4 Ways Of Targeting Online Users

by Mike Tyler | January 25, 2016

In 2016, think of targeting online users like archery.

  1. Striking with a sharp arrow has the most impact.
  2. With many targets, make sure you’re aiming at the right target–at the right place.

Now, if we equate the “arrow” to things like landing page optimization, native advertising efforts, improving your quality score, better ad budgeting, and attribution modeling–then yes, the arrow is a sharp one. Sharp in the sense that, your marketing efforts will have the most impact they possibly can to improve your overall business or service!

But let’s look at the second part; your target. What’s the point of having sharp marketing efforts, a killer landing page, well-thought out PPC ads on Facebook or a series of in-feed native ads if they don’t meet the mark?

Understanding your target demographic is everything, but how many times are you actually reaching the target audience you want effectively, in ways that result in soft/hard-conversions?

Let’s take lead nurturing for example; with the sales funnel, we have 3 different areas; top, mid, and bottom funnel, which all effectively target digital content viewers in specific ways, ultimately leading to soft/hard conversion, leads, etc.

That being said, think about your content, and your marketing efforts. Ask yourself this question:

Do our company initiatives reflect the success of targeting online user interests?

If the answer to that million-dollar question is “yes,” ask yourself if they could be improved.

That answer to the bonus question, is always and most definitely yes.

The Many Layers Of Online Targeting

You can think of online targeting like an onion: layered. No, it won’t (well, shouldn’t) make you cry if you split it open, and delve into it. These layers include online targeting in four ways:

  1. Behavioural
  2. Contextual
  3. Demographic
  4. Geographic

Guess what, pal? We’ll do you a solid and go through each one, so that you can take online targeting seriously, and improve the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts.


As it sounds, online targeting in a behavioural layer considers audiences based on tendencies; prior search history, auto-fill forms on Google, dynamic remarketing guidelines, etc.

By targeting users based on preferences and interests, marketing becomes much more dynamic than online targeting based on gender, location, etc. (as we’ve touched on in our dynamic remarketing post). The data collected through behavioural patterns on the web in search history truly indicate what consumers are interested in–and what they aren’t.

Not only does this create a more personal experience for users, but allows you to place products/services at the forefront of consumer interests; making the most of your online targeting efforts, and boosting your chances of success for conversion/click through ratings.

Additionally, behavioural targeting applies to mobile marketing as well.


Speaking of mobile marketing, one of the layers of online targeting comes down to how many users engage with services on their phones. The answer?


As we’ve touched on in our Mobile Revolution post, more people are allotting time to their mobile devices than they are their desktop/laptop–combined.

Whether on a desktop, or in Facebook’s feed as a PPC ad, context is everything. Traditional banner ads might attract an older demographic, while native advertising is effective among younger demographics who are more web savvy, and experienced with digital media.

Google defines contextual targeting as Google matching the display network with keywords, topics, and themes that customers have searched for in their history.

  • AdWords uses contextual targeting when an ad group has keywords or topics and its campaign is set to show ads on the Display Network.

AdWords illustrates the process here: you choose a set of keywords and topics, Google’s wizards analyze specific web-pages that make up the network, and then your ad gets placed.


Refer back to our post on Generational Advertising; methods of advertising are different for different demographics. Baby Boomers are partial to X form of online advertising, while millenials prefer Y form of online advertising.


Specific to AdWords, Google now has a demographic tab; by figures of age range, marital status, geographical location, Google allows  you to target the online audience that your business caters to.

Demographic targeting on the Display Network can help you to tailor your ads and bids to reflect your marketing initiatives, and adjust your copy, visuals and tone accordingly. Refined targeting shows your ads to those who are receptive, and keeps them from those unlikely to engage.

Aside from Google AdWords, analytics systems like Facebook Insights also allow campaign managers to determine the reach, geography, gender, marital status and more to determine demographic behaviour and impact through ad campaigns.


With Facebook Insights, for example, we can determine that people in different cities, towns and circumstance are reached effectively by different forms of advertising–whether it’s PPC ads, native, in-feed ads, etc.


When it comes to targeting online users, the same rule applies; geographical location impacts marketing efforts.

On a whim, let’s take an umbrella company for example. Umbrellas in Vancouver for January? Essential. In Toronto? Nah.

Specific to your business, things like Google Analytics, AdWords, and Insights help to segment your data by geography to determine what marketing efforts work best where.

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