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The Power of the Pixel | Targeted Display Campaigns

Pixels for Targeted Digital Display Campaigns


With the new movie PIXELS coming out, most of us think of a pixel as a 1x1 square of color used to create digital images. And while they are certainly used for digital images, they have other jobs too. A pixel is really just a piece of code. And that code can server other purposes.

In this article I will share a high level understanding of how pixels can be used to enhance targeted display campaigns.

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Freedom Site Retargeting

With a pixel in place on a website, targeted display providers can see what users have come to your website and then show them your ads as they surf the web. A site retargeting pixel can be placed in the universal header or footer so that it can target anyone who comes to any page of the site.

Different site retargeting pixels can also be placed in different areas of your site to target different audiences with different creative. So for example, the law firm that specializes in both bankruptcy and family law may choose to put one pixel on their pages related to bankruptcy and another pixel on their family law pages. This way they can have two campaigns, with two different ads targeting two unique audiences.

Could you use a different pixel for every product or service you offer? Sure. That’s how the big guys do it and it’s why you see that pair of boots you just looked at following you around the web. It’s not a strategy you see with local advertisers very often because it can get cumbersome and expensive.




With a lookalike pixel in place, targeted display providers who use unstructured data are able to see historical data on the users who visit your website. This allows them to see what users have in common so they can target other users on the web who “look like” your audience. 

A few examples from targeted display provider will help clarify how this works. 

Working with a dermatologist, we of course were targeting keywords like skin care and acne when we noticed that a large percentage of the users who were visiting his site had recently searched for or read content about Justin Bieber. 

Are you making the connection? Exactly. Teenagers who like Justin also need some help with skin care. The data told us that it would make sense to target other users who were reading about Justin Bieber so that’s exactly what we did. 

It opened up a whole new audience to our dermatologist - an audience of people in need for his service, who maybe hadn’t even thought to look for him yet.

When targeting high-end real estate consumer, we’ve discovered lookalike keywords related to golf and travel and expensive watches and jewelry often work well.

Here’s a fun one. One of the top lookalike keywords for retirement communities is “Jeopardy”. 




If you have e-commerce or a form on your site, you can place a pixel on the “thank you” page to measure conversions. The pixel will only “fire” when someone reaches that particular page, so you can see how many users who saw your ad actually came to your site and converted.

Worth noting, conversion pixels are most effective on campaigns where the advertiser is committed to at least 500,000 impressions per month.

And just because you have a form on your site, it doesn’t always mean you should measure conversions. Very few of us like to complete forms online because we know that it means we’re going to get a call from a salesperson or we’re going to be added to an email list.




Click through rates on display ads average at about .06%. (Doublelick’s Display Benchmarks Tool. April 2015) This means that more than 999 out of 1000 users see the ad, but don’t click on it. But comScore tells us that 1 in 5 users exposed to display advertising conduct related searches for advertised brands.

That means that the ads are influencing users, even if they aren’t clicking. And doesn’t that just make sense? It’s what we’re used to with advertising. We see television commercials that influence our purchase decisions every day. RARELY do we take immediate action on them (unless it’s that Domino’s ad during the game.) 

But most of the time, we’re not running out to buy that box of cereal or shop at that department store right after we see the commercial. We pick up the cereal the next time we’re at the grocery store and we think of that department store when we are in need of new shoes.

And so it goes with display ads. We see the ad a few times as we’re surfing the web and later, navigate our way to the site. We may know the domain and go directly to it or we may do a Google search for the brand name and find our way to the site that way. In neither of those examples did we click on the ad. But if it weren’t for the ad, we wouldn’t have visited the site.

A view through pixel is essentially a conversion pixel that is measuring a visit as a conversion. So anyone who sees the ad and finds their way to the site - via any path (clicking the ad, going straight to the URL or searching for the brand) will count as a conversion. 

This is great ancillary data that you may like to see. Visitors who actually click are awesome. They are more engaged in the brand, staying longer and visiting more pages of the site. (source: Online Publishers Association) But if your ads can get customers to come directly to your site or search for your business by name, isn’t that also a win for the campaign?


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Thanks for reading

David McBee, Director of Training is the leader in localized programmatic solutions. Trade desks, networks, local media groups, and multi-location brands leverage’s superior performance, customizable audiences, and efficient delivery models to drive higher ROI in their digital businesses. For more information call (800) 840-0768 or visit



Posted by David McBee Date: May 15, 2015 2:59:00 PM
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Topics: Online Advertising