What Do Audience Segments, 8-Track Tapes & Pay Phones Have In Common?

Yup…you guessed it. Audience segments are going the way of the dinosaurs.

T Rex This may not come as much of a revelation to search marketers, who wouldn’t dream of running a search campaign where they couldn’t see the performance of each individual search term and vary bids on each search term as needed.

Search marketers know that the ability to optimize their search campaigns at the keyword level is an integral part of making search campaigns successful.

In online display advertising, audience segments are a relic that pre-dates the real time bidding (RTB) era.

Prior to real time bidding, advertisers had to buy blocks of ad impressions at fixed prices. The processes of the day, which included insertion orders being sent by fax, dictated that all targeted users be lumped into audience segments and purchased at a single price.

This practice was carried forth into the RTB era, but really shouldn’t have been. Real time bidding enables advertisers to bid different prices for each impression, based on the attributes of that individual impression and the data associated with the user that will view that impression.

There are several advantages of eliminating audience segments, and instead bidding, reporting, and optimizing using the underlying element level data. These include:

  1. Less Work - No need spend the time building out segments. Optimization algorithms do this automatically depending based on the data of each campaign.
  2. Better Performance - Targeting is tuned for each campaign, driving better performance to the goals.
  3. Deeper Insights – More information is learned about prospects and current customers through more granular data being collected.
  4. Flexibility – Each element in a campaign is more adaptable – can be scaled up or down.

These advantages hold true across multiple campaign tactics, including search retargeting, site retargeting, contextual targeting, CRM data targeting, Geographic targeting, and more.

One of our clients recently made the analogy of buying individual stocks vs buying mutual funds. The most sophisticated investors driven to generate returns on their investments don’t buy pre-built mutual funds put together by another entity. They build custom portfolios of individual stocks and bonds to meet their particular needs.

Similarly, sophisticated advertisers who are driven to maximize returns on their advertising spend can do better than buying pre-formatted audience segments. These advertisers understand that data elements vary in their effectiveness and this must be taken into account, for example, some keywords are more effective than others.

So, marketers need the option to adjust campaigns based on performance, among other factors, which is simply not achievable with segments.

As digital advertising advances, it becomes a classic case of survival of the fittest. Marketers must learn to adapt and evolve or become extinct, make the move from pre-built segments or be left behind.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display | Search & Display


About The Author: is a seasoned online advertising executive, specializing in targeting, optimization, and technology. Frost is CEO and co-founder of Simpli.fi. You can follow him on Twitter @phrossed.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Good post, Frost. Direct mail veterans like me would add another point: demographic/ psychographic data has never been a good predictor of interest. It’s never very accurate, and even when it is it doesn’t predict performance. Past behavior is a far better predictor of future behavior than audience profiles. The power of search has always been that you know what the person is interested because they just told you they are interested and they are supremely in the moment. RTB allows display advertisers to reach folks based on behavior…not quite so in the moment as search…but much, much more effective than audience targeting.

  • Marty

    Nice! We’re not totally buying it. REtargeting amplifies initial targeting either to everywhere or a filtered subset of everywhere. If inbound traffic is weak, then retargeting reflects weakness. Awesome traffic that converts is amazing when retargeted. Thanks for the thinking and contribution to the dialog.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide