Search engine marketing’s meteoric rise over the last decade is due, in large part, to the superiority of query-level targeting as compared to other online advertising channels. The targeting edge that SEM once held, however, may be slipping.
Indeed, for many advertisers and many verticals, SEM may no longer be the best channel for laser-focused advertising. In this article, I look at five types of online targeting and compare the functionality of SEM versus two other popular marketing channels – self-serve display advertising (Google Display Network) and programmatic display advertising.
Types Of Online Targeting
Before I delve into the specific targeting features of online marketing channels, let me suggest a framework for evaluation. Broadly speaking, there are five types of online targeting currently available to online marketers:
- Query – what is the user searching for?
- Location – where is the user located?
- Time – what time of day, day of week, and time of year is it?
- Device – are they on a mobile phone, tablet, or computer (and what is their operating system and carrier)?
- Behavioral – who is the user, demographically, or psychographically? Note: this is the broadest of my five factors, since I’m including data like offline purchase behavior and social sentiment in this category – over time, I could see this factor broken into several separate groups as targeting matures.
Round 1: Query-Level Data
Query-level targeting has always been the selling point of SEM, and AdWords (and Bing/Yahoo, of course!) are still the clear champions when it comes to targeting users based on queries. That said, GDN does interpret the semantic relevance of a website to allow advertisers to try to use query-level data in display; and, third-party search retargeting companies like Chango, Simpli.fi, and Magnetic offer query-like targeting throughout the display ecosystem.
But let’s face it, query-ish display targeting still pales in comparison to the real deal – SEM! If you are marketing an established product (i.e., something people would be searching for), SEM should be your most important channel.
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