Understanding Digital Marketing Behavioral Targeting

If you’re wondering “what is behavioral targeting?” and if it is right for your company, you’ve found the right article. In the crowded world of digital marketing tactics, behavioral targeting is a strategy that personalizes the ads served to target audiences. Advertisers and publishers have been utilizing this strategy for years in order to increase the relevance and effectiveness of digital ads displayed to consumers. If you’re looking to get ahead of the competition, behavioral targeting is the answer.

definition of behavioral targeting

What is Behavioral Targeting? 

Behavioral marketing is a digital marketing strategy that utilizes web user information to strengthen advertising campaigns. It allows advertisers and publishers to display relevant advertisements and marketing materials to consumers based on their previous web-browsing behavior.

Behavior targeting involves gathering data from a variety of sources about the target audience’s online browsing and shopping behaviors. It relies on data like:

  • Web pages viewed
  • Previous search terms
  • Amount of time spent on a website
  • Ads, content, and buttons clicked
  • Last data of website visit
  • Any other data about their interactions with a website

This information is utilized to create advertisements that are relevant to the potential customers’ interests and habits. Finally, the ad is shown in the target user’s web browser.

There are several platforms that already use behavioral advertising.

benefits of behavioral targeting

Types of Behavioral Targeting

Behavioral targeting allows you to personalize your marketing for customers based on various sources of data. Here are four types of behavioral targeting:

Purchase Behavior

Purchase behavior is all about what items someone looks at, adds to their cart, and/or purchases. It is the most common and powerful source of behavioral targeting.  When you visit an e-commerce site, you will most likely see suggestions for similar businesses and products. Boom, that’s behavioral advertising at work. You can utilize purchase behavior data to recommend products shoppers will like, show them appreciation, and even give them incentives to go ahead and make that purchase.

Website Engagement

Website engagement describes what users visit and click on on your website. This allows you to personalize the user experience on your website. Segments of website users can see personalized ads based on their interests. Remarketing ads are another way of leveraging website engagement and recapturing someone’s attention even after they leave your site.

Email Campaign Engagement

Email campaign engagement helps you target based on who is and isn’t opening your emails, and what they click on when they do. This helps you adjust how you organize your audience and how you create content for email marketing campaigns.

App Engagement

App engagement is the actions people have taken or not taken in your app. You can use app targeting to do things like congratulate someone in your app for making their first purchase or reach out to users who downloaded your app but haven’t logged in yet.

how to use behavioral targeting

How Behavioral Targeting Works 

Behavior targeting works in four steps:

Step 1: Collect Cookies

We all know the screen that pops up when we visit a new website: “Do you accept cookies?” A cookie is placed on a user’s computer and is stored either temporarily on a local memory drive and deleted when the browser is closed, or more permanently on the device’s hard drive.

Step 2: Create a User Profile 

Over time, as cookies are collected and stored through new page visits, ad clicks, and time spent on content, behavioral patterns form that are related to search and shopping habits.

Step 3: Designate Consumer Groups 

Companies then use the patterns and profiles created with the data to separate users into different target market groups. Once these groups are created, websites that utilize behavioral targeting will know the interests, likes, dislikes, and shopping trends of the members of each group.

Step 4: Share Relevant Information with Viewers

Finally, consumers will be able to see customized content and personalized ads that are curated based on their past shopping behavior when they revisit the website or network.

Data Management Platforms 

In order for the behavioral targeting process to be successful, you need a data gathering tool. (And a method of implementing said tool.) Many marketers and behavioral advertisers use a data management platform for this purpose.

How to Organize Your Audience for Behavioral Targeting Purposes 

The next step of behavioral targeting is to organize your audience into segments based on shared traits or behaviors. This allows you to personalize your advertising and marketing tactics for each individual segment. The more you customize your messages, typically, the better response you will get for your efforts. In fact, marketers who send segmented campaigns get a 760% increase in revenue. Segmented campaigns ensure that people are seeing and receiving the messages that are relevant to them. For example, if you own a travel company, you might segment customers into those who travel for business and those who travel for fun.

what is behavioral targeting

Benefits of Behavioral Marketing for the Advertiser 

There are numerous benefits to utilizing behavioral marketing over the tired, traditional marketing strategies of the past. Personalized marketing is simply more effective. Here are some of the benefits:

Increase in User Engagement 

Behavioral tracking allows for access to consumers who have habitually engaged with specific marketing material. With one-click ads, consumers can be redirected to online storefronts and learn about a company within a matter of seconds.

Higher Click-Through Rate 

A personalized ad that embodies the viewer’s likes and needs is much more likely to get a click that one that doesn’t. It immediately helps the viewer move down the purchasing funnel. Who doesn’t want a higher click-through rate for their advertising campaign?

Improved Conversion Rates

Advertisements that have been created for a specific market, and reach that market, and more likely to have high conversion rates. Viewers are much more likely to complete their purchase or request more information. Behavioral targeting typically helps companies see an increase in sales and repeat customers.

Benefits of Behavioral Advertising for the User

Though some people don’t enjoy the idea of sharing their personal information with advertisers, behavioral targeting doesn’t just benefit the advertiser, but it actually benefits the viewers, too.

More Personalized and Exciting Ad Experience 

According to a study by Marketing Dive, 71% of consumers prefer personalized ads. After all, no one likes ads that aren’t engaging or relevant to their interests. Personalization is becoming so common these days online that many consumers are even coming to expect it. Users prefer it when the ads they see are relevant to their desires and interests.

Higher Efficiency in the Online Shopping Process

When ads for products that are likely to interest consumers are shown to them prominently in their web browser, they can quickly click through to access the item they are interested in. From there, simply adding the product to their cart and checking out is just a few simple steps. Behavioral targeting actually simplifies the online shopping process for consumers.

Reminders and Alerts for New Products

Viewers can easily keep up with new product releases and stay up-to-date about brands that they like when they continually see ads for companies that they have previously shown interest in or purchased from. Plus, if a user was distracted and failed to complete an online purchase (it’s happened to all of us before!) they can get a reminder which will motivate them to go back and finish the transaction.

Behavioral Targeting vs. Contextual Targeting

Behavioral targeting is all about collecting data and utilizing it to create personalized ads for your audience. Contextual targeting, on the other hand, is a less personalized approach.

Contextual targeting is about displaying ads on web pages based on the content on those pages. Behavioral targeting is about the audience. Contextual targeting is about the content.

For example, in contextual targeting, if you visit a makeup company’s website, you will most likely see ads for skincare products. Though contextual targeting is also effective, there is a downside. Sometimes, the ads can get lost on the web page because it is so similar to the rest of the content.

Behavioral and contextual targeting are not mutually exclusive. In fact, you can even use behavioral targeting in order to improve the quality of your contextual targeting ads!

behavioral targeting

Behavioral Targeting with SEO Design Chicago

If you are an online advertiser who is ready to start utilizing behavioral targeting to enhance your marketing, trust an experienced digital advertising agency like SEO Design Chicago. After all, the data you gather is only useful if you know how to use it in order to attain your desired results. We have experience tracking user behaviors and using that data to create landing pages and relevant ads for our clients. Contact us today!


  • What are the different types of behavioral targeting?
  • What is the difference between behavioral targeting and contextual targeting?
  • How does behavioral targeting work?
  • What is the definition of behavioral targeting?
  • What are the benefits of using behavioral advertising?

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