I’ve been on the road quite a bit over the past two months speak­ing at Net­Fi­nance, eMet­rics Sum­mit, and the Exact­Tar­get “Route 1 to 1” sem­i­nar series.  And one thing I’ve noticed is the dif­fer­ence in con­ver­sa­tions sur­round­ing the topic of On-site tar­get­ing, com­pared to a year ago.

Last year, when I explained how tar­get­ing works — how a finan­cial ser­vices com­pany can serve con­tent about mort­gages to one user and offer con­tent on check­ing accounts to another vis­i­tor, all based on anony­mous click his­tory and behav­ioral vari­ables, the typ­i­cal response was, “Really? You can do that? Wow…”

Most peo­ple were in awe that you could use ana­lyt­ics and behav­ioral data in an auto­mated fash­ion to deliver more rel­e­vant con­tent. They were excited, but also still slightly skep­ti­cal when we told them that it could actu­ally be done in a way that did not cause last­ing brain dam­age to the mar­ket­ing depart­ment, and actu­ally brought more fun back to mar­ket­ing. With tar­get­ing, more great ideas for pro­mo­tions and offers could be cre­ated and used more strate­gi­cally than just serv­ing the same thing to all vis­i­tors or rotat­ing the con­tent randomly.

What I’m hear­ing today is an evolved set of ques­tions. Mar­keters under­stand that tar­get­ing, as well as test­ing, has become an ele­ment of an online mar­ket­ing plan that has been proven to work, that can sig­nif­i­cantly increase rev­enue, and that is rel­a­tively sim­ple to do. They’re becom­ing inter­ested in mak­ing it hap­pen within their own com­pa­nies, and they’re begin­ning to explore how they can bring tar­get­ing to their own web prop­er­ties and initiatives.

Now that they under­stand what is pos­si­ble with tar­get­ing, they’re look­ing at the next steps. They’re ask­ing, “How can I make this hap­pen on my own site?

Here are some of the ques­tions I have been asked more often than once in recent trav­els, along with my best shot at answer­ing them.

1. “When should I use A/B and/or mul­ti­vari­ate test­ing, and when should I use targeting?”

Struc­tural deci­sions, such as where the search box should be placed, or which land­ing page design is more effec­tive, or which form dri­ves more peo­ple to con­vert, all lend them­selves well to test­ing. By run­ning A/B or mul­ti­vari­ate tests, you can quickly dis­cover the best solu­tion for con­tent or place­ments that gen­er­ally affect all vis­i­tors, or the best flow through cer­tain processes such as check­outs or reg­is­tra­tion. Cre­ative opti­miza­tion as well, such as which design works best, which call to action results in more clicks or con­ver­sions are all well-suited for test­ing. Ide­ally any struc­tural change or impor­tant con­tent change to your site, as well as all cam­paigns and related land­ing pages, are tested. Test­ing becomes a step in every cam­paign or site change. It becomes part of how you opti­mize all of your mar­ket­ing efforts.

Tar­get­ing serves a dif­fer­ent pur­pose, and they are very har­mo­nious. Tar­get­ing is employed at the most sig­nif­i­cant entry points or touch points of your site, in an effort to make a vis­i­tor feel imme­di­ately that your site is rel­e­vant to him. When done well, tar­get­ing makes a vis­i­tor sense, “I just landed on this site, and the site seems to have more con­tent for me.” Tar­get­ing can be used to bring the more rel­e­vant con­tent for­ward so that each vis­i­tor can find it more eas­ily.

Your home page and other key entry points into your site are good places to make this hap­pen. I sug­gest look­ing at your web ana­lyt­ics reports and find­ing the top entry points and the high­est traf­ficked pages. Those are the best places to begin tar­get­ing. The good news is that to have a big impact, a small num­ber of pages are typ­i­cally all that are required for targeting.

Both test­ing and tar­get­ing are indis­pens­able tools that help you opti­mize the per­for­mance of your web chan­nel. By deploy­ing them both in the right places, you can build a site that is rel­e­vant to your cus­tomers and more effec­tive for your business.

