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Behavioral Targeting vs. Contextual Targeting

In a ClickZ News commentary, Joan Voight shared some interesting statistics about the proven benefits of behavioral targeting. Clearly, online marketing success isn't just a matter of quantity (sites with the most visitors), quality is also a key factor (sites with relevant visitors).

Niche sites are also grabbing a bigger piece of the pie. Automakers are spreading their ad dollars across more online platforms and smaller sites, said Merrill Lynch analyst Lauren Rich Fine in a forecast this month. Category leader GM, for example, is placing online ads in a greater variety of portal and lifestyle sites than in 2004-2005.

"Site selection is driven by relevance -- be it content or behavioral -- and the ability to drive the metrics that matter most to GM's business," said Kurt Unkel, director of data and analytics at GM Planworks. "That has and may continue to lead GM to advertise on sites that don't necessarily pop to the top for total traffic or some other traditional reach metric."

Suzuki finds that behavioral marketing on small lifestyle sites delivers dealer leads and branding benefits at a reasonable cost. Mass-market TV ads position the brand as active and free-spirited and the online work reinforces that image by sponsoring and appearing on sports enthusiast and similar lifestyle sites. "Rather than a frontal assault we prefer to pick off specific targets," said Harris. "We slice and dice the research on online users and find our target in plenty of places."

The numbers back him up. Among auto advertisers who use Jumpstart's ad network, conversion rates are 40 to 100 percent higher with behavioral targeting than contextual targeting, said Joe Kyriakoza, VP of product development. It seems the move away from putting ads only on major portals and car-related sites is only beginning. With the Internet turning the car-buying process upside down, online campaigns that use behavioral targeting "look like a light on the horizon," says eMarketer senior analyst, Lisa Phillips.

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