Marketers and advertisers aim to reach consumers with the right message and at the right time. With targeted advertising or ad targeting strategies, advertisers can identify when and where an ad should be positioned to maximize ROI and keep costs down. It requires a complete understanding of the target audience, which is the center of your ad campaign strategy.

@Nirav_vaidya, a leader of Ad Operations at MediaMint, says, “Think about your user, or target audience, before planning the type of ad campaign you choose, or how you will go to the market. It is a really simple idea. We must listen to what our users want and build all of our strategies around that.”

The last thing a publisher wants to hear from a client is that they are unhappy because the ad campaign did not deliver the expected action, such as increases in clicks, sign-ups, or in-store traffic. That’s called Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

Ad Targeting Methods and How They Work

Targeted advertising allows you to set rules for where your ads are delivered. Based on a few criteria, you can adjust your targeted audience to be as broad or as narrow as you wish. This criterion includes location, behavior, demographics, connection, and interests. 

Geographic Targeting

Digital marketing agencies amass vast amounts of data and insights from their campaigns. That collected data helps to plan and execute media deliveries based on the locations of the best-performing ads. The ability to pinpoint potential customers leads to greater campaign success and an increased ROI. In addition, it is possible to hide the strategy testing from competitors or any new offers with the help of Geo-targeting and IP exclusion

Because we live in a mobile-first world, it has become easier to track the behavior of a person, object, or vehicle with location-based mobile apps using geolocation technology. This data can also be used to create a weather forecast system, livestock tracker, or location-based promotion. Technologies like WiFi, Geofencing, Cell ID, and GPS are all used to gather data. Using insights from collected data, advertisers can provide users with real-time results for their search for service in the neighborhood.

How Geographic Targeting Works

Geo-targeting uses an Internet Protocol (IP) address, a unique identifying number allocated to every single computer on the Internet. This IP address provides advertisers with their desired users’ locations, which can include postal code, state, and country. With this tool, advertisers will hit the bullseye in their ad targeting campaign.

WiFi technology determines the exact location of the device with the help of RSSI, receiving a signal strength indication, or the data from frequently visited places. The GPS of the device can yield both its indoor and outdoor presence. And when the GPS server is down, the location of the device can be determined by the cell towers of the mobile networks.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting is the process of matching ads relevant to the content on the web page using keywords and topics. When a user requests a page with a JavaScript code embedded on it, a request is sent to the ad server with metadata information about the content of the page in the form of keywords. This metadata information can be the URL of the page, the page content, or even the specific sections the user is viewing on the page. 

For example, an Ad Network has contextual targeting of a sports channel for soccer balls and field equipment. The Publisher, let’s say ESPN, has embedded code on its page to show ads related to its content. When a user shows interest on the soccer page of the site, the ads associated with the same context are fetched automatically from the ad server. 

Behavioral Targeting or Profiling

This mechanism is based on user behavior. A segment is created from online activity including pages viewed, previous search terms, amount of time spent on a website, ads, content, and buttons clicked. Advertisers and publishers can target users and display relevant ads based on web-browsing information collected in this segment.

How Behavioral Targeting Works 

A tracking pixel, or third-party cookie, collects the user data, stores it in a Data Management Platform (DMP), or other AdTech platform like a DSP. The collected data is then analyzed and grouped into segments by behavior. When ad campaigns are implemented to match a specific user segment, they increase the odds of conversion. However, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in effect, marketers are looking for new targeting methods without the dependence on behavioral data. 

Demographic Targeting

Demographic targeting allows advertisers to show an ad specifically to visitors based on their demographic information such as age, gender, location, languages are known, parental status, and annual income. This demographic information from users is collected from their browsing histories and activity from their Google accounts. Advertisers use this information to create demographic profiles to segment their target audiences. From there, the data guides them to reach the right audience. 

Device, Platform, and Browser Targeting

Ads may also be targeted based on different technology categories that include a carrier, connection type (broadband/WIFI/mobile), operating system (iOS/Roku/Windows/Linux/etc.), and/or the browser. Every ad request is sent with HTTP header fields containing user information to the ad server. From this information, it’s possible to parse the operating system, device or platform, browser type, and version. An ad group can be selected to exclude or include operating systems, browsers, devices, and platforms and control how and where your users potentially see your ad. 

Boomerang Targeting or Retargeting

Ad retargeting, or boomerang targeting, allows marketers to increase their chances of getting a conversion from tracking and targeting those website visitors who leave a website without performing an action. Abandoned shopping carts are a major segment for this kind of retargeting.

How Retargeting Works

Retargeting uses a cookie-based technology involving a tag. This tag is usually a JavaScript code or a pixel placed on the footer of the website. Visitors leave a website for several reasons: 

    • They do not want to pay you money or hire you yet.
    • They are not sure how your product or service can help them.
    • They want to comparison shop or do more research.

With the right retargeting strategy, you can bring people back to your site and get them to convert.

Third-party Cookies and Retargeting

With the death of third-party cookies, marketers who rely on retargeting may see a significant impact. If you’re an advertiser who heavily relies on pop-up ads and pinpoints audience targeting strategies by gathering your visitor’s online behavior on other websites, you will need to consider an alternative to your cookie strategy. We recommend following industry updates on Google’s Privacy Sandbox

Key-value Targeting

Key-values are custom parameters used to identify a page, a portion of a page, or an ad inventory. Key-values are usually determined by analyzing the information gathered about website visitors, such as their age, interest, location, and much more.

There are two types of key-values:

Predefined key-values: These are used when the range of values is limited and is already known to the publisher. For example, when you want to target an audience within a particular age group of 25-40, you will use predefined key-values.

Dynamic Key-values: These are used when the range of values is not well-known or can’t be standardized. For example, in eCommerce, if you want to target specific mobile devices there may be many models or specifications, which makes pre-defining key-values close to impossible. In cases like these, dynamic key-values are preferred.

How Key-value Targeting Works

Key-value targeting uses ad tags to target the audience. An ad tag is an HTML or JavaScript code that the webmaster or web developer inserts into the source code of a web page. It is a creative code that tells the ad server, “I belong to this ad unit.” 

Time and Day Targeting

Another way to avoid wasted ad spend is by targeting consumers based on Days of the Week and Times of the Day. Advertisers use this type of targeting to reach particular demographics or groups of users engaged in time-related activities, such as restaurants displaying Friday night special offers. 

How Time and Day Targeting Works

Once you set the parameters, your promotion will start at 12.01 am EST on the start date and end at 12.01 am EST on the end date by default. Based on consumer interaction, events are tracked within the browser and sent back to the ad servers with timestamps. This data is analyzed to understand the average time spent by a user over the life of an ad campaign.


In a digital world where customers expect marketers to know them individually, targeted advertising has never been more important. Using data instead of user personas allows for more effective targeting, especially after tests. Plus, it gives advertisers a powerful set of tools to reach users in a way that’s not intrusive, annoying, or disruptive. If you are looking for help on the best ways to target audiences and increase conversions, reach out to us here


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