Behavioral Focus: Beyond the Behavioral Buzz

Everywhere you turn in online marketing, you hear about behavioral targeting. By now, you might have a general idea of what the technology is supposed to accomplish. But how can you decide if behavioral targeting is right for you? Here are some things to consider if you're thinking of purchasing and implementing a behavioral targeting strategy, or re-evaluating an existing behavioral targeting solution.

Leverage Marketing Expertise. Behavioral targeting is as much a natural extension of traditional marketing practices as it is an extension of your existing online advertising technologies. So it's best to take a holistic approach, leveraging all parts of your marketing organization, including direct response and acquisition, to gain a better understanding of the types and categories of behaviors shown throughout your site. There is no "one size fits all" in behavioral targeting. It should be evaluated on a publisher-by-publisher, even an advertiser-by-advertiser, basis. A behavioral targeting implementation that combines marketing insight with solid technology solutions should be a practical and successful long-term solution.

Determine Site Appropriateness. Behavioral targeting isn't appropriate or effective for every Web site. It's most useful for sites with differentiated and unique content -- differentiated by theme, area, price point, and audience type. For example, a behavioral targeting solution might be ideal for a newspaper publisher's site, as it has well-defined sections of content for shopping, lifestyle, sports, travel, etc. This type of site can effectively track category behaviors and use that information to provide results for advertisers.

A shopping site offering a variety of differentiated products can also effectively use BT technologies. Visitors interested in books about travel, for instance, may also be interested in travel-related software, luggage, and vacations. In this case, BT can create new up-sell and cross-sell opportunities for advertisers.

Do Your Homework. There are four parts to this step:

>Analysis. Prior to launching a BT campaign, data should be reviewed to determine ad packages and develop unique offerings. I always recommend conducting back-end analysis and/or internal testing in the absence of customers for at least 60 days to get a clear idea of well-defined behaviors that would be of most interest to potential advertisers.

>Audience. Make certain to align your site with the behaviors that are the most natural, logical, and consistent for your audience. There are many behavioral segments that are appealing to advertisers, but only a few -- likely no more than two -- that apply to any given site. If you attempt to align your site with a behavior that isn't germane simply to attract specific advertisers, the campaign performance will suffer.

>Overexposure. Just because you can track behavior and deliver an ad based on a user's previous activity doesn't mean you can avoid saturation, overexposure, and campaign cannibalization. Monitor the frequency with which you deliver BT ads to ensure their relevance and optimize overall ad performance.

>Advertisers. BT will attract levels and types of advertisers other than online-only ad media. As a result, BT can help you open a new dialogue with prospects that already identify with behavior-based consumer buying. These prospects could include providers of luxury goods, highly recognized brands, and those with a strong degree of demographic attachment. Keep in mind that when paying more for BT solutions, advertisers expect bigger results. So be prepared to provide the reporting necessary to demonstrate those results.

The Bottom Line. To make the most of BT, you need to do your homework, have inventory available, and understand demand from advertisers and consumers. Look beyond the buzz to make sure behavioral targeting is a good business decision for you.

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