Find Enthusiasts with Google Behavioural Targeting

August 18, 2010

Behavioural targeting is the technique of analysing a web users past behaviour to serve relevant adverts. In short, if you’re frequently visiting sites about fast cars and motorcycles you might get categorized as a “motor enthusiast” and start getting served related ads across the web.

This is a very powerful technology for advertisers to effectively seek out new highly relevant audiences. It does however also come with some tricky questions regarding privacy and ethics.

How does it work?

There are several behavioural targeting services available, but Google’s new “interest based” targeting feature is probably the easiest solution to get started with for anyone with an AdWords account.

When a user browses websites that are connected to Google’s display network, the content of those pages are contextually analysed and categorised. In addition, Google looks at metrics such as repeat visits and frequency to determine how to categorize each user’s interests. E.g. the first time you visit a car site you might not be classified as an enthusiast, but as you visit several similar sites over time you are put into that category. While I’m referring to a “user” this is only in the context of an anonymous cookie.

Mixing and matching audiences

While this provides an obvious opportunity to target specific interest groups, the real power comes with how flexible Google’s system is. It is possible to combine and exclude interest groups to target more specific audiences, e.g. targeting people who are interested in both architecture and travel offers with a highly relevant offer.

In addition, any interest based audience can also be combined with Google retargeting. This makes it an interesting tool to find new relevant audiences that for example haven’t already visited your website without spending money on the one’s that have.

From early tests in various verticals and by combining audiences for further segmenting; I have experienced performance that is better than using the regular contextual targeting options, and generating incremental site visits and conversions at equal cost-per-click.

There are plenty of interest categories and sub-categories so choose from. Audience numbers are however currently only presented as global figures.

As previously mentioned, behavioural targeting does however also come with a fair share of privacy concerns, whilst some articles might border to scaremongering it’s important to consider the ethics and reactions of the audience. An interesting read on the topic can be found on the WSJ website.

Google is already providing good ad controls for users to see what interest groups they have been categorized into, and either remove or add further interests.

What’s your experience and view of behavioural targeting?

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nilsson_magnus August 18, 2010 at 12:26 pm

BLOG: Find Enthusiasts with Google Behavioural Targeting… #ppc #display

DigitalLydia August 18, 2010 at 12:28 pm

RT @nilsson_magnus: BLOG: Find Enthusiasts with Google Behavioural Targeting… #ppc #display

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