The Key to Programmatic Advertising – Internet Cookies

Cookies Aren’t the Monster

Cookies are delicious, but Internet cookies can cause concern for computer users who don’t necessarily understand what they are or what they do. It’s a common misconception that Internet cookies can cause viruses (they don’t) or can place malware on computers (they can’t).

They are, however, one of the key pieces that make cookie-based programmatic advertising possible, so it’s worth knowing a little bit more about them.

What are internet (web browser) cookies?

Cookies (named after a Unix program called Fortune Cookie, according to Indiana University) are small files placed on computers after a user visits a website. Typically, the cookie remembers information that makes it easier to access the website quicker in subsequent visits.

When you visit a vendor online and the website remembers the last item you almost bought and keeps it in your virtual shopping cart, that’s cookies at work. When a website remembers your viewing preferences from previous visits, that’s also cookies. In this respect, cookies can be helpful, allowing websites to load faster and remember information from previous visits for a personalized experience.

Tracking cookies allow information to be accessed by advertisers, potentially across multiple sites. The advertisers embed the cookies in an ad message on one website, so when the user clicks on another ad from the same advertiser on another website, the cookie recognizes the user and may store this information within the advertiser’s database.

Multiple cookies compiled together can give advertisers valuable insight into the preferences of Internet users. This is how most programmatic advertising works. Data Management Platforms (DMPs) aggregate the information from these cookies to help model and target by behavior, content, and interest, to name a few.

The Federal Trade Commission classifies cookies by two categories:

  • Single-session cookies: These are used to provide a faster website experience and are erased once the browser is closed.
  • Multi-session cookies: These may or may not collect data and must be manually deleted from a computer’s hard drive.

Cookies are not viruses or malware

Cookies do not place viruses or malware on computers – they don’t have the capability. Nor can cookies pull sensitive information out of the files of your computer – they can only remember information you supply on a website.

Cookies cannot “hide” from a computer user, particularly when the user sets his or her browser preferences to not allow cookies from websites. Seeing and deleting cookies is relatively simple, depending upon the Internet browser used (here are detailed directions based on browser).

Fingerprinting – The New Cookie?

Cookies continue to alarm Internet users who may not fully understand the technology. Fingerprinting is the upcoming technology that may replace (or augment) the work of cookies to help advertisers better understand online consumers. Fingerprinting allows a website to “study” a user’s computer, gaining information including software installed or even the size of the screen, says Forbes. This technology persists even if users delete their cookies.

The technology that allows advertisers to better understand their potential clients is ever-evolving. Advertisers must be careful to use this technology in a way that does not leave users feeling as though their privacy has been invaded.

June 2017 Content Marketing Newsletter

June 2017

From the Edge of the Great Plains

Dear PioneerMedia Content Marketers:

In this month’s Content Marketing Newsletter, Publisher John Heaston and I propose a smorgasbord of seven online posts we think will increase your effectiveness as a Content Marketer.

The links we hope you will peruse this month include:

  • 6 Challenges Every Small Business Faces & How to Fix Them
  • Use Social Metrics, SEO and Questions for Content to Drive Inbound Traffic
  • SEO Checklist for Content Marketers: 21 Common Mistakes to Avoid
  • 37+ Tips and Tools for Picture-Perfect Visual Content
  • 10 Content Curation Tools Every Marketer Needs
  • 3 Fundamental Ways to Write More Persuasive Content
  • 6 Secrets of Effective Digital Storytelling

Does anyone else note how often numbers are used in headlines these days? Five of these seven start with numbers. Over-saturation inevitably will have an impact. How much longer do you think such numbering will dominate our headers? Anyone willing to kick $1 into a predictive pool?

Give us your reasons and we’ll share the results with your colleagues. And, who knows, you may add a few bucks to your hard-earned CM wages. Sometime. Soon. When numbers lose their appeal. Yeah, right.

If there’s a topic you want addressed in future editions of this newsletter, let us know. We’ll share the best material we find.

All our best as summer returns.

Thomas Gunning

Content Marketing Editor


6 Challenges Every Small Business Faces & How to Fix Them

In the first few years of business, small companies face many challenges, says Hubspot’s Lindsay Kolowich. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20 percent fail by the end of their first year. By the end of their fifth year, half go under. By the tenth, that number rises to 80%. But many common business challenges are fixable. These can range from difficulty finding customers and building an email list to hiring the right people and balancing quality and growth. Here are six challenges every small business will face, along with some tactical advice about how to fix them.

