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targeted ad (targeted advertising)

A targeted ad, in online marketing, is an advertisement that is served to a specific audience, which could be a particular demographic, a group or an individual. At its most basic, targeted advertising can just mean that ads are chosen for their relevance to site content, in the assumption that they will then be relevant to the site audience as well.

There are a number of other types of targeting. Here are a few examples:

Contextual advertising targets people based on their behavior, such as the search queries they use and the websites they visit. Data from such behaviors are considered indicators for the individual’s interests to guide decisions about the ads they will be served.

Social media targeting uses a number of approaches to selecting the audience for an ad. On Facebook, for example, a streaming media company might target specific ads based on user data such as age group, gender and interests or they might target users who like particular pages. Another approach is to serve ads to people based on pages and posts that their friends have liked.

Geotargeting involves serving ads to a specific market based on the geographic location of potential buyers. Given the variety of situations around the world at any given time, a city, state or country can often constitute a niche market for certain products or services.

Retargeting, also known as remarketing, involves targeting individuals with ads for specific products or services after they visit the website for the business. Retargeting is the technology behind ads that follow people from one site to another.

Increasingly, the processes involved in buying and placing ads are automated through programmatic advertising, which makes it possible to target the audience for an impression in the time it takes for a web page to load.

This was last updated in February 2017

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