What is Behavioral Targeting and How Does it Work?

Harry McKay
min read
May 24, 2023

We aren’t sure if genies in bottles exist anymore 😔

But you can definitely grant your customer’s wishes with tech 😅

The ever-evolving tech landscape can help you understand exactly what customers are looking for. Ask how?

Through behavioral targeting.

Based on specific user data, behavioral targeting can help you understand your prospect’s likes, dislikes, interests, needs, and challenges. Hence, you can present the content your customers want across websites. In short, it helps you reach the right customer with the right message at the perfect time. 


Let’s find out everything about it!

What Does Behavioral Targeting Exactly Mean?

Behavioral targeting is a marketing strategy that uses user information like buying patterns and browsing behavior to create ads relevant to users’ specific needs and interests. 

In short, behavioral targeting involves using your target audiences' online activities to create marketing plans that perfectly resonate with them. 

Here are a  few behavioral targeting examples.

📩Create and send sales outreach emails based on a prospect’s online content downloads.

📝Show display ads across the web to people who visited your website but did not fill out the lead form. 

Why is Behavioral Targeting Important?

Happy customers make a business happy. And what should you do to make your customers happy?

Take a customer-oriented approach in whatever you do. 

Hanna Fitz, Founder of Aphrodite Code, says, “as a marketer, the more data you have on your buyer's behavior the more you can tailor your offer to not only add more value to their lives but reach people who may be desperately searching for what you have to offer.”

That’s exactly where behavioral targeting helps you. 

Behavioral targeting features a customer-centric marketing approach. With behavioral marketing, you can offer prospects highly personalized recommendations based on their online behavior, like, 

  • Pages visited,
  • Time spent on each page,
  • Number of clicks on links, content,
  • Search query history and other interactions. 

An example here would be Twitter’s interest targeting. It allows targeting individual users based on their interests. Marketers can choose from around 25 interest categories and 350 subtopics. Once you choose, Twitter publishes your ad only to groups interested in the specific content.

Marketers benefit from behavioral targeting advertising. They generate a lot of clicks and help convert website visitors into ideal customers. Behavioral targeting enables you to reach potential customers with a suitable offer while assisting them through your sales funnel. 

Take a quick look at three benefits that make behavioral targeting so important. 


Increasing relevance and campaign engagement is possible with behavioral targeting. 

Think of a coffee-lover exploring coffee variants. Behavioral targeting uses this information to show them nearby coffee shops, relevant offers, and even coffee-related recommendations. 


Behavioral targeting helps you reach customers with the perfect advertising messages. It increases customer engagement via re-engagement and long-term engagement. 

Leverage remarketing campaigns to establish lost connections 💓 If a prospective customer interacted with your product page and never returned, retarget them with behavioral ads. 

On the other hand, use long-term engagement and send already interested consumers relevant information or ads. For instance, offer customers the option to subscribe to your newsletter. If they do, send them your weekly or monthly newsletter containing links to other blogs. 

Return On Investment (ROI)

Behavioral targeting enables you to segment customers based on their activities; you can target prospects with personalized offers to ensure better conversion rates. For instance, when people revisit your website or search for a similar product online, you can show them relevant ads.

Now, let’s look at the types of behavioral targeting.  

Different Types of Behavioral Targeting

Behavioral targeting is huge. It deals with massive data on behavioral traits that need proper management. So, to navigate better around behavioral targeting, look at its types.

Onsite Behavioral Targeting 

This behavioral targeting type happens within a specific website. 

Onsite behavioral targeting focuses on personalization. It offers users personalized website experiences by showing them relevant ads aligned with their interests. 

With onsite behavioral targeting, marketers can create and show ads based on users’ behavioral patterns and interactions with other pages. 

Since personalization can generate 40% more revenue than the average players in the market, onsite behavioral ads can positively impact your returns. 

Network Behavioral Targeting

“We use cookies.”

Have you seen this message pop up on most business sites? That’s network behavioral targeting.

This type of behavioral targeting is based on collecting cookies 🍪 and IP address, not personal information like email address, name, job title, and more. The information is then interpreted through algorithms to help marketers identify user preferences, intentions, and purchase behaviors. Hence, they can segment the audience based on the information and display personalized ads. 

So, the gist of behavioral targeting is to track consumer behavior and personalize their experience. Here’s an example of behavioral targeting to make everything crystal clear💎

Behavioral targeting is quite fascinating. No?

Let’s see how it works!

How Behavioral Targeting Works?

Has it ever occurred to you how something you searched for shows up as ads across different websites?

Behavioral targeting is the tech magic behind these personalized online advertising experiences. 

Here’s how the behavioral targeting process works in just four steps.

Step 1: Cookie Collection

The key element of behavioral targeting is cookie collection or data collection. The more datasets you have, the more targeted advertising campaigns you can create. 

In this step, brands collect user behavior data with the help of website cookies and third-party cookies. These tracking cookies are temporarily stored on the local memory drive of the user’s device and deleted after their browsing is over. Besides cookies, marketers also collect information of registered users from their purchase history. 

The gathered data is then stored in a data management platform and analyzed for valuable insights. 

