Behavioral targeting calls to marketers. It enchants us with its promise of incremental revenue. We love to imagine a time when each marketing message we deliver will be so closely targeted to the needs of the user that it scarcely seems like advertising at all. Rather, it will come off more like the simple reinforcement of the needs and desires consumers are already aware of in their own minds.
That time is already at hand, if only we could see it. Behavioral or affinity targeting really does improve key performance metrics -- and it's not the painful process that most marketers imagine.
In fact, behavioral targeting can be done as quickly and easily as any other campaign that includes testing and optimization. Try any of these suggestions for "quick wins" to see how simple -- and effective -- it can be.
- Quick win #1. Category affinity
This is a terrific one to start with because it doesn't require you to come up with any extra creative. We have done category affinity targeting for several clients and have seen as much as a 14 percent lift in conversions.
Category affinity targeting is a matter of serving content based on what a visitor has already looked at. For example, imagine a magazine publisher that has several different categories of content listed down the left-hand side of the site -- men's, women's, sports, news, etc. When a visitor clicks on "women's," she is indicating that that is likely her primary interest.
Via a content slot or "Mbox" on the home page, the publisher can serve content to the home page specifically from the women's category throughout her visit, making the experience a more relevant one for the user. Each time she returns to the home page, she sees content that she is already interested in.
For simplicity's sake, target based on the first thing the visitor looks at. We have tested lots of scoring techniques, and the first-interest seems to always do well.
- Quick win #2. Experiment with route testing
Here's another simple test, one which we ran for a major jewelry retailer. We're currently seeing a 50 percent lift in revenue per visitor and an 11 percent lift in conversions.
Here's how it works: When a user types a search term into a search engine, you simply route them to an internal search results page in which their search term has already been pre-populated. When they arrive at the page, the search results from your site clearly match their stated interest.
- Quick win #3. Try geo-targeting
This is one of my favorites: Google allows you to target ads based on geographic territory. With one client, who was buying words for New York, California and Texas, we created personalized messaging.
Simply put, "Hey, New Yorkers, get your free…" worked better than just "Get your free…"
Perhaps New Yorkers are so loyal to their home that calling it out, even in an almost awkward and silly way, improved conversions by 4 percent.
Interestingly, this tactic for Texas and California failed to improve conversions significantly.
- Quick win #4. Remove irrelevant information
Publisher sites or any sites that ask users to subscribe or register have a beautiful opportunity for behavioral targeting.
Often, those types of sites take up prime real estate on the home page for subscription solicitations. Try removing the solicitation for those who have already subscribed, and use that space for a paid ad.
This can be done in a day, with no hand-wringing from the brand or legal folks.
- Quick win #5. Add an obvious link to interesting content/products
This is another form of "category affinity targeting" (see quick win #1).
When a user shows an interest in a product or service earlier in the same session, or in a prior session, you might add a single line in an obvious place that says: "Click here to see more ..."
If your site sells software for Mac and PC users, it might be "Click here for more Mac products."
Small changes like these not only increase profit margins and get you in the habit of behavioral targeting, but they also have the benefit of providing a success story that can be used to convince the powers that be to allow more experimentation.
You don't have to change everything all at once. In fact, radical change with radical investment just might hurt your chances of long-term success. A small step in the right direction with positive results can make the bigger commitment required much easier.
Remember that friend you had in junior high -- you know, the one who smoked cigarettes and hung out on the bus ramp? He seemed sketchy, even dangerous, but you knew that he was actually a pretty bright kid, with a wicked sense of humor. Maybe he even helped you with your homework and taught you something you never knew about yourself. Behavioral targeting is like that friend. It seems scary, at first, and others might wonder why you're bothering. But the rewards, the things you learn about your users and the revenue you pick up along the way, make it very worth the effort.
Jamie Roche is president and co-founder of Offermatica. .