Jun 21, 2018

A 2018 Guide to Digital Ad Targeting

Targeting is an important aspect of any advertising campaign. It doesn't matter how good your ad is, if it doesn't appeal to the right audience, it won't be effective. Plus, targeting allows for more efficient spending of your ad budget (basically a no brainer, right?)

So, here's a quick overview of the robust targeting options available to you in this new age of data. We'll touch on geographic, demographic, device/platform, contextual, behavioral, and retargeting.


Geographic Targeting (Geo-Fencing)

Geo-targeting allows you to target a specific audience based on their location. You can target by a particular country, state, city, town, or zip code for example, so it can be as wide or as narrow an audience as you want.

Geo Fencing is a hot topic for marketers because it focuses on targeting individuals within a specific geographic perimeter, or "fence". These digital boundaries can be mapped around a specific place of interest (your physical store location, your competitor’s location, or a place where your target audience is gathered). This type of geo targeting is ideal for mobile campaigns. You can target specific locations for desktop campaigns, but since geo fencing campaigns use GPS data, it is much more effective with mobile devices.

Location-based geo-targeting is playing an increasingly essential role in the world of digital advertising. In an era of mobile devices, where almost every consumer walks around with a location-aware smartphone in their purse or pocket, more marketers plan to increase their spend on geo-targeted campaigns.


Demographic Targeting

There are hundreds of demographic targeting options available for paid digital media: gender, age, income, and education to name a few. It’s no surprise that you can target by age and gender on nearly every platform, but did you know that you can target to "parents" or "those who are in a long distance relationship"?

Third-party data providers, such as Lotame, Exelate or BlueKai, generate these audience lists by building segments using algorithms and data collection strategies. Demographic targeting campaigns are perfect if you have an idea of the people you are looking for, but you don’t know exactly where to find them.


Placement, Device and Platform Targeting

Where you advertise is just as important as what you advertise. If you’re trying to reach an older audience, Instagram may not be the way to go. The good news is there are many platforms and options to choose from: Facebook, Google Search, Display, YouTube, Streaming Video (OTT), Mobile…and more. Where you choose to advertise on these specific platforms can also differ.


Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting takes into account the content of the site on which an ad appears. The ad will be somehow related to the content surrounding it. This makes sense because the audience is already interested in the content. For example, on a blog post related to home improvement, ads promoting a local paint store may appear.

You can get very specific with targeting different types of content on specific pages and the segments can be as broad as news, sports, or entertainment, or more specific, like baseball, healthcare news and award shows.


Behavioral Targeting

Behavioral targeting focuses on the actions a user performs online. For instance, advertisers will look at search or purchase histories. If they have shown interest in a particular topic, then ads related to this will appear on search and website browsing.

For example, Beth is searching home sites to gather decorating ideas for her new home. By targeting your furniture ads to sites related to “Home Décor Enthusiasts,” you know that you are reaching people like Beth who are more likely to interact with your ads.



Retargeting allows you to reach individuals who have visited your site or specific pages within your site to bring them back to your website to complete a desired action. These audiences are typically much smaller than audiences targeted by interests or keywords, but you know that you are reaching a very qualified group. In many cases, it may take several visits before online shoppers decide to make a purchase. This is why it is valuable to retarget prior site visitors with relevant ads.

Remember that pair of sandals you had in your online shopping cart yesterday? You may notice that it’s been following you around the web. That’s an example of retargeting.

This post is only scratching the surface of the many targeting tactics available for digital advertising. To see a targeting tactics cheat sheet with detailed description, and features and benefits of each targeting option, take a look here.

Topics: Digital Insights

Jenny Campbell, Marketing Coordinator

Written by Jenny Campbell, Marketing Coordinator

With over 10 years B2B marketing experience, Jenny has had her hands in almost every facet of marketing -- from product strategy, to content marketing, to client promotions and market research. When she's not strategizing, Jenny enjoys the little things with her two small children and husband in Cincinnati, Oh.

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