Fancy Targeting Techniques (and when to use them)

I know Aaron is working on a post for you about Ad Serving and what it’s about, but in the meantime, let’s learn a little bit about the different targeting options you will often have when you advertise online.

For the most part, the biggest options you’ll find concern when and where your ad will appear.

Targeting your ad to a specific time or place can be a very useful tool for creating a successful campaign, but like most things in online advertising — it’s the way that you choose to use it that will determine whether or not it is effective (or worth it).

Geo-targeting: this when your ad is shown only in specific geographic locations.

This kind of targeting is the most intuitive for advertisers to understand. There are many circumstances when it is necessary to use geo-targeting.
• If you have a brick and mortar store with no on-line capabilities.
• If you are promoting a live event in a specific region.
• If you do on-line business and know that most of your customers come from a certain region or country (or you have shipping constraints).

Trap to avoid: over targeting. Many times people get a little too hung up on saying they ONLY want their ad to appear within a certain radius of their physical store because most of their sales happen in person.

Here are some things to think about before you put unnecessary constraints on your ability to generate revenue:

  1. If you have an online store, and the ability to show your products to a large audience that will be receptive to your products, why would you want to limit your exposure to that audience to a small segment?
  2. If you are a brick and mortar store with no online presence, a geo-targeted ad often makes perfect sense, but sometimes we see advertisers get a little too specific.  IE, I’m a store in Brooklyn, and I only want my ad on Design*Sponge to show in Brooklyn.  Why?  We have readers all over the city!  Don’t design fans sometimes make trips to Brooklyn?  And when they do – don’t you want them to know that you exist?  In general, it’s good to try to target the greater metro area of the city your brick and mortar store is if you MUST geo-target.

Day-parting: this when your ad is served only on specific days or times.

This kind of targeting is a bit trickier. I mostly recommend it for advertisers who are trying to appeal to a very specific audience. An example might be if you were advertising a food or cooking related product and wanted to advertise on Fridays on Design*Sponge when recipes are posted.

Again, this is pretty advanced and not usually reccomended for anyone to do at first.  The best way to make good use of day-parting is as follows:

  1. Begin by showing your ad at ALL days and times.
  2. Look at your campaign’s performance data to see what time of day (and on what days) you get the most clicks on your ad. (What to look for – when is the CTR highest? When is the click volume highest?  Is that at the same time?)
  3. Cross check this with your analytics data to make sure you are also getting the most sales (or conversions) at these times as well.

If you are buying a CPM based campaign, where you are paying for each impression – this can be an effective tactic to maximize the value of your budget by showing your ads only when they are most likely to get clicks. Not bad!

Frequency Capping: this is when your ad is served only a specific number of times per viewer, usually within a 24 hour or 7-day period.

This kind of targeting is best used sparingly as it can dramatically limit the reach and effectiveness of your campaigns.  However, if you have solid data that shows that if a user hasn’t clicked on your ad after X number of impressions, they won’t ever click (this is usually only known to advertisers who use their OWN adserver – so if you don’t, then this targeting option is not reccomended.)  But sometimes people are afraid of people burning out on their banners and they want to stretch their budget, so they use frequency capping.

Pros: It definitely increases the number of unique views of your ad.

Cons: It also decreases the number of times any unique viewer will see it.  Therefore, it often decreases the brand recognition that occurs when advertisers see your ad on a regular basis without clicking on it.

Targeting is a valuable tool and definitely an option to discuss with your ad sales representative to see if there is something that could help your campaign. It is often worth experimenting with targeting, but to always be vigilant about watching the results. Targeting can help to stretch a tight budget, but it can also close some doors if not used in a strategic manner. Never be afraid to ask your ad sales rep lots of questions so that you’re sure that you understand the impact of any targeting decisions you make.


  1. Lucy Thornton

    on 22nd Sep, 10 02:09pm

    Nice post Felice – I get higher click-through rates for online ads when I have them appearing first thing in the morning or around lunch time.

    I’ve talked to my clients and they agree they’re looking for something light to ease into the work day (i.e. so are more likely to click through to a blog post or other online page that interests them).

    Or they’re looking for something to help them get through that dip after lunchtime (yawn…) and a timely relevant ad can provide a bit of a break.

    Aaron, have you found this with click-throughs on design*sponge? I guess it varies because your readers are across different time zones, but if you’re marketing locally it’s worth noting when planning your email shots and other online activity.

    That’s my experience – what’s yours? Lucy

    reply to this comment

    • admin

      on 22nd Sep, 10 03:09pm

      Hi Lucy,

      It really depends. We definitely have the highest traffic between 10AM-2PM Eastern Time, but you are correct that we have readers in many time zones and around the world. But as far as campaign performance by hour, it really depends on which ad unit on the page you’re looking at, as they each perform differently.

      Not a super fun or helpful answer – but definitely true!

      As Felice mentions, the best way to tell what works is to test. Start out by running your ad ALL the time, and then look at an hour-by-hour report once you have at least 2 weeks worth of data. We give our advertisers access to this data, and the ability to generate these types of reports. Once you have a sense of when you’re getting the most traction – then it’s time to refine.

      Same thing is true of email marketing – I’d test multiple times throughout the day and check both open rates and click rates based on what time the emails were sent. Every site and email list performs in it’s own way, so I don’t want to generalize without knowing a bit more.


      reply to this comment

  2. efecto44

    on 16th Oct, 10 01:10am

    Hi! I live in Argentina and I am finding your tips on marketing and advertising very helpful.
    I´m about to use a list of email adresses to market my stuff (furniture I design and build) but I have a question: why people would open an email from an unknown sender? I never open those messages. Is it actually useful to advertise that way? Is there a right way to do it?
    Thanks a lot and sorry for my spelling, obviously En

    reply to this comment

    • admin

      on 22nd Oct, 10 02:10pm

      You’re right, people DON’T want emails like that, and I’d advise against going forward with this campaign. If you’re going to email people any sort of promotional message, you want to have their permission (for example, they’ve submitted their email address to you with the understanding that you may contact them, as well as giving them the option to “unsubscribe” at any point). Good luck!

      reply to this comment

  3. Jennifer

    on 17th Oct, 10 06:10pm

    I’ve heard that text links get a much better click-through rate than display ads. Do you have any experience with this?

    From my experience, more readers do click on the text links (the only ones I sell right now) in the morning. That’s what my advertisers say.

    But while text links seem to perform better, advertisers don’t want to pay above a certain price. That’s why I’m adding display ads. Any thoughts on the topic?

    reply to this comment

    • admin

      on 22nd Oct, 10 02:10pm

      Hi Jennifer,

      Text links CAN outperform display ads if they are positioned properly on the page, however, the opposite can also be true. It’s really more a question of positioning on the page more than anything else. You are correct that advertisers tend to feel like they should have to pay more than a certain price for a text ad, although it’s not really that logical (an ad is an ad, and it’s value is directly proportional to how many clicks it will drive). Good luck with adding display ads and keep in touch!


      reply to this comment

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