If you ask your advertisers how they want to target their ads, most will likely say they want a specific category of people to see them. To achieve this, you may need to explain that the property where the display ads appear is much less important than targeting a specific audience. Audience targeting vs. site targeting is a fundamental digital advertising strategy you should explain to them.

It’s Not Where; It’s Who

Your local advertisers have a good idea of whom they want to engage with their ads. The local hardware store wants to capture those who love DIY projects. Insurance agents want to target those having major life moments like buying a home or having a child. These personas your customers most want to attract are the key criteria for targeting.

However, your advertisers may think their ads need to show up on specific websites to target that audience. The hardware store wants to serve ads on websites about renovations, for example. There’s no guarantee their preferred customer visits these sites. The best way to ensure these audiences see ads is to target them based on fundamentals.

The Fundamentals of Audience Targeting

In explaining the difference between audience targeting vs. site targeting, you’ll want to review the pillars of the former.


  • This is who they are — age, gender, education, income, marital status and job.
  • An example for the hardware store could be women (they’re just as likely to be DIYers as men!) aged 25 to 55 with a bachelor’s degree and an income of over $100,000.


  • This is what they do — hobbies, activities, opinions and passions.
  • For the hardware store, a prospect’s interests would be DIY projects, decorating, designing, etc.


  • This is what an audience is doing online, like visiting websites, clicking on previous ads or making online purchases.
  • The hardware store may target people who recently visited their website but didn’t convert.


  • This is where they are.
  • Advertisers likely have a specific area — ZIP codes, a mile range, state or DMA (designated market area).
  • Your local hardware store customer may want to target people within a 15-mile range of their store.

These audience targeting capabilities far exceed the value of just being on a specific website. While you may have some generic information about the type of people who visit certain websites, those are assumptions. Targeting by audience demographics, interests, behaviors and location is data-backed.

Interest-Based and Niche Sites Can Drive Better Results

Your advertisers may still have questions about where their digital ads will display. They may have the misconception that only mainstream, well-known sites can deliver clicks. In reality, interest-based and niche sites are often better at doing this. That’s because people who come to the sites are a niche audience themselves, aligning with the audience you created for your advertiser.

Back to the hardware store example, based on the persona created, you may find that ads show up on design blogger websites, not HGTV. Why is this better? HGTV has tons of traffic and many different types of users — homeowners, contractors, interior designers, etc. It’s a busy ecosystem where ads may not get the eyes your customers think they would, whereas the customer’s ideal buyer may spend much more time on a blogger’s site getting inspiration for their next project. They are going to need supplies, so up pops your advertiser’s ad that aligns with the audience’s needs and appeals to them.

Better Results, Happier Advertisers When You Target the Audience

Your advertisers are likely to see positive ROAS (return on ad spend) when you define the target persona. Where the ads appear has little to do with conversions. Educating your customers on this concept is essential in helping them understand the strategy.

Get more great advice on clarifying digital advertising for your customers by downloading our e-book, How to Explain Digital Advertising Tactics to Your Advertisers.

how to explain digital ad tactics