Use Social Metrics, SEO & Questions for Content to Drive Inbound Traffic

How do you create great content that captures organic search and social traffic alike? Content marketing delivers results when it addresses what potential customers search for and share on social media. Content marketing delivers great results when it addresses what a large number of customers search for that your competitors don’t cover. So how do you learn exactly what customers look for in search and social and identify potential competitive gaps? Columnist Matthew Barby explains his method for identifying content themes and topics.

SEO Checklist for Content Marketers: 21 Common Mistakes to Avoid

With so much online content being published and promoted, competition for attention has never been more fierce, says Caitlin Burgess of the Top Rank Marketing blog. Also, consumers are increasingly self-directed in their quest for answers. So quality and strategic SEO has never been more important. But SEO has gone through a tremendous evolution since its early days of keyword-focused content. With more than 2 trillion searches on Google each year, today’s SEO must find a balance between user-centric content and an ability to persuade search engine crawlers that your content is supreme.

37+ Tips and Tools for Picture-Perfect Visual Content

Visuals are essential to create content that helps your client’s businesses stand out and draw in an audience, says Jodi Harris, director of editorial content & curation at the Content Marketing Institute. Not only do images make text-centric content more readable, digestible and memorable, they can also craft compelling messages that speak volumes without a single word. Here is a collection of best-practice tips from some of the industry’s most creative and design-minded content experts. They explain how photos, videos and graphics can do the talking for your clients.

10 Content Curation Tools Every Marketer Needs

“Curation” is one of those words that’s always conveyed coolness, says Patrick Armitage, director of marketing at BlogMutt. Take, for example, curating art for a gallery, or curating music for a soundtrack. Cool, right? Content curation is just as fun – and just as important. Content curation finds material relevant to your audience from many sources and shares it strategically through your communication channels. And while very cool, it can be tricky. There are many, many social networks, news feeds, emails and infographics full of such content that demand your time and attention.

3 Fundamental Ways to Write More Persuasive Content

In the 4th century BC, Aristotle’s Rhetoric theorized three fundamental elements of persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos. The first depends on the speaker’s personal character (ethos). The second depends on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind (pathos). The third is based on the proof provided by the words themselves (logos). According to Aristotle, a speaker must have ethos, pathos and logos to effectively persuade their audience. This comparable to how top brands reach their customers, says Jacob Warwick, founder of ThinkWarwick Communications, a strategic marketing company.

6 Secrets of Effective Digital Storytelling

Humans are programmed to look for a story in everything we see. Each word, picture or phrase, no matter how simple, is imbued with deeper meaning, says Peter Minnium, president of Ipsos Connect. This hardwiring helps us understand, contextualize and retain details about the world we face. For that reason alone, good stories can also function as potent strategic business tools — the ways and means to communicate marketing ideas, change perceptions, forge emotional connections and alter behaviors. But in recent years, “storytelling” has become overused and overprescribed by Content Marketers.

Programmatic Advertising Targeting Options

If two of the top 3 online advertising channels are dominated by Google (Adwords) and Facebook (Facebook Exchange) respectively, that leaves programmatic as the 3rd channel available to most businesses testing online advertising.

To quote last installment’s explanation: “[P]rogrammatic [is] data-driven online ad exchanges that buy remnant display advertising space on almost every website and app out there, in online auctions that last milliseconds. Ever noticed local ads on national websites or ads that followed you around the internet? That’s programmatic.”

Google and Facebook both gather reams of information on your online activity. It’s how they are best able to target advertising to the right consumers while delivering more than 90% of each company’s total revenues.

So, what kind of targeting is available for programmatic?

There is much that can be learned about consumers based on their online behavior. There are three primary methods behind the targeting options available with programmatic, all of which are best used when matched with the information you have collected on current customers or prospects, your business objectives and your real world experience.

Time and Place Targeting

The first method is driven by time and place. That will set two important considerations when targeting your online advertising:

Day Parting

Set the times of the day you want your ad to be served. If you’re a restaurant, for instance, targeting the hours before lunch or dinner will maximize targeting hungry consumers before their next meal.

Geographic Targeting

Unless specifically blocked, internet devices (phones, tablets, desktop computers) will reveal their location by the network they use to reach the web. Geographic targeting serves ads by the location of the audience – from zip code, city, state and county to custom radiuses and geo-fencing.

