Digital Media Targeting 101: The Precision of Digital Media Targeting & Hitting Your Marketing Goals

By Phase 3
December 07, 2023


Here's an analogy. Think of your digital marketing and sales budget as an arrow and your marketing and sales goals as a bullseye. Your goal is to shoot that arrow straight and true so that it hits the bullseye without veering too high or bouncing off the bullseye completely. If that happens, your budget is lost, and your marketing strategies are unsuccessful. However, by using digital media targeting as the bow sight (a device that helps archers aim) to shoot the arrow, you ensure your marketing efforts hit the bullseye every time. 

Digital media targeting is a strategic approach that allows marketing leaders to precisely reach their desired audience through digital sales and marketing campaigns. It's a crucial component of digital marketing that enables you to tailor your message to audiences with specific demographics, interests, behaviors, and more. By targeting, you optimize your budget and place your message in front of the people who matter most to your business, maximizing your return on investment (ROI).

Whether through social media, search engines, websites, or other online platforms, digital media targeting allows you to connect with potential customers in a highly personalized and effective way. This post will provide you with an overview of digital media targeting, helping you harness the power of precision in your online marketing strategies.

Why Targeting is Important


Cost-Effective Advertising

Targeting ensures you invest your marketing budget in the most relevant audience, reducing wasted ad spending on uninterested or irrelevant viewers.


Improved ROI

By reaching the right audience, your campaigns are more likely to be successful, resulting in a higher return on investment (ROI).



Targeting allows customized and tailored messages that resonate with specific audience segments, increasing engagement and conversion rates.


Better User Experience

Relevancy enhances the user experience. Your customers are more likely to engage with campaigns that match their interests and needs.


Precise Audience Reach

You can define and reach a precise audience based on demographics, behaviors, interests, location, and more.


Enhanced Brand Awareness

Targeting can boost brand visibility and awareness among the audience most likely to become your customers.


Competitive Advantage

Effective targeting can give you an edge over competitors who are not as precise in their digital advertising efforts.


Data-Driven Insights

Targeting tools provide valuable data and analytics, allowing you to refine your campaigns continually.


Ad Placement Control

Targeting offers more control over where your ads appear, ensuring customers see them in relevant and brand-right environments.

In the cluttered and noisy online marketplace, digital media targeting ensures that your message reaches the right people at the right time, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of your efforts.


What is an Audience? 

In digital marketing targeting, an audience is a specific group of consumers who are the intended recipients of marketing messaging and advertising. These audiences are defined based on various characteristics and criteria, such as demographics, interests, behaviors, and other relevant factors. You can also pinpoint different types of audiences based on the goals or content of your marketing campaign.


Types of Audiences

The foundational approach to creating an audience uses demographic characteristics and/or location. With digital media targeting, there are more sophisticated approaches to reaching a target audience. You can use these approaches in addition to foundational targeting or on their own.


Affinity Audience

Affinity audiences are groups of people who share a common interest or passion, such as a love for technology, sports, or travel. B2B affinity audiences are groups of professionals that have displayed interest online in an industry like healthcare, manufacturing, or marketing.  Online behavior determines whether a person becomes a member of the audience. Specific behaviors include the content a person engages with, the websites they visit, and their search histories. The behaviors of an affinity audience suggest long-term interests, lifestyles, and habits. They may not be searching for specific products or services.

Affinity audiences are best used for brand awareness and broad-reaching marketing campaigns. If you want to introduce a new brand or product to a new audience with shared interests or passions, targeting these audiences can help create initial exposure.

Here's an example: an outdoor adventure gear company targets an affinity audience of "Outdoor Enthusiasts" who have a strong interest in hiking, camping, and nature-related activities. This audience will likely consume articles, read reviews, or watch videos about outdoor travel or excursions.


Behavioral Audience

You define a behavioral audience by their online behaviors and activities over a specific timeframe. Like affinity audiences, the behaviors can include the websites they visit, the online content they consume, and their search history. This shows their intent or interest in particular products or services.  

Unlike affinity, behavioral audiences are actively researching or shopping items on specific topics or granular interests. Some examples are organic grocery stores, running shoes, or sustainable printing. Website clicks, site visits, search queries, and app usage are all actions that determine a behavioral audience. It's a real-time snapshot of a customer's online activity.

Because of the recency of their behavior, behavioral targeting is useful for campaigns with direct response goals, such as increasing conversions or leads. These consumers are on the verge of taking action, and a targeted message could be the impetus they need.

For example, an e-commerce fashion brand can target users recently searching for "men's running shoes" or clicking on running-related content. This behavioral audience indicates an interest in running, making them more likely to respond to ads for running shoes.


Lookalike Audience

Lookalike audiences share similarities with your existing customers or target audience. You create these audiences using seed data from your current customer base, website visitors, or social media followers to find new prospects with similar characteristics, behaviors, and interests.

