Using Behavioral Targeting to Optimize SEO Traffic

This article is based on a presentation about the value of Behavioral Targeting for SEM, delivered at SphinnCon 2010. I discussed how to target users coming from search traffic in a very subtle yet powerful way.

Using behavioral targeting is especially interesting when it comes to SEO Analytics. Sometimes websites that provide a broad range of products do not have a SEO landing page for each service, category or product. This means that users that looked for one specific product or area can land on the homepage and get lost with all the choices available. Through Behavioral Targeting it is possible to use part of the homepage to provide a customized experience based on search terms, tailoring the user search (which is a strong indicator of intent) to a special offer.

Behavioral Targeting Examples

Below I use two examples to illustrate how a very simple targeting strategy can bring significant results to a company. I will focus on the SEO success or failure to deliver what the visitor expected to find on the website.

Bad Example

Let’s start with an enterprise that is failing to provide what users are looking for on their website.

Suppose I am looking for an anti virus to my PC. Naturally, I would start with a simple search on Google “anti virus”. McAfee is well positioned on the first page and I would probably click on the search result to check the website. As we can see below, when I get to the website, nothing speaks to me about anti virus. For some reason, McAfee chose to use a categorization based on the user type, and not on the software they provide, which means I can’t find the search term I typed on Google even once on my landing page.

Bad Example of Behavioral Targeting

Let’s say I surf around and decide not to buy the anti virus and leave the website. In two or three days I read more about the subject and understand that I actually need a firewall and an anti virus. Again, my first thought would be to search for “firewall” on Google. Ops, I can see McAfee again! That is a good sign (‘maybe this company has what I am looking for’) and I would probably click through and visit their website again. And here is the page I get:

Bad Example of Behavioral Targeting

Failure! McAfee knows that I came before, looking for an anti virus, and they know I am now looking for a firewall, so why aren’t they using this info to target me? They could just add a small dynamic banner on the homepage that contains offers based on search terms, with a default promotion for other sources of traffic. Very simple, as we shall see next.

Good Example

Suppose I am looking for Auto Insurance (and I live in the USA). If I start my search looking for “Auto Insurance”, among the first few results I will find on Google is Progressive. If I click through, I will get the following page:

Good Example of Behavioral Targeting

However, if I am the Harley Davidson type of person, that is interested only on motorcycles, I would probably be looking for “Motorcycle Insurance”. Well, for this search Progressive is not ranked very well (4th page as of now). But if I do get to their snippet and decide to click through, I will get a very pleasant surprise:

Good Example of Behavioral Targeting

Success! As we can see above, users looking for auto insurance get a picture of a girl holding an auto insurance and a prominent car in the icons below the girl; but when I look for Motorcycle insurance I get motorcycles instead or cars. A very simple technique that certainly has a great effect on User Experience. And this is not as difficult as it appears…

Behavioral Targeting is NOT Rocket Science

I have written in the past that Behavioral Targeting is Easier Than You Think. And I really mean it; the examples above show that very simple Targeting campaigns can have a significant impact on visitors’ experience. With a little bit of thought and any tool, a good analyst can make wonders. Which brings us to the most important factor needed to succeed with Behavioral Targeting: Brain Power.

If you have never tried anything related to targeting visitors, there are easy ways to do it. You can just implement Google Analytics (which is free) and integrate it with BTBuckets (which is also free) and start creating a customized experience for each website visitor.

We would love to learn from your experience, so share your thoughts on the comments!

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