Step 2: Building User Profiles

With all the gathered data, brands can derive insights and identify behavioral patterns related to their search history and purchasing. Based on this information, user profiles or user segments are created. 

For example, users searching for CRM solutions will be considered one audience segment. On the other hand, users looking for interactive demo solutions will be considered as another segment.  

Marketers can set any trend, browsing pattern, habits, interests, or purchasing behavior as the criteria for creating different behavioral targeting segments. 

Step 3: Leverage Collected Data to Create Personalized Campaigns

The first two steps bring us to the key step of this process – targeting. Use the gathered data and customer segments to create and run personalized ad campaigns. These campaigns must match the interests of the segment you target. 

According to Dan Gray, CEO at Vendry.io, "the best way to find the right behaviors to target based on is to conduct user interviews with users that have been either successful or unsuccessful in purchasing your product.”

“If you take the time to listen to how they purchase your product, you will be able to spot behaviors that you can use to inform your targeting. Look for key triggers that prompted your customer to buy and friction points you need to help them overcome."

Targeting and creating effective campaigns aligned with the users’ interests adds a personalized touch to the ads and leads to higher conversions. 

Step 4: Track Results

Campaign analytics can help you a great deal to track the results of your targeted advertising efforts and finetune ads if required. 

Identify a few key metrics and use web analytics tools or marketing automation systems with analytics and reporting features to access campaign reports and make informed business decisions based on the results. 

Benefits of Behavioral Targeting

Behavioral targeting will not take over demographic targeting in the future. It is happening now!

Businesses are already benefiting more from behavioral targeting advertising techniques than traditional advertising methods. Want to know how?

Here are the top five benefits of behavioral targeting. 

Higher Engagement Rates

Behavioral targeting enables marketers to connect users to a brand more. 

You can display relevant content to online users through behavioral targeting based on their interests and behavior. Thus, users engage more with the content. 

In fact, at Marketo, lead nurturing campaigns using behavioral targeting have 57% higher open rates, 59% better click-to-open rates, and a massive 147% higher overall click-through rate. Mind-blowing! 🤯

Better Brand Awareness

There are a few ads that speak to you. That is, they are made exactly to your liking. When such ads appear, we remember the brands, which is how behavioral targeting boosts brand awareness.

Once brands show customers what they are interested in, they become more inclined to keep up with the brand updates – new launches, offers, and product releases. 

Improved Customer Experiences & Sales

In 2017, Nike launched an interactive campaign enabling customers to design their sneakers. The level of personalization used in this campaign created one of the best user experiences. 

Behavioral advertising enables marketers to create personalized ads relevant to customers, thereby increasing campaign effectiveness. In fact, research says that 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer who uses personalization like – addressing them by name, recommendations based on past purchases and historical behavior, etc. Thus, with behavioral targeting, you can offer more personalized experiences to your customers.

Easier Purchase Process

Behavioral targeting simplifies buying by guiding prospects through ads. 

Since the ads displayed are based on user interests, consumer traits, historical behavior, and online activities, they offer an easier and more convenient purchase route. Further, behavioral advertising campaigns also accelerate the purchase process for busy buyers. 

Suppose a busy buyer was searching for interactive demo software. Using behavioral targeting, Storylane shows up during their browsing session. As a result, the buyer clicks on the ad, checks out the product, and purchases. An attractive option for quick buyers, no?

Challenges of Behavioral Targeting

There are two sides to a coin🪙 

Similarly, behavioral targeting comes with certain challenges along with benefits. Take a look 👇


Behavioral targeting enables brands to deliver highly personalized ads. But the way data gets collected through website cookies and other sources concerns a few users. In fact, invading privacy for behavioral targeting has sparked a debate surrounding security and data protection.

Data Exploitation

Data collection on a major scale may lead to high-risk situations. Consumers often find it creepy when brands send them over-personalized content because it may lead to risks like security breaches and the trade of private data. Hence, behavioral targeting has also fueled global cybersecurity concerns. 

Putting It Together

The next time you see “website cookies,” you’ll know what they are for 🍪

Brands are glued to behavioral targeting to build a better connection with prospects. Targeted campaigns help them engage the audience better and boost conversion rates. 

So, if you plan to shift to a new effective marketing method, it’s the perfect time! Get your hands on behavioral targeting advertising and experience the results.

However, carry out behavioral targeting ethically. With great power comes great responsibility! 


How effective is behavioral targeting?

Behavioral targeting is one of the most effective ways to ascertain that the right marketing messages reach the right audience at the right time. It is all about gathering user data and creating a personalized user experience. Behavioral targeting advertising drives more results than non-targeted ads. 

What are some behavioral target examples?

Targeted email campaigns, remarketing campaigns, location-based (geographic location) or geographic targeting, and cross-selling are a few examples of behavioral targeting. 

Is behavioral targeting ethical?

When brands follow ethical standards and guidelines in implementing behavioral targeting, it is considered ethical as brands maintain transparency by communicating with consumers about why they are being targeted. Responsible data collection without invading user privacy is an ethical behavioral targeting practice. 

"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."
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"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."

"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."


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