2. “Which spe­cific real estate areas are appro­pri­ate for tar­get­ing, and how much of my site should I expect to give over to targeting?”

Any­where on your site that is dis­cre­tionary real estate — that is, it isn’t tied to nav­i­ga­tion or under­ly­ing struc­ture — is per­fect for tar­get­ing.

Typ­i­cally, com­pa­nies start with a cou­ple of loca­tions within the site, such as a hero slot or the main pro­mo­tional slot on a home page. As they learn the process and see the lift, they will usu­ally expand the real estate and con­tent library of dif­fer­ent cre­atives. The idea is to develop a library of dif­fer­ent pieces of con­tent which can be var­i­ous prod­uct or pro­mo­tional offers, edi­to­r­ial con­tent, or a list of links, and have the tar­get­ing tech­nol­ogy decide which con­tent to serve to which visitor.

Think of tar­get­ing as the end-caps of the aisles at a gro­cery store. Place the pro­mo­tions on the high­est traf­ficked areas. You’re sim­ply look­ing to max­i­mize the yield from the real estate with the high­est traf­fic by being more rel­e­vant to each customer.

3. “Does tar­get­ing only work for repeat visitors?


Not at all. Tar­get­ing first time vis­i­tors is very effec­tive. While it’s true that repeat vis­i­tors lend them­selves par­tic­u­larly well to tar­get­ing because you have addi­tional knowl­edge of them, first-time vis­i­tors come to you with many data points you can use to tar­get rel­e­vant content.

We can use the refer­ring infor­ma­tion i.e. how they arrived at your site. If they came to you via a key­word, that tells you very specif­i­cally what they are look­ing for. If they clicked on a link from a cam­paign you’re run­ning, that also tells you some­thing spe­cific about what they are expect­ing to see.

The time of day and day of week are good indi­ca­tors of what type of con­tent the vis­i­tor hopes to see. For exam­ple, we have found that when peo­ple go online dur­ing lunchtime in the mid­dle of a work week, they are gen­er­ally busy “run­ning errands” online. That is, they’re pay­ing bills, book­ing busi­ness trips, and try­ing to accom­plish things dur­ing their break . They’re not going to be as recep­tive to cross-sell and up-sell oppor­tu­ni­ties that take up time to consider.

On the other hand, we have found that vis­i­tors dur­ing the week­end tend to be less time sen­si­tive with their brows­ing. They have time to explore, and are more open to var­i­ous offers where con­sid­er­a­tion needs to play a role.

Other indi­ca­tors that can help you tar­get first-time vis­i­tors include geog­ra­phy, con­nec­tion speed, browser set­tings. All of these are demo­graphic indi­ca­tors of sorts online, so they are use­ful for dis­tin­guish­ing what con­tent a vis­i­tor may be inter­ested in, ver­sus other content.

4. “Will this affect the vis­i­tor expe­ri­ence or slow the load­ing of my site?”

Nope. The con­tent tar­get­ing loads in less than half a sec­ond, which means there is no neg­a­tive effect on the vis­i­tor expe­ri­ence whatsoever.

5. “Will this work with my cur­rent con­tent man­age­ment system?”

Omniture’s tar­get­ing tool is agnos­tic to how­ever you are deliv­er­ing con­tent today. This, in fact, is a key com­po­nent to the way Omniture’s tar­get­ing solu­tion works, because most com­pa­nies we see have mul­ti­ple con­tent man­age­ment sys­tems. We can eas­ily inte­grate even with the most arcane and com­pli­cated systems.

As I con­tinue to travel to con­fer­ences, I’ll con­tinue to chron­i­cle the ques­tions I’m being asked and will update this space with addi­tional thoughts if they are use­ful. In the mean­time, if you’ve got ques­tions about test­ing and tar­get­ing that I didn’t cover here, please don’t hes­i­tate to leave a com­ment below or con­tact us.

stan munsey
stan munsey

i found this article very informative and totally agree, that we need to be "relevant" when it comes to targeting our potential customers. I thought many good points were made. Stan Munsey