Have you ever seen an advertisement online and thought, “that is exactly something I would buy?” If so, you’re not alone. This type of marketing strategy is known as targeted advertising. Advertisers base many of their decisions around data that they collect from search queries to target certain demographics. This can include potential customers in specific regions or even those in certain age groups. But how do advertisers obtain that data and how do they narrow their marketing? Today, we’ll help you answer the question: “What is targeted advertising?”

What is Targeted Advertising?

Many modern marketing techniques require advertisers to collect data on current and potential customers. Targeted advertising is one such method. Ultimately, targeted advertising refers to online ads that focus on individuals based on certain characteristics. Depending on the product, targeted advertising might focus on a person’s location, interests, whether they have pets, and more. Wondering how these advertisers are able to obtain this information? We’ll explain.

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How Does Targeted Advertising Work?

Is there a difference between seeing an ad on a billboard and seeing one on social media? Although they’re both forms of marketing, the answer is “yes.” The main separation between these two platforms is that online advertisements are directly targeting you based on your Internet activity. Advertisers obtain data from products you purchase online, the websites you visit, and your browsing habits to tailor their marketing. By studying the online activity of their clientele, businesses can better target their products to the right audience. 

The data you input on social media is also valuable to businesses and their marketers. If you are on Instagram and you mainly follow athletes, Instagram knows to show you similar posts. Likewise, you may receive targeted ads that involve merch or memorabilia from teams that you follow. However, if a social platform’s algorithm notices you’re also in another demographic, they may tailor their ads even further. If Instagram knows you enjoy sports and you’re a parent, you might see ads for kid’s clothes with team logos.

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What are the Types of Targeted Advertising?

There are many ways for advertisers and marketers to get their products in front of the right audience. These techniques help increase awareness of a service or item for sale. The accuracy of some targeted advertising can be frightening and suspicious, leading customers to suspect invasive surveillance practices. Ultimately, the times when these methods were abused by businesses are few and far between. However, it’s important to understand the various types of targeted advertisements in order to gain more insight into the process. 

  • Behavioral Targeting: Marketing efforts that focus on finding new users through their online behavior. For example, if you search online for a new mattress you might get ads about pillows, blankets, and bedding.
  • Contextual Targeting: Advertisements that are relevant to a website’s content, e.g. ads for sneakers and water bottles on a fitness website.
  • Geo-Targeting: Marketing that uses location information to target products by region, e.g. swimsuits in Florida or snow tires in Colorado. 
  • Retargeting: Retargeting efforts involve businesses that pursue customers who have previously shown interest in them through purchases, newsletter sign-ups, and more.
  • Social Media Targeting: Marketing that focuses on social media activity including what you search for and what you share. If you see a sponsored post on your Instagram feed from an account you don’t know, this is a form of social media targeting. 

Advertisers and businesses are constantly developing new ways to analyze user data. However, it’s important to know what kind of data they use and how they obtained it. 

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What Data Does Targeted Advertising Use?

When it comes to targeted advertising, businesses need a great deal of data to get the information they want. Depending on the browsing habits of their clientele, there are some insights that can inform their overall marketing patterns and even their product itself. In many cases, marketers begin with websites that collect data such as:

  • Location
  • Browsing habits
  • Website activity
  • Type of devices
  • Language preferences

This data most often comes from cookies that developers add to certain websites. Cookies track your browsing activity on a website, which is then sent to management or sold to third-party sources. Advertisers also use information from popular search engines and trending topics to find new ways they can target prospective customers.

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How to Reduce Targeted Advertising

The privacy concerns around targeted advertising are valid, especially since many people don’t know that you can opt-out of them. Platforms like Twitter will ask if you want to receive ads that target you based on your activity and interests. 

Depending on how you feel about your online privacy, you may want to adjust your ad preferences. However, there are still other ways for advertisers to obtain your data and use it to target you. If you want to avoid these targeted advertisements, you’ll need to start by increasing your online privacy. Take a look at the following methods for reducing ad targeting online. 

  • Install ad-blocking software.
  • Keep your social media profiles private.
  • Log out of your Google account when not in use.
  • Adjust your ad preferences on social media.
  • Never give your personal email to websites. 
  • Use a VPN to protect your personal information.

Using these methods, you can effectively keep yourself from experiencing nonstop ads on multiple platforms. Many of these options, especially using a VPN, can help you increase your privacy as well as your overall security. Protecting your personal information online has never been more important, so start taking control of your Internet privacy today.

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Securing your online information is an important step in strengthening your Internet safety. If your data falls into the wrong hands, criminals could use it for fraudulent purposes and cause serious financial damage. Ultimately, getting a powerful VPN on all of your personal devices is a great step towards protecting yourself online. With a reliable VPN, you can mask your IP address and avoid tracking from advertisers attempting to steal your data. 

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