Behavioral targeting, also known as audience or interest targeting, is an ad targeting feature that tailors messages to users’ previous actions.
As you build your own ad server, behavioral targeting is a targeting feature you’ll want to consider.
This article explains what behavioral targeting is, how it works, why it’s beneficial, and why you should incorporate behavioral targeting into your ad server.
Behavioral targeting is where you retarget people based on their previous interactions with your site or app.
A travel site like FlyWithUs, for instance, can use their first-party data on past behaviors - such as what searches the user did on FlyWithUs's homepage - to create custom audience segments like “Hawaiian vacation planners”, “budget travelers”, or “spa hotel lovers”.
Advertisers could then pay to target just that segment when the user is back on FlyWithUs's site.
FlyWithUs wouldn’t share PII directly with the advertisers, but they would be building audience segments that advertisers could target at premium rates, such as this illustrative rate card:
|Site-wide (no targeting)||$1 CPM (cost per thousand impressions)|
|Frequent Flyers (3+ flights/yr)||$5|
|Business Travelers (10+ flights/yr)||$7|
|Hawaiian Vacation Planners||$25|
Here, a Honolulu-based rental car company may be happy to pay $25 CPMs to reach that audience on FlyWithUs's site, since the return-on-investment for that hyper-targeted segment may be high (though volume likely low).
There are three key benefits to implementing behavioral targeting into your ad server:
They do, so advertisers may expect the ability to target consumer behavior on your platform.
|Amazon DSP||Yes||DSPs & Ad Exchanges||Yes|
|Quora||Yes||Microsoft Ads||Yes - limited to retargeting|
|Yes||Amazon Sponsored Products||No|
|eBay Promoted Listings||No||Etsy Promoted Listings||No|
Facebook allows advertisers to target many pre-defined segments, such as "Engages In Moderate Political Content" and "Commuters".
Twitter also offers behavioral targeting, including the ability to target people who like specific types of alcohol (beer, spirits, and/or wine).
Another example is Pinterest, which has many interests to target:
Here’s a breakdown for getting there:
Think about what type of segments you want to sell against. This will be particular to your product, but here's a quick illustration of how an events listing website, such as EventsForMe, may approach it:
An advertiser could then choose to target one of these segments, and the ad would appear no matter where the user is on EventsForMe's site.
For example, "Hamilton" could show its ad to a member of the "Broadway Lovers" segment, even if that user is, say, currently browsing the concerts page.
How you approach this is up to you, but you could offer a targeting category called "Interest Targeting" with a simple dropdown like:
Advertisers (or your internal team) could then create campaigns with relevant ad copy that target just users who fit those segments.
First, you'll want to create triggers that, when they occur, add the user to specific segments.
Such triggers could include:
You'll want to then store this information somewhere, and there are two main paths for this:
Finally, you need to tie this data with your ad server for targeting.
If data is stored in
localStorage, this is where we'd recommend your ad server have a feature we call Keyword Targeting - a way to create rules for targeting keywords attached to each ad request.
Upon each ad request, you would ping
localStorage and then pass this information as a keyword in the request. Using Kevel's targeting tools as an example, you could set up campaigns that'll target only ad requests that contain that segment as a keyword:
Or, if the data is stored in a DMP (which we'd recommend), you would need to:
BroadwayLoversfield is set to
1, then that user would be eligible to see an ad from any campaign targeting the "Broadway Lovers" audience.
Sound complicated? It is! This is partly why few publishers have added behavioral targeting to their ad platform, even though there’s value. Fortunately for Kevel customers, behavioral targeting features are built-in and enabling it is easy.
Please note: we are not a law firm - we recommend consulting a lawyer for this. Below is for informational purposes only.
That said, to comply with the GDPR, you will most likely need to get consent from EU residents before building user profiles on them.
With the CCPA, though, there is no explicit rule against using PII if you aren’t selling it - meaning you can (likely) allow advertisers to buy against profiles you created using first-party data.
We are! You can generate more revenue with your ad server by offering advertisers more ways to reach their target audiences.
Chris has worked in ad tech for over fourteen years in a variety of roles - giving him customer support, PM, and marketing perspectives from both the advertiser and publisher sides. He's the VP of Marketing at Kevel.