How to Apply Contextual Advertising & Behavioral Targeting

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  • 0:03 Marketing During…
  • 0:53 What Is Behavioral Targeting?
  • 2:41 What Is Contextual…
  • 4:04 Apply Behavioral &…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

In this lesson, you'll learn what contextual advertising and behavioral targeting are and how marketers use these concepts in their online marketing plans.

Marketing During Online Shopping

Imagine you've just visited an online shopping site because you're in the market for a new pair of headphones. You look at several brands, styles, and colors but aren't yet ready to make a purchase.

A few minutes later, you visit a news site to catch up on the latest world events. To your surprise, you see an advertisement on the page next to the story you're reading, and it's the same pair of headphones you just checked out on the online shopping site. How did the site find you?

Before logging off your computer, you visit a website looking for some new exercises to try. As you're scrolling through the article, you see ads for protein drinks and multivitamins on the same page. How does the Internet know you might be interested in these products? You've just been exposed to two methods marketers use to try to earn your business: behavioral targeting and contextual advertising.

What Is Behavioral Targeting?

Behavioral targeting is a technique marketers use, relying on various software tools, to effectively reach consumers they know are interested in their products. But how do they know? That's where the software tools come in. By collecting information about your web browsing behavior, the pages or products you've visited, or searches you've conducted, marketers can tailor ads that seem to follow you from website to website.

You're in the market for a new car and spend several hours researching various models of a certain brand of automobile. Later, while visiting a news site, you see an ad for that same vehicle brand on the page you're viewing. Marketers have used your browsing behavior on the car website to target ads based on your perceived interest - and possible buying behavior - on another website.

Why use behavioral targeting? Behavioral targeting, sometimes called behavioral marketing, uses web analytics, cookies (small pieces of data stored in your browser while you're on the Internet), browsing history, and search history to create a picture of you as an individual consumer. It then serves relevant and targeted content that appeals to your specific interests. What you see in your targeted ads will be different than what your friends or colleagues see because you have different interests.

Marketers consider behavioral targeting successful because it focuses closely on a specific user and creates ads they know that person is going to be interested in. Online retailers and social media sites that you visit are already using these tools to serve specialized content to you, likely without you even realizing it! The relevancy of the ad increases the likelihood you will click it and buy the product or service advertised, which is a win for the marketer and their profitability.

What Is Contextual Advertising?

Contextual advertising, or contextual marketing, on the other hand, is a more generalized approach to serving online ads to consumers. It's a way to target ads to specific content on a page; in other words, the advertising is considered to be relevant to that specific web page's content. While behavioral targeting watches your online practices, contextual marketing is more focused on specific website content.

How about an example? While you're considering your vehicle purchase, you visit a popular automobile magazine's website. While there, you notice there are no ads for your specific car, but there are ads for oil changes, new tires, and auto accessories.

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