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