The Truth Behind Targeted Advertising

You log onto your computer and head to Google to shop for a new watch. After browsing a few sites from the results, you decide to postpone your purchase until you find the perfect one. You continue browsing on your computer, checking the news or weather. Then bam – squished on the side of the page is an advertisement for the exact watch you were just looking at. How did it get there? It’s like your computer is magically spying on what you’ve been searching. Welcome to the world of targeted advertising. Targeted advertising is the practice of advertiser’s using highly specific characteristics, demographics, search engine habits, cookies, and a variety of statistics to tailor a promotion to a specific consumer’s wants and needs. Find out the truth about targeted advertising and how the tailored ads you see are formed and implemented into your daily web browsing.

How it Happens

Targeted internet advertising has many components combined to tailor an ad to a specific consumer’s behavior. Information is pulled from a consumer’s web usage, search inquiries, past products viewed, social media pages, and online activity. Furthermore, advertisers can base their ads on specific characteristics such as socioeconomic groups, distinct time of day, behavioral patterns, and even location.

Specifically, the main sources of information used to develop custom ads are clickstream data, search data, purchase data, and profile data. With all this information, advertisers can create a picture of the potential customer’s interests, attitudes, and hobbies. Consequently, building ads that are targeted exactly to the consumer’s specific wants. This explains why a watch advertisement would show up during a different search, such as the weather, after previously searching to purchase a new watch.

Collecting Cookies

Clickstream data is a huge source of where the internet is pulling your information from to target ads. Clickstream data specifically refers to the record of web pages you’ve previously visited. How is all this data collected you might ask? It’s a simple answer, a cookie. All your clickstream data is stored in a tiny text file referred to ask a cookie. Websites are able to communicate with your computer through cookies, so it can better track your online inquiries and movement on web pages. This information is what directly helps target specific ads based on a user’s unique online actions. If your clickstream data includes a lot of shopping on jewelry websites, you’ll begin to see more targeted advertisements appear for watches, necklaces, or other items within that category.

Daily Data Habits

A user’s daily data habits play a big role in what advertisements they see. Along with clickstream data, here’s a deeper look into the other data responsible for targeted advertisements.

Search data is compiled anytime a user types an inquiry into a search engine, such as Google or Yahoo. Search engine companies analyze the words typed into the search bar, along with a user’s habits, to position targeted advertising alongside the results.

Purchase data is the information collected from a user’s past purchases from online stores. The online store uses cookies to track what you buy or don’t buy and in return are able to target advertisements for future purchases pertaining to similar interests.

Profile data has increased enormously, thanks to the rise of social media. When creating a social media profile, social networking sites typically have users enter a variety of information and demographics such as age, location, religion, education, interests and more. The social media sites then are able to use this information you provided to build custom ads for your timeline.

With so many options of where to pull potential customer’s online data from, targeting advertising has become an increasingly popular and lucrative way to advertise online. With so much data readily available about individual’s online activity, searches, and purchases, it makes sense why so many ads are appearing targeting exactly what a specific consumer is interested in.

The world of targeting advertising continues to grow exponentially with the wave of the digital age. Targeted advertisement’s ability to seep on to potential buyer’s online usage urges action, purchases, and strengthens a brands image and connection to its targeted audience.

Jordyn Smith

Jordyn is a content specialist at Leverage Marketing in Austin, TX. Jordyn recently graduated from Ole Miss (Hotty Toddy!) and is thrilled to be using her experience in creative writing and storytelling at Leverage. Her move to Austin marked her first time on Texas soil and she's eager to embrace everything it has to offer.

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