by Angela Jones

Though behavioral targeting isn’t new, it is only in the last few years that advances in tracking technology have given advertising platforms like Google AdWords the ability to offer impactful behavioral targeting options to advertisers.  Arguably, the largest of these has been the introduction of retargeting, also known as “remarketing”.  Retargeting, in its most basic form, is defined as the practice of displaying ads to users who have already visited a website in hopes of bringing them back to take additional action on the site. Though retargeting has become an established form of behavioral targeting, it is only in the last few months that everyday media managers like myself are seeing the true potential of behavioral targeting.

* A Better Retargeting Tag*

Google uses a snippet of code that is embedded onto chosen pages of a site to track visitors for a retargeting audience. In the not-so-distant past, targeting could only be refined by using multiple tags to allow for customized lists.  In other words, every time we wanted to target ads to an audience that had taken a select action such as “abandoned shopping cart” we were required to create and embed a new code to the site.  In practice, this limitation hampered sophisticated retargeting efforts.  However, a few months ago Google gave us the option to create list-defined rules based on page URLs. Now, if we want to target visitors that abandoned a shopping cart, we only have to specify that the URL should contain a unique identifier from a page URL within the checkout process but not contain a unique identifier from the confirmation page URL such as “/thankyou”.  Voila! Now we only need one retargeting tag across all pages of the site to easily create several lists directly within AdWords.

*Retargeting Made Easier with Google Analytics

What better way to segment audiences than by using data you’re already collecting in Google Analytics?  We now have the ability to create audience lists directly within Google Analytics and send those lists to AdWords to run targeted ads. So now instead of just targeting a user that did or didn’t visit a specific page, we can refine audiences even further using Google Analytics metrics such as visit duration, number of pages viewed, bounce rate, and even ROI driven data such as purchases made.  We can then run display ads that are targeted for each particular audience using the data we’ve been collecting all along.

YouTube Video Retargeting

Many of our clients have plenty of video assets housed within their company YouTube channel.  Users that have interacted with these videos have often already researched and are educated about the product or service offered.  In many cases, they potentially represent an even higher lead quality than users that have reached the site via traditional search. AdWords now makes it easy to to target YouTube channel viewers that have interacted with (liked, disliked, commented, etc.) or viewed YouTube videos as well as subscribed to, or unsubscribed from a channel.  We can display not only additional videos to these users, but also standard text and image ads on YouTube and other partner sites on the Google Display Network.

Similar Audiences

Similar Audiences takes retargeting to the next level.  While retargeting focuses on audiences that have already visited a site, Similar Audiences captures potential customers that haven’t yet visited a site but have similar browsing behavior to your retargeting audience. This allows for a much larger pool of new customers than retargeting can alone. These lists are formed from aggregated lists of 100 or more cookies browsing over the last 30 days.

Though we have only hit the tip of the iceberg, we can now refine and expand our current audiences as well as capture new ones via sophisticated audience segmentation with more ease than ever before. Past behavior predicts future behavior better than geography, demographics or contextual targeting can do on their own. With all of the latest advances made within AdWords alone, we’re excited to watch the future of behavioral advertising unfold.

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