeting ads come into the mix.
Retargeting ads engage the customer throughout the buyer’s journey by showing them an advertisement for the products they most recently viewed. These ads can be dynamic and highly personalized to ensure the consumer makes the purchase.
The five most effective types of retargeting ads are:
- Facebook pixel retargeting
- Google display retargeting
- Facebook custom audiences
- Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA)
- Email retargeting
Explore these five types of retargeting ads further to find the best one for your next campaign.
Benefits of Behavioral Targeting
Behavioral marketing comes with many compelling benefits for both brands and the consumers that they reach. These benefits manifest in increased conversions.
For one, you’ll enjoy more user engagement with your brand’s marketing materials. This engagement might include things such as one-click ads that let your audience head directly to your online storefront.
Of course, these ads still need to follow best practices in marketing. That means building consumer trust and interest in your products and services OVER TIME.
Don’t expect consumers to click on your ad the first time. That’s why retargeting ads exist in the first place. To give consumers more exposure and time with your products before making a final decision.
Behavioral targeting also leads to a more exciting ad experience. Why? Because 71 percent of consumers prefer a personalized website ad experience, and can you blame them?
That’s precisely the type of experience you can give them because of the technologies and capabilities inherent with behavioral targeting.
No wonder this form of targeting leads to improved conversion rates and higher numbers of ad click-throughs!
But the benefits don’t stop there. Behavioral targeting also ramps up the efficiency of the online shopping process, which is HUGE for today’s time-impoverished consumer.
Behavioral targeting also allows your customers to stay on top of product updates and new releases. These reminders and updates make customers feel like they’re a part of something bigger, your brand’s fandom.
The Digital Age has brought with it more distractions than ever before. As a result, sometimes your customers do need a reminder.
Which Type of Targeting Is Better?
Which targeting is right for your company? It honestly depends.
Ultimately, you should test both targeting types to see which one works best for your company. In some instances, you should consider both tactics as part of your overall marketing mix.
Marketing is all about experimentation and finding out what works best for your niche audience. At the heart of this? knowing your customer.
When you know your audience inside and out, you’ll intuitively choose the strategies most relevant and appealing to them. These strategies might include a hybridization of contextual marketing and behavioral marketing.
Why You Still Need to Know Your Audience
Many consumers hate the idea of retargeting on face value. They feel nervous about companies collecting data about their behavioral habits online, and that’s why they buy things such as adblockers to enhance their web experience.
Yet, these same customers may feel pleasantly surprised when a highly-personalized retargeting ad for an item they almost purchased comes up in the banner or sidebar of their screen.
Why? Because it gives them a second chance to make the right buying decision. When these retargeting ads show up at the right time, a buying decision quickly seals the deal.
So, how does a consumer go from feeling that companies are being intrusive to appreciating a retargeting ad? It has to do with the intent of the campaign. It also has to do with how well the marketer knows their ideal customer.
Provide Your Customer with Value
Providing your customers with added value requires a subtle yet crucial shift in mindset. Instead of taking the slick used car salesperson approach, marketers need to become educators.
They need to bring value to everything that they do, including retargeting ads. In a sense, they become a “helper” to their ideal consumer rather than an antagonistic sales associate.
When a consumer feels like a brand truly “gets” them, then a long-term, loyal relationship is forged. That’s hard to do with “spray and pray” ads. If you know how to leverage the latest technology, you change the rules of the game.
Then, it’s just a matter of determining whether contextual or behavioral targeting is better for your unique audience.
Numbers don’t lie. So, start running tests and then digging into the data for the insights you need to pursue successful future campaigns.
You can use innovations in data management to target your audience in the most effective ways possible. When done right, not only do you increase conversion rates, but you make consumers feel understood.
In the age of data-driven marketing and advanced tracking technologies, you can’t rely on the traditional marketing practices of the past. This realization proves especially true when it comes to the web.
Instead, you need to take advantage of contextual and behavioral targeting to help you up your game and inspire more individuals to buy your products. Here are some more thoughts on the top marketing trends of 2020.
The Right Approach for Your Brand and Audience
We live in an age of sweeping new technologies and innovative marketing approaches. As a result, more tools are available to brands than ever before. These tools include contextual and behavioral targeting.
Knowing which one is right for your brand and customers requires experimentation and a hard look at the data you get from this experimentation.
Because you’re dealing with a unique audience, you may even need to develop your own targeting hybrid. After all, you likely need the best that both techniques have to offer.
So, why limit yourself? With this in mind, contact us to fully explore your marketing options and how best to target your niche audience.