Reaching online audiences has never been easier or more affordable. Programmatic ad buying options give advertisers access to 95% of Internet users, with more than 40,000 audience attributes and characteristics from which to target.

In short, your best prospects are readily identifiable and reachable.

But even the right audience can be hard to engage.

The key to making your audience care is relevance. Here are ten tips for maximizing relevancy.

1. Tap into users' passions

Get to know your audiences. Create profiles and personas. Go way beyond demographics. Engage with them around the issues they care about, and understand their pop culture.

Various tools and methods that can help you are right at your fingertips. Make use of audience insight features offered by Facebook, Twitter, and other networks. Follow current conversations.

Use analytic listening tools to monitor relevant topics, but engage only when it feels authentic. Your online-display ad partners have access to numerous psychographic, life-stage and other audience insights after a campaign has run, so make sure you ask for it.

Whether it's a favorite YouTube celebrity, addicting gaming app, emerging social media channel, legendary movie quote, or preferred cause, determine what your audiences find iconic, entertaining, and obsessive—and then make the most of it.

2. Layer in context and content targeting

Align with a topic that's aligned with or connected to your business, product, or service, and capitalize when your audience is already teed up to be in the right frame of mind for your message. Studies have shown that content/context targeting produces higher click-through rates than behavioral targeting.

3. Use native placement

If it looks like news, it must be news, right?

Native ad units blend in with the look and feel of a publisher's website as if it were organic content. Be willing to embrace multiple formats (varying lengths of copy, video, images). Limiting yourself to a few predesigned units will limit your results.

Nativo and Sharethrough are network solutions that provide scalable options across many publishers. Try one if you haven't already.

4. Format your content into a list

Lists allow readers to quickly scan for relevancy. Buzzfeed is one of the fastest-growing online publishers of recent years, with access to more than 200 million unique visitors per month. It has homed in on the most popular content and specializes in list, quiz, and infographic creation and sharing. Buzzfeed programs often show lifts in click-through rate and brand-affinity measures.

5. Be timely

Much of today's online inventory can be bought nearly real-time, so harness breaking news or trending topics to your advantage.

6. Use influencer marketing

Some 92% of customers trust online recommendations from people they know, per Nielsen, and paying for influencers to share and engage with their existing audiences is becoming more commonplace. IZEA calls it "sponsored social" and has access to more than 250,000 content creators, who in turn have access to more than two billion users/followers. Although the messages are labeled "sponsored" or "#ad IZEA," audiences don't seem to mind, as long as it's relevant!

7. Don't completely write off site-direct ad buys

Why not be hosted in your most perfect environment? While the cost-per-thousand impression may be at a premium, site-direct programs can often deliver low cost-per-click and cost-per-acquisition rates that make it worthwhile.

In addition, site-direct negotiations can lead to content inclusion, social media pushes, bonus impressions, and other coveted forms of added value.

8. Consider dynamic creative

Not the high-cost ad serving option it once was, dynamic creative is widely adopted. Technology takes into account the numerous available data points about the user, the content, and the device to serve customized units.

Use dynamic creative solutions for optimizations around offers, placements, images, time of day, current weather conditions, customer journey touchpoints, and retargeting. 

9. Harness the power of Google

Google is a great place to start your investigation into insights around relevant messaging and reaching audiences, even if you're not interested in a search campaign.

  • Google Keyword Planner can provide intelligence on words and phrases consumers associate with your topic or category.
  • Google Correlate can suggest other phrases that may be as or even more relevant.
  • Google Analytics gives insight into who is coming to your page, what they are doing there and how they arrived. Look for patterns of behavior, trends and volumes.

10. Test, measure, and test again

Whether it's for aligning with the right content or sharing relevant lists, testing is paramount for achieving success. Test messages, test formats, test audiences, test placements, test bidding strategies...

Monetary metrics, such as cost per click and cost per engagement, can help you assess and compare immediate actions. But also analyze rates of activity. Click-through rates, engagement rates, and video-completion rates can gauge your relevancy against a particular audience, placement, or format. The higher the rate of activity, the more likely you're right on with relevancy.

* * *

Though audience targeting is better than ever, be sure to captivate your audience when they're in the best frame of mind to care about what you have to say. The greater the relevancy, the greater the engagement and results.

More Resources on Reaching Audiences

Reaching and Persuading Buyers at a Time of Crisis: What B2B CMOs Can Do

Target-Audience Segmentation: Why You Need It and How to Do It in Five Easy Steps

Earn Your Customers' Trust: How to Use Personalization and Authenticity to Reach Audiences 

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image of Pam Atkinson

Pam Atkinson is a VP and the director of connection planning at Crosby Marketing, where she leads the strategic planning, negotiating, and buying of digital, mobile, broadcast, print, outdoor, and promotional media for consumer and B2B programs.

LinkedIn: Pamela Atkinson