Target Behavior on the Site Level

When I ask online media planners about behavioral targeting, they often describe it as observing users’ behaviors, recognizing a behavioral profile, then matching an ad to the profile. Sometimes, they’ll add cookies and a powerful back end are necessary to build profiles and make connections.

Certainly, this is one form of behavioral targeting. And it’s a good one, based on my own experience as well as research from service providers and research companies. Yet there are other, simpler ways for online media planners to target behaviors, especially at the site level.

For example, you can target users who enter your site via an RSS feed. The technology use itself is a targetable behavior.

Let’s say a technology company wants to reach software buyers with an offer for an improved productivity application. The advertiser selects the Internet as a strong channel to reach software buyers; he places ads on the main technology and software industry Web sites. But he also wants to reach early adopters and technology users in other ways. This is where behavioral targeting to technology use comes in.

“RSS is starting to have a noticeable impact on Internet users’ surfing habits,” says my colleague Diane Weeks, who heads up the online media planning team for IBM’s software group at mOne North America. “We keep a close eye on the business software segment of the technology audience, and they are embracing RSS. As a result, many IT sites have posted RSS feeds that are currently driving a considerable portion of traffic. We think targeting users that have subscribed to specific feeds on sites, is an excellent way to reach tech-savvy, loyal users.”

How would something like this work? Continuing with the example above, the software advertiser would place ads with a business category online publisher on pages entered via RSS.

This isn’t targeting by content section (e.g., not in the business section). It’s more like creating a new section for all users who have entered the site via RSS. The page’s content could be international news, or business, or technology. It doesn’t matter. Ads are matched to the pages based on the user’s RSS use.

“Simply put, advertising works best when it connects marketers with the right audience,” said Alyson Racer, group director, NYTimes.com. “RSS is one strategic way to reach out to early adopters, active news seekers, and Internet savvy users. In order to reach this core audience seamlessly, NYTimes.com offers advertisers a means to speak specifically to the RSS reader in a way that adapts to their reading preferences.”

What makes this concept even more interesting is the ability to follow users into the site for the next few page views, essentially attaching several further opportunities to see the advertising to entry via RSS.

This type of targetable behavior can be linked to email, search engines, mobile devices, or other technology usage. The idea is simply to expand the idea of behavioral targeting beyond the observe-profile-match approach that currently dominates the marketplace.

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