When It Comes to Online Ads, Things Are Getting Personal

Tom earned his master’s in IMC from WVU and his bachelor’s in public relations from Utica College of Syracuse University. He joined the Site-Seeker team in 2013 as an account manager.

Let’s say, on a typical day, you wake up at 6 AM and go to bed at 10 PM. That gives you 16 hours during the day to live life. But check this out. During that time, the average American spends 10.5 hours in front of a screen, which is more than half of the day! That includes a smartphone, tablet, computer and/or TV.

Because of this trend, it’s becoming more and more impossible for brands to find success with traditional ad spends – billboards, street signage, terrestrial radio, etc. Instead, advertisers are spending those dollars more wisely on ads within social media, audio streaming services, streaming TV networks, websites, etc. And they should!

If you still aren’t advertising online, I’d say you’re not too far behind the times. Maybe only by about 20 years. But the good news is that, of about 15 of those years, most brands weren’t (or still aren’t) doing a good job with targeting. So there’s still time for you to catch up and find success. Remember, not every product or service is appropriate for all web users. In fact, there are 286 million internet users in America. Even with a very popular product or service, your brand is probably still only applicable to 10 to 20%.

You can’t just blanket your ads on any ‘ol website. Especially the local news station or newspaper (gross!). Instead, you need to be smarter. You need to use technology that’s become available to take targeting to the next level and get your ads onto the screens of only those who may find interest, take notice, and take action.

When it comes to ads, artwork and messaging are extremely important (whether static or video). Let’s focus today though on placement. Here are four emerging ways that you can do a better job at targeting with online ads.

Tailored Locations

Not all, but many businesses sell in certain geographical areas. Whether you’re a restaurant that typically sees customers come from within 10 miles, or a forklift distributor who reaches buyers across a three-county region, geographical targeting is critical to online advertising success. You can run location-based ads by zip code, DMA, or through geo-fencing.

Geo-fencing allows advertisers to place ads within a specific radius of a selected location (which is most often the storefront). You can do 10 miles, 20 miles, 30 miles, whatever distance you want. You can do multiple fences too. What makes this great is that it’s targeting IP addresses across devices. Here are two options. 

When someone on a device enters the geo-fence (desktops are stationary but mobile moves across points), they will see the ad. Alternatively, you can set up a program where it builds a list of all those who enter the geo-fence. It will recall their IP and allow ads to be served to them later, even if they have left the fence. Now you know you’re only exposing your ads to people who are in arm’s reach of your location (or who may be returning to arm’s reach). You can even have different ads that are served to different locations, called geo-aware ads, that are more impactful since the messaging can be more appropriate.

Contextual Targeting

This type of targeting focuses on the content that exists on a website – rather than the website itself. It looks for keywords found within the text of articles and places your ads on top, beside, or beneath. The hope is that the readers of the article will find relevancy in ads that relate to the topic of the article. This can be overlaid with geo-targeting and can run across multiple devices.

Let’s say you sell lawn care equipment: weed whackers, lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, etc. Instead of your ads appearing randomly across usatoday.com, you would only appear alongside usatoday.com articles that relate to the keywords you specify. I’d probably choose keywords like: do-it-yourself, home improvement, real estate, landscaping, lawn care, lawn care equipment, etc. Now, when someone is reading a relevant, related story (i.e. “5 Ways to Improve Your Landscaping this Summer Season”), your ads will appear alongside and seem much more appropriate to the reader. Remember, your audience will be much smaller than normal if you were to advertise natively on usatoday.com, but the quality of your impressions and clicks will be greater.

Competitor Targeting

Geo-targeting to the Nth degree, this type of targeting looks at consumers who visit other businesses that you specify. It’s hyper-local. These can be businesses that pose as competitors, who are nearby, or those who complement your brand. Ads can be tailored to visitors who have shopped at one of the locations you indicate, or those who enter the geo-fence and are currently in those stores.

Let’s say you’re a restaurant in the same plaza as Macy’s. Consider the impact of running ads for people who are shopping inside of that store at 12 noon. They’re going to need to get something to eat for lunch when they’re done shopping, and now, your restaurant next door is top of mind through the ads that appear on websites or mobile apps. For related businesses, consider running ads for your landscaping company among those who shopped at Home Depot. The data can be stored to recall audience members who met the criteria in the past 30, 60, or 90 days, or even the past full year (for those who have longer sales cycles).  

I would suggest building your list out of all the businesses within a mile or two radius, then adding in all of your competitors (radius will vary depending on your service area), and finally filling out your list with complementary businesses or services. You should have a minimum of 40-60 businesses listed, even for small companies. Overlay this targeting with geography and/or contextual targeting, and you can get even more specific customers. It’s a great model and has proven to be more successful than standard display advertising. 

Remarketing

Remarketing, or retargeting, are ads that appear on a user’s device (on websites, apps, or social media) based on past browser history. Typically, if you’ve been on a website looking to buy a product or service, you’ll see ads from that company later as your move about the web. Remarketing reinforces messaging around recent interests and hopes to push you closer towards a sale.

If a business is good at it, the ads should be highly specific to the pages a user has been on. So instead of ads that are just about the brand (that send you to the homepage), they should instead be tailored to the actual product or service of interest. This is great if you have a funnel-based website and you have remarketing setup on your product pages or on abandoned shopping cart pages. Remarketing increases frequency, leading to higher recall, and drives people to your site to finish where they left off – with a purchase!

Summary

Remember that messaging within ads should be tailored to each of the audiences above since you have a bit more insight into where they are located and/or what interests them. Consider static ads as well as video ads. Make them highly attractive and very to-the-point. Pricing for these types of online ads is a CPM (cost per thousand impression) model. The greater the budget, the more impressions your ads will earn, which in turn, will lead to a greater number of clicks and conversions. Overall, it’s a great way to get onto the screens, during the 10.5 hours per day, of your most coveted consumers.