Behavioral advertising has been getting plenty of attention lately for being the next big thing since the advent of contextual advertising. Why are search marketers so excited?

Recent studies have shown that behavioral advertising converts better than contextual ad targeting. But there is some confusion about what behavioral advertising is, and particularly, what it isn't. There is also the concern about privacy issues that surround the idea of targeting ads based on individual user behavior. And with behavior targeted advertising being very new in comparison to the familiar methods traditional banner ads or contextual advertising, some people get nervous about being targeted with ads today because of a website they visited yesterday.

What exactly is behavioral targeting? This refers to advertising that is targeted to a specific individual based on that user's previous surfing behavior. This is quite different from the more common targeting method of displaying ads matched to the specific content of an individual page or to all users in general. With behavior targeting, this would mean that two people could see vastly different ads when viewing the identical webpage at the same time.

For example, the person who frequents sporting sites might see ads for hockey tickets or golf clubs on a page about the local business economy, while the woman who visits travel sites regularly might see ads for vacation packages or travel agents. These ads, while not related to the article about the business economy, are still very targeted to that particular user at that particular time. And this super tight targeting of the individual is what makes behavioral targeting so successful to those advertisers using it.

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