A practical marketer’s view on behavioral targeting

April 29, 2009

We know that cookies are used to track behavior across websites, to create profiles that are used to optimize advertising and marketing.  But how does targeting really work in practice?

If you’re interested in that question from the perspective of a marketer, read these recent articles by Brian Massey, Behavioral Targeting and the Scientific Method, and A Conversion Professional’s Dream: Behavioral Marketing.

A few interesting things I learned:

  • This is about applying lots of different creative approaches against “lookalike” profiles, to figure out what works best for any given profile.
  • The behavior-based targeting goes beyond the ad on the network; it also affects the experience you have after you click on the ad (landing pages and on).
  • Context is an important behavioral indicator of conversion, which means content still matters.  “Did a visitor watch the video or read the article? This could be a conversion if you know that a piece of content predicts a sale or a lead.”

From a privacy point of view, nothing in those articles offends me.  Those marketing activities don’t involve much more than computers doing their job to wring more efficiency from the system.  Rather, the risks reside in the aggregation over time of an overall behavioral record that might be tied to my personal identity in other ways that I cannot control.

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