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Targeting Basics: The Difference Between Contextual and Behavioral Targeting

You’ve probably already heard that the third-party cookie is being phased out by most web browsers. While some are dreading its inevitable demise, smart marketers are finding new ways to attract and connect with consumers. These marketers are shifting resources and experimenting with new, cookie-less strategies and increasing their focus on producing and distributing relevant content.  

What is behavioral targeting?

For the past 20 years, the third-party cookie has been the fuel that makes Behavioral Targeting work. It allows advertisers and publishers to show consumers ads that are based on their web browsing behavior. While marketers can improve campaign effectiveness by showing customized ads and offers, this method requires that consumers forfeit some of their online privacy. Behavioral targeting is most effective for sales motivation and campaign acceleration, but those benefits will be greatly reduced when the third-party cookie retires. 

What is contextual targeting?

On the other hand, Contextual Targeting is poised to become an essential part of the B2B marketing playbook, as it focuses entirely on content without relying on obtaining a consumer’s personal details to serve ads. With contextual targeting, as a consumer browses the web, they’re shown ads that are deeply relevant to the content they’re viewing. The website content is analyzed and matched against the ad using keywords, topics, language and location. This is a dynamic strategy because as the page content changes, so do the ads. The higher the content relevancy, the higher the chances that a consumer will click the ad. 

What targeting method is right for you?

Fortunately, marketers don’t have to choose between these two methods to achieve their campaign goals. In fact, savvy marketers are using a combination of strategies. For example, an advertiser might display ads on webpages that their intended audience is visiting (contextual) and then continue to show them offers as they leave that webpage for other websites and social media (behavioral). 

As the landscape shifts to favor more consumer consumer-friendly forms of advertising, contextual advertising is poised to become a top choice for marketers seeking a less intrusive strategy that is more aligned with consumer choice.

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