Are you wondering what behavioral targeting is? Imagine this situation: you have been thinking of going vegan for a while; you do some searching, watch some videos on YouTube, then suddenly you are seeing vegan product ads everywhere after a few days. Why is this happening? This is a result of behavioral targeting. Companies collect data from your online actions so they can show you ads that you are more interested in.

I’m sure you have had many similar experiences. But what exactly is behavioral targeting? How are companies personalizing their ads, and why many of them apply this method in their marketing strategy these days?

To find out the answers to these questions and even more, keep on reading this article.

Table of Contents

What Is Behavioral Targeting?

Behavioral targeting is an advertising method that uses the data collected from users’ behavior throughout the web to show them relevant advertisements.

Today companies have access to user data more than ever, and this provides them with the opportunity to show personalized and more relevant ads to users. The information that marketers collect from the users’ online behavior helps them to improve the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns. When people see ads that align with their habits and interests, they will be more likely to purchase the advertised products. This means that behavioral targeting can help businesses increase their conversion rate considerably.

What are exactly the data related to users’ online behavior that businesses use to show relevant ads? This information includes:

  • Visited pages
  • Searched terms
  • Purchases
  • The amount of time spent on a website
  • Clicked links and ads

The goal of behavioral targeting is to make use of this information to reach users who are more likely to be interested in the advertising message.

Why Is Behavioral Targeting Important?

Before behavioral targeting became popular, many companies used contextual targeting in order to display their ads. This targeting method shows ads based on their relevance to the content on the page without using any information about the visitors. After tracking user behavior became available, many marketers began to change their advertising strategies.

While contextual targeting is still relevant in some cases, behavioral targeting is being widely used because of the advantages it offers. The problem with contextual targeting is that marketers are never sure if their message would reach the right people. Even the most carefully created advertising messages can fail, and all their effort will be wasted.

On the other hand, ads displayed through behavioral targeting tend to engage users more effectively and also create a better user experience.

This is why this targeting method is so important: it benefits both users and companies.

Pros and Cons of Behavioral Targeting

Now that you know the importance of behavioral targeting, let’s take a look at some of its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of Behavioral Targeting

Below you can find some advantages of this targeting method:

1- Higher Click-through Rate

Personalized ads are more likely to capture the users’ attention. Users are more willing to engage with them, so they would take action to look for more information.

2- Higher Conversion Rate

This is actually a direct result of the increase in the ad click-through number. Furthermore, behavioral targeting makes retargeting more effective. Retargeting ads are a reminder for your products and services to the users who have left your website without making a purchase. A retargeting campaign can be annoying if it’s irrelevant. People would rather see something relevant pop up the next time they are visiting a website.

3- Great Ad Efficiency

When ads are personalized, you no longer need to take steps to draw the users’ interests. Since people are already attracted to your advertising messages, the whole process will be so much quicker.

4- Better User Experience

No one likes to see irrelevant messages constantly showing up during their online activities. Displaying ads based on user behavior data creates a more pleasant experience for customers.

Cons of Behavioral Targeting

Now, here are some disadvantages of this marketing method:

1- Invasion of Privacy

While personalized ads are mostly well-received by customers, they can sometimes have a negative impact. If the behavioral data is not used carefully, users may feel like their privacy is being violated. As a result, many people are now using ad blockers.

2- Lack of Audience Knowledge

The key to success in behavioral advertising is having a deep knowledge of your audience. If you don’t know what your audience resonates with, your messages won’t capture their attention, and you will be wasting your resources. You may have the most accurate data, but it’s up to you to make use of them effectively. To improve the performance of your advertising campaigns, you always need to be up-to-date on how your audience is engaging with your ads.

3- The Exploitation of Personal Data

This is the biggest problem with behavioral targeting. With all the personal data we are sharing these days, there is always the fear of data exploitation, or worse, data breaches. There are even many critics who argue that behavioral advertising should be illegal.

4- Over-advertising

Behavioral marketing is a great way to build brand familiarity, but you must be careful not to cross the line and cause content overload. If people see ads from your company every minute, they will start to ignore your messages.

Types of Behavioral Targeting

The two main types of behavioral targeting are onsite and network.

1- Onsite

Onsite behavioral advertising is the process of personalizing a particular website for its visitors. In this method, advertisers display ads, product recommendations, and relevant content based on the collected data from the users’ behavior on the website. Businesses implement this strategy to make their website as engaging as possible for each user. This way, viewers will spend more time on the site. It is also an excellent strategy for conversion rate optimization.

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2- Network

Network behavioral targeting uses the information collected from the users’ behavior across the web to categorize them based on factors like interests and purchases. The data used in this method is mainly gathered from the advertiser’s website.

This information includes cookies and IP or Mac addresses, but not data like names, telephone numbers, and email addresses. Algorithms process all the collected data to assign users to segments like age, gender, interests, etc. This way, marketers can display user-specific and personalized retargeting ads.


Behavioral targeting utilizes data gathered from users’ web behavior to show them the most relevant advertisements. This technique has many advantages over other targeting methods, and it has become trendy. However, if not applied carefully, it can be considered a privacy invasion by users. Moreover, a deep knowledge of the audience is necessary to achieve the best results from this marketing technique.

Published On: April 22nd, 2021 / Categories: User Behavior /

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