Experience Better Targeting: Use Geo-Profiling To Enhance Your Cookie Pool

In the competitive world of online audience targeting, setting your online targeting strategy apart from the competition with even the slightest data advantage can make all the difference. Traditional database marketing invented the audience targeting approach by using multiple data sources to deliver on the promise of reaching the right audience, informing the right message and ensuring right-time delivery.  In the online world, most rely on an audience targeting approach that involves the clustering of cookies into "cookie pools" based on like online browsing behavior.  These profiles are based on tracking audiences across the web sites they visit.

A rich, but arguably untapped data source for online audience targeting is geographic data, which can be used to develop geo-profiles.  Geo-profiling is the ability to use third-party data (i.e. demographics, etc.) to append to your cookie-pools by geography.

 Though there are data providers who offer cookie-level third-party data, I would argue that the match rates are low (~15%) and PII issues are a sure road-block.  Geo-profiling relies often on offline datasets (e.g. census, registration, subscription, DMV, credit bureau, etc.) and sometimes online sources as well to pool audiences and develop unique profile clusters by a geographic layer.   

It is true that some "cookie-pools" have a geo-indentifier attached. There are multiple layers of geo-indentifiers  (i.e. region, city, zip code, etc.), the more granular you can go, the richer the profiles you can create.  Adding a geo-identifier to your cookie-pool provides a unique opportunity to enhance your audience profile.  If you are able to geo-profile by zipcode (or even MSA) data you stand to benefit in two ways:  

1. Profile enrichment. Augment your existing audience profiles through the use of third-party/offline providers to append demographic, lifestage, and other valuable information about your audience, by geo-identifier.

2. Geo-relevance. Better understand your audience in the context of their physical life (demographic profiling, e.g. cars in home, kids in home, etc).
You will get the best results by combining both the cookie-pool and geo-profiling approaches.  Enrich your audience profiles with complementary data and develop better targeting plans by knowing the surrounding demographics of your audience.  You can maintain your specific nuggets within your tracked cookie-pool, yet be validated that your audience is who you think they are.

Follow this simple process to ensure your geo-profile append is a smooth one:

  • Research - There are many geo-data providers; survey and compare four across the following categories: estimated match-rate, cost, timing, process, and level of service.
  • Define - Before you source the right geo-data provider, define the objective(s) of your campaign: is the campaign time-sensitive, is it a specific audience segment, is there a regional element, etc.  
  • Select - Decide what geo-profiling elements you do not need.  You will get 80% there by eliminating data you know will not enrich your audience profiles. Use factor analysis to narrow down the rest of the elements to get to your final dataset.
  • Append - Push to have the geo-data provider do most of the append work.  Keep in mind that often the data is in varying formats not amenable to statistical analysis.  Ensure your provider sends it in the format you need.
  • Profile enhancement - Some data may have offline profiles created (Claritas Segments, etc).  If you feel these are too generic for your audience, you should consider running raw data through a clustering solution.  A clustering algorithm will segment your audience into custom profiles.  Clustering should be conducted by your geo-indicator.
  • Plan - Rethink your media plan now that you have additional information on your audience by geo-indicator.

Executing a Geo-Profiling Campaign
Geo-targeted ads work to make regional or national brands look local, helping to attract more targeted traffic to your site or store and improve performance of your key metrics. There are several ways to incorporate a location into ads, but these can be very labor-intensive. Usually, for each area that you want to target, you have to create a new mini-campaign. You could have hundreds of campaigns then, which would quickly become unmanageable. Leverage tools and platforms to help mitigate these headaches. Finally, make sure you distinguish between targeting people who are currently in a location vs. people searching for a location (physical location vs intent).

1 comment about "Experience Better Targeting: Use Geo-Profiling To Enhance Your Cookie Pool".
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  1. Cynthia Siemens from, August 26, 2011 at 1:16 p.m.

    Would this affect those in the EU differently due to the cookie laws? Or is any up-front permission given by visitors expected to include geo-data being kept with the cookie as part of the umbrella of data storage being accepted, say, as it's done in Holland? See:

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