What Is Behavioral Targeting?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Behavioral targeting is a marketing strategy that involves the collection of data about the habits and behaviors of consumers, using that information to structure publicity and advertising that is directed or targeted to those consumers. The method has been long used as a means of creating and operating marketing and sales efforts that involved campaigns targeted based on consumer demographics and using a combination of print ads along with billboards and advertising on radio and television outlets. The general concept is also utilized online to promote different goods and services to consumers. The idea behind behavioral targeting is to identify consumers who are most likely to respond positively to the advertising and increase the chances of making sales.

Traditional approaches to behavioral targeting would often include analyzing consumer data based on factors such as gender, location, and personal interests. This approach made it possible for advertisers to create campaigns that would reach consumers who demonstrated certain traits considered compatible with the goods and services offered by a given company. For example, if the research indicated that a community was home to four golf courses that enjoyed a certain business volume per year, this would indicate that aggressively marketing clothing and equipment associated with that sport would likely result in an increase of sales in that area.


The concept of behavioral targeting has taken on new meaning since the advent of the Internet and widespread use by consumers. Today, various methods are used to collect information on the web browsing habits of users. This sometimes takes the form of using tracking software that records visits by individuals to certain web sites, or even the discreet downloading of tracking software that returns information on browsing habits in general. The data is then used to submit specific types of advertising to those users, with the expectation that a portion of those recipients will actually open and read the advertising, since it is associated with something of interest.

At its best, behavioral targeting helps to provide consumers with knowledge about goods and services that are likely to be of interest. This can in turn lead to increased sales for the advertiser as well as afford consumers to make a purchase what ultimately provides a great deal of satisfaction. At other times, this approach can have the result of inundating consumers with a rash of advertising that is overwhelming, prompting the recipient to simply ignore all the advertisements, much in the same way that someone who receives a great deal of unsolicited advertisements through postal mail may choose to simply toss the mailings into the trash without reading them.



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