A traveler’s guide to Geo-targeted Advertising

A traveler's guide to Geo-targeted AdvertisingAdventure travel and geo-targeted Internet advertising have a lot in common.

Consider this definition from Wikipedia: “Adventure travel is a type of tourism, involving exploration or travel with perceived (and possibly actual) risk, and potentially requiring specialized skills and physical exertion.”

Well, maybe not the physical exertion because you’re doing the heavy lifting at your desk, but you’re certainly risking dollars with your specialized skills.

Geo-targeted display ads are the rage promoted by the major tour operators – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Yahoo, Bing. They’re all clamoring for your ad dollars.

And while the Web can take your ad anywhere in the world, your campaign may not come back with the souvenirs like you hoped when you planned your adventure.

So, here are some travel tips before you set out on your journey.

Know the technology that’s being used to deliver your ad. And remember – your ad is targeted to devices, not the users and profiles of those users (more on that later).

IP-based targeting is the underlying technology – the compass – used by the search engines and social media ad programs. The limitations of IP mapping can be like magnets that throw the compass’ needle out of whack.

IP-based targeting delivers your ad to the computer’s geographic location based on the Internet Protocol address assigned by its ISP (Internet Service Provider). The IP address does not have a direct correlation to exact geography like a ZIP code. Private networks, corporate networks, rural and exurban areas (from where ISP’s reroute users to their server buildings) are just some of the intervening factors.

Travelers TipTravelers Tip: IP mapping accuracy is not 100%. The more granular you get, the less accurate it becomes so your ad will be delivered to viewers who aren’t in the territory. It’s pretty good down to the City/Metropolitan area level. It’s offered at the zip code level, but approach cautiously.

A/B test until you get it right. For example, bundle a few neighboring zip codes rather than using just one or expand/contract the radius around your center point.

Mobile or Location-based targeting is the other underlying technology, but despite the huge gains in mobile access by users, it has not gained traction with the advertising programs offered by search engines and social networks.

Mobile or Location-based targeting gets its geographic information in one of two ways: Confirmed or Derived. Confirmed location targeting depends on the user turning on the device’s GPS capabilities or when the user “checks in” at a location. Derived relies on inferences such as tri-angulation of cell towers and mapped Wi-Fi hot spots.

IP-base targeting to devices is much less sophisticated than targeting actual users that fit an actual profile of your target audience. Since search engines and social networks don’t maintain the depth of user information to support user profile-based advertising, IP targeting works for them.

Travelers TipTravelers Tip: IP-based geo-targeting is a good way to get your campaign into the general area for most of your audience, but it’s not a precise map to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You need to include other targeting factors when planning your campaign.

So user information comes into play. You need to know who are you targeting.

The search engines and social networks aggregate their data and also apply some analytics to create modifiers to refine the Geo-targeting for better ROI. Google, for example, uses the search histories of their users. Facebook uses Profile information and aggregates information on users’ friends to better define the individual.

User-profile based targeting is highly effective for hyper-targeted campaigns because the profiles have much more direct 1st party online data that have been gathered from multiple sources. All kinds of behavioral and shopping history data are in each profile. Geographic information – both IP and Location-based – are just a couple of the hundreds of attributes within each profile. This allows the data managers to create very specific campaign Audiences from millions of profiles with hundreds of attributes on each profile.

Geo-targeting and User profile targeting can both lead to great campaigns. Like travel plans, your campaigns cost thousands of dollars. Plan your budget to try both, and scale up what works best over time.

Happy Trails…