Lookalike audiences help expand your reach to people more likely to be interested in your brand. This strategy is also beneficial for scaling advertising efforts while maintaining relevance. Whether an expansion to acquire new customers or a way to combat creative fatigue, lookalike audiences are valuable because they increase the number of users a brand can strategically target through a particular marketing campaign.

Here’s an example: a subscription box service for gourmet cooking enthusiasts creates a lookalike audience based on their existing customers' online search and purchasing behavior. This new audience includes online users who show similar behaviors.


Custom Audience

Custom audiences are specific groups created by uploading first-party customer data. The data can include email lists, CRM lists, or app user information. These audiences allow marketers to reach people who have interacted with your brand.

Custom audiences are highly valuable for customer retention and re-engagement. Targeting custom audiences is also a good strategy for building engagement among loyalty program members or promoting new products to existing customers.

For example, a software company uses a list of email addresses of prospects who have registered for a free trial but have yet to purchase the software. With that list, they create a custom audience to target these users with a special offer or educational content through digital marketing.



Retargeting is both an audience and a marketing strategy. Retargeting audiences consist of individuals who have previously visited a website or engaged with a brand's content but did not complete a desired action, like making a sale or filling out a contact form. The strategy then retargets the audience with specific ads or messages to encourage a return to the website and complete the action. It's a form of reminder marketing.

Retargeting has traditionally used tracking cookies. Because cookies will soon be going away, pixel placement, device fingerprinting, and IP addresses are the primary methods of building a retargeting audience.

Here's an example: a digital marketing agency tracks users who visited their website but didn't fill out a contact form. They retarget this audience with display ads promoting a free value-added download to encourage them to return to the site.


Aside from your overall goals, your audience type and targeting decisions should also depend on the digital channel or platform you plan to use. Each channel offers different ways to optimize an audience segment. It's also essential to choose a channel your target audience engages in. Let's talk about the channels generally best for each audience next.


Digital Channels for Each Audience

The choice of digital media channels for each audience depends on various factors, including the nature of your business, your target audience's preferences, and your marketing objectives. Here are some general recommendations for each type of audience across different digital media channels.


Affinity Audience

Social Media: Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest often work well for targeting affinity audiences. They will even suggest affinity audiences related to specific interests and target people with a combination of interests. You can also exclude certain audiences. You can then create related content and use precise interest targeting to reach users with those specific affinities.


Behavioral Audience

Search Engines: Behavioral audiences can be effectively reached through search engine marketing (SEM), particularly on Google. You create pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns targeting keywords that align with their demonstrated behavior. The search engine displays your ad to users actively searching for or engaging with content related to the keywords or topics.


Lookalike Audiences

Social Media: Meta’s extensive user data and precise targeting options on both Facebook and Instagram make it a popular choice for lookalike audiences. Using your existing customer data, Meta's algorithms analyze their characteristics, behaviors, and interests and then identify commonalities and patterns. It looks at a wide range of data, including demographics, interests, online behavior, and more. You can refine your lookalike audience by adding additional targeting parameters like location, age, and gender to make it more specific. Once you define your lookalike audience, create ad campaigns with messaging tailored to their interests and needs.


Custom Audiences

Email Marketing: Email lists are a common way to create a custom audience. Segment a list to create a custom audience based on various criteria, such as purchase history, engagement level, location, and more. Use email marketing campaigns to engage with this audience directly, sending personalized content and offers. For example, you can send exclusive email offers to loyal customers or educational content to new subscribers.



Display Advertising: Retargeting is often used in display advertising, including banner ads. Display networks like Google Display Network (GDN) are effective for this audience. Each user who visits your website, views specific product pages, or abandons a shopping cart receives a retargeted banner ad as they browse other websites within the network.


Cross-Channel Targeting

But don't choose a channel in audience silos. By integrating and coordinating various online channels, marketers can create a holistic and personalized experience for every target audience. This approach not only ensures a consistent brand message but also allows for optimizing marketing efforts across different touchpoints.

The key to successful cross-channel marketing is maintaining consistency in your brand messaging, design, and tone across all channels. It's essential to continuously monitor and refine marketing campaigns based on performance data and audience feedback. This ensures that your cross-channel marketing efforts remain dynamic and adaptive to changing market conditions and customer preferences.


The best digital media targeting strategy depends on your specific industry, the behavior of your target audience, market conditions, and your business goals. Targeted cross-channel marketing is a powerful strategy, allowing you to reach audiences where they are most active. To determine the best channels for your audiences, do market research, analyze the behavior and interests of your current customer base, analyze past campaign performance, and experiment with different approaches to see what works best. This iterative approach will help ensure your digital marketing arrow hits the target every time. Contact our digital media team today for expert guidance on digital media targeting.