Behavioral Targeting And Paid Search

Paid search has a blind spot. Unlike display advertising, paid search marketers do not have the ability to do impression-level (or user-level) creative and bid optimization.   Because of this limitation, search marketers have not gravitated towards user-level analysis and understanding and instead focus more on keyword level understanding.  As performance-based digital marketing channels are converging, this "blind spot" for search marketers is becoming a large issue.

Proper user behavioral analysis includes understanding the ads that a user has viewed (media attribution) as well as the user's interaction on a marketer's web site.  Too few marketers have implemented cross-channel media attribution.  Even fewer can tie together attribution with user behavior online.  The upside for marketers who can do both is huge.

How can this combination help paid search marketers?

1.      While attribution lets you see where keywords fit in the funnel and how they may interact with each other (and with other channels), understanding user behavior at the keyword level helps you understand a user's propensity to buy and what items they're interested in.  This, in turn, can help you come up with the right creative messaging for different keywords.

2.     Similarly, having greater insight into what people are interested in -- and whether they purchased or not -- can tell you a great deal about your landing pages.  It's one thing to know certain landing pages have low conversion rates.  Imagine if you knew that, while people who come to that page don't buy, user intent was high.  What can you glean about your landing page or page flow on your site?

3.     This can also help you understand where you may be leaving money on the table, even among users who actually convert.  Imagine the sales person who sees a customer walk in and buy a pair of socks but knows, from having watched the customer browse the store, that they were really interested in an expensive suit.  In the online world, we show content knowing that someone bought socks.  Would the store employee feel the same, or would they engage the client about the suit?  Whether you use this to dynamically change content or landing pages, or simply to remarket to someone, having this information is vital to maximizing your return per visitor and not just settling for "they bought something."  Wisdom of the masses -- knowing that people who bought these socks also tended to buy this belt -- is great.  But wisdom of the individual -- knowing what the user is truly interested in buying -- is far more powerful.

Next steps?

Start understanding user behavior today.  Determine what tools you already have in place that can help you learn more about your audience and what additional tools or services may be needed.  Once you have this data, use it to help drive your keyword expansion and creative optimization strategy.  There is tremendous potential for those who do this well.  We know we have a blind spot.  For too long, we've just been OK with that.  We now have the ability to eliminate it.

1 comment about "Behavioral Targeting And Paid Search".
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  1. Chris Nielsen from Domain Incubation, April 22, 2011 at 4:45 p.m.

    Marketers also have a blind spot: It's the idea of treating a customer like a partner and not like a cow that exists only to be milked.

    "Behavioral Targeting" or "Malketing ([maul-kit-ing] stalking+marketing) follows the user around after they have stopped looking at certain content or searching for a specific topic. While Google has long preached about ads be relevant to content, more and more I visit a site offering IP networking tools and see ads for lung cancer. Yes, I was on a site for lung cancer previously.

    In a client's AdWords account we see more and more clicks that may cost as much as $35 or more - each - for keywords that are not even in the account. The meaning of a broad match keyword is expanded into "related" topics, or with "session broad match" it may be completely unrelated to what the client wants to be found for. While some of these click may result in conversion, most don't and I spend a lot of time blocking unrelated or poor converting keywords.

    Having this stuff as an option is great for marketers that want it, but mostly you can't opt-out or require time (if the client does it) or money (if I do it) to stop wasting advertising budget.

    I used to dread the day I look out my window and realize that the future shown in "Blade Runner" has come to pass. But I don't now as I suspect there will be revolution in the streets to prevent that sad future before it ruins our quality of life forever.

    Marketers: Customers are not sheep or cows. You will make the best use of your advertising budget by getting in front of potential customers when they are looking for you rather than when they have shifted their attention. Constantly following them around and getting in their face may not have the desired results in the long run...

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