If you’re like I was, you’re thinking what’s the difference between personalized and targeted content. Sounds like the same thing, right?

These terms are used interchangeably all too often but actually represent two very different things. If you work in digital marketing you should know the difference between these words since they both affect the bottom line, just differently.

Simply put, Targeted is useful to marketers and Personalization is useful to consumers.


Targeting is geared toward giving the marketer better insights and tools for reaching “targeted” audience segments for advertising purposes. This allows marketers to group their audiences into different buckets (eg. football fans, moms, 18-24 year-olds, Californians, new vs. longtime customers, you name it.) Those insights are then used to help marketers show these groups more relevant products, content, special deals, etc.


Personalization engines are becoming more widespread than ever. Contrary to targeting, it focuses on the end user to provide real-time suggestions based on their current needs. Using machine learning algorithms personalization engines can determine what content or products the customer is likely to be interested in right now.

The trouble with relying on only targeting is that a person’s intent can change throughout the course of their visit. For example, if someone goes to eBay to look for shoes they might quickly shift their interest to hats. Ebay’s personalization engine follows along the consumer journey and continuously personalizes new content to better suit their immediate needs given the data that’s available. Human unpredictability makes personalization of this caliber unavailable to marketers ahead of time.

Understanding the nuance of a consumer’s intent is no easy task. Entire companies have been better understanding the analytics behind dynamic audience identification. Well-known brands like Toyota, Campbell’s, Netflix, and even Fox are dedicating marketing budgets to agencies like Gigya to provide their customers with more personalized experiences.

Like Peanut Butter and Jelly

Looking at the differences between the two make it clear that using them together is where true power lies. Combining the two techniques will yield greater conversions and generate a better ROI for your bottom line.

Some specific examples of these strategies could include:

  • Creating unique content that can be shown to repeat customers vs. new customers
  • Showing special offers and content with unique headlines to 24-35-year-old stay-at-home Dads
  • Display different imagery for visitors coming from Seattle vs. Portland

Whatever you decide, it’s about providing content, products, services, and offers that resonate with your visitors’ preferred content types and intent at that specific moment. It lets the visitor drive the decision-making process based on their preferred interests and with real-time data.

Currently, three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content (e.g., offers, ads, promotions) appear that have nothing to do with their interests. Combining personalization and targeted content is the perfect solution for this dilemma. Marketers who are personalizing their web experiences are, on average, seeing a 19% boost in sales.

If you’re interested in getting personalization or targeted segments set up for your own website give us a call and we’ll help you find a strategy that will work best for your business goals.