Lawyers have been doing some rudimentary forms of behavioral targeting for decades—there's a reason personal injury attorneys get called “ambulance chasers.” Online behavioral targeting has developed steadily for the last decade. Today, studies show it can increase your click through rates by nearly 200 percent and improve your cost per impression or click significantly. Keep reading to find out how to use behavioral targeting as part of your web marketing strategy in 2012.
How Online Behavioral Targeting Works
The vast majority of internet users allow websites to use a variety of tracking cookies that monitor their behavior. Often, these tracking cookies are used to make someone's web experience better—if you've ever stayed logged in to your web email client even after you went to another website, you've experienced how tracking cookies work to keep your data and change the behavior of websites based on your actions.
Online behavioral targeting today can be used for a wide range of advertising and marketing purposes. By tracking the behavior of website visitors, you can use behavioral targeting to identify the most likely people to click on a link or convert into paying clients.
Not all people are willing to be tracked. Some people turn off tracking settings specifically to discourage online behavioral targeting. Most web users, though, are more than happy to make a small trade-off in privacy to gain added convenience while surfing their favorite websites.
Delivering a Personalized Web Experience with Online Behavioral Targeting
The end goal of behavioral targeting is to fundamentally change how your website and ads are displayed based on specific consumer behaviors.
For example, your website would be showing some behavior targeting if you offer a live help window for visitors who haven't yet made any further clicks after five minutes browsing your site. If instead of this, though, a window popped up that asked if they were interested in any of several other blog articles on similar topics, you could track the person's behavior and guide them to more things that would be of interest.
Ideally, you want people who come to your law firm's website seeking information about (for instance) bankruptcy to see a completely different path through your site than people who enter through a landing page about trust planning. While building that kind of website may be a long term goal, rather than a short term one, it should be on your mind when making incremental changes.
Onsite vs. Network Behavioral Targeting: What's the Difference?
There are two different types of behavioral targeting systems that you may be able to use for your advertising campaigns. If you do your online behavioral targeting on your own website exclusively, this is called “onsite” targeting.
Tracking the behavior of your potential clients on your website alone gives you more control over what is done with the data. It also usually means that, because people won't necessarily give out a great deal of personal information, you may be less vulnerable to any kind of hackers that would be interested in using or reselling the data you've obtained.
Network behavioral targeting refers to several websites combining into an ad network, then keeping track of behaviors on a wide range of sites. This is the kind of behavioral targeting that can sometimes lead to major privacy breaches, but it can also provide you with amazingly in depth information about your customers and potential customers.
You can find out much more from network behavioral targeting than you'll ever find out from split tests using demographics alone. Based on your behavioral tracking data, you can narrow your advertising campaign segments more than ever before. This means you can then pinpoint exactly what each person wants from your website and provide it to them on a landing page made exactly for their behavior, not their age or gender or ethnicity.
Using Online Behavioral Targeting for “Remarketing”
It happens all the time. Someone clicks on your website, then gets distracted or clicks away not because they weren't interested, but because something else caught their attention. For the first time, behavioral targeting has created a way to reach out specifically to those customers and get their business back.
Here's what happens. When someone clicks away from your website, if they stay online, online behavioral targeting will focus on advertising to them the next time they use a website that uses your ad network.
Remarketing is a concept that is based in how people's brains actually work. If someone sees your website just once, it will be stored in their brain's short term memory. However, if they see your website, then see an ad for it a short time later, it will jog their memory and make it more likely for your firm name and website to stick in their long term memory.
In order for remarketing to work, your banner ads will need to reflect the visual look of your website. This visual reminder can be a cue to your ad viewer: “Oh, right, I was there a few hours ago—I should take another look, now that I'm less busy.”
A Word of Caution about Online Behavioral Targeting
Behavioral targeting is considered problematic by many leading privacy rights organizations. These organizations oppose the amount of data that is gathered by many online behavioral targeting networks. Some bar associations are also considering imposing limits on the type of behavioral targeting that lawyers may engage in.
Online behavioral targeting is also problematic because the collected data may be vulnerable to security exploits. If hackers were to gain access to a behavioral targeting database, they would be able to use it to commit identity theft and credit card fraud. They could also use online behavioral targeting information for extortion.
While these risks may seem farfetched, it's worth remembering that other big repositories of online data have been hacked into before. If you're gathering a great deal of online behavioral targeting data through a behavioral targeting network, keep in mind that you are putting your visitors at some degree of risk.