Micro-Proximity Targeting

One type of geographic targeting is micro-proximity targeting. Micro-proximity reaches a precise level of targeting by using the information provided by location-enabled apps on mobile devices. Using that data from the app, ads will be served inside the app.

PioneerMedia is partnered with one of the pioneers (seriously, we can’t make this up) in programmatic, allowing us to target micro-proximity to 5 decimal places – down to 1 meter of accuracy. Most providers only offer geo-fencing technology to 2-3 decimal places – within 100 to 1000 meters.

Cookie-Based Targeting

The second targeting method is cookie-based, information stored by your web browser whenever you visit most websites. Cookies can track a lot of online activity and Data Management Platforms (DMPs) aggregate the data for modeling and targeting purposes.

Digilant has a good introductory overview of cookies. While most programmatic is cookie-based, it’s also the “loosest” of the targeting methods because of its widespread use and how different cookie providers parse and share their data. Not only is there a challenge separating robot traffic from human traffic, it’s also a challenge to separate different humans sharing the same browser on the same device.

It’s the only method, however, that actually tracks online behavior. There are broadly four types of cookie-based targeting:

Behavioral Targeting

Target consumers based on their behavior and tracked interest online. Based on your online activity, modeling will also infer your interests and overall profile. There is a wide-range of behavioral targeting options – from purchasing behavior to lifestyle interests. Brand affinity is a type of behavioral targeting, using brand preferences tracked by online activity as a targeting tool.


A type of behavioral targeting, this uses cookies to serve ads to anyone who has visited your website. If you’ve ever researched a product on a shopping website (like Amazon), you most likely have been followed by ads for the product you were researching, long after you’ve left that website.

Search Retargeting

Another type of retargeting that ties in search engine marketing (usually Google Adwords) with programmatic advertising, search retargeting uses cookies that track keyword searches conducted on the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) to drive online display advertising.

Content Targeting

Target consumers when they are interacting or viewing relevant content online. This requires the exchange serving ads to have a clear idea of the type of content being offered where the ad is being served. The range of content targeting options often matches the range of lifestyle interests. If there’s a magazine or online site dedicated to a certain type of content, then it’s probably a content targteting option.

Demographic Targeting

Modeling your online behavior and the content you consumer, basic demographic assumptions will start being made. Basic demographic modeled include age range, household income, gender, ethnicity and education.

IP-Based Targeting

While demographic modeling is relatively new in the cookie-based world, it’s been around for decades in the direct mail world. Our third method, IP-based targeting, bridges the gap between the two by tying online information to real world presence – specifically network nodes like the IP address on a wifi network and the unique ID every device provides on any network.

There’s only one company in the world that provides this type of information and PioneerMedia was an early partner. Long story short, technology and relationships developed to reduce credit card fraud have been redeployed to match IP addresses with physical addresses, effectively allowing businesses to target households and buildings.

You have to provide the addresses. Because wifi IP addresses can change and not every consumer can be tracked online, there is typically a 50-60% match rate. To maintain a minimum level of anonymity, a minimum number of households must be targeted. Both of these things also allow a healthy level of validation, however, allowing businesses to test response rates between matched and unmatched targets.

Venue Replay allows a business to map a location, say a sports stadium, by its wifi IP address and to gather individual device IDs that can later be matched to household IPs. This allows sports teams or sponsors, for instance, to follow the fans home.

These targeting options are invaluable to small businesses trying to attract new customers who are motivated to make purchases.

The use of programmatic targeting lets businesses pinpoint their target markets at an effective level never imagined before. Targeting maximizes marketing dollars, only presenting messages to those most likely to make purchases, based on your target market. It’s an excellent way to reach motivated buyers without first wading through people less likely to be interested in your product or service.

Compare the benefit of a marketing message tailored to specific consumers that appears on their devices with a blanket marketing effort that may or may not reach your intended audience.

There are only two things that can provide a higher return on investment (ROI) in digital marketing – a strong organic search position supported by search engine optimization (SEO) and content or an email campaign with a strong email list.

We can help you get started with programmatic targeting to grow your customer base quickly and efficiently.

May Content Marketing Newsletter

May 2017

From the edge of the Great Plains

Dear PioneerMedia Content Marketers:

In this month’s Content Marketing Newsletter, John Heaston and I selected seven online posts we think will increase your effectiveness and success.

The links we recommend include:

  • Five reasons duplicate listings hurt your business clients
  • Seven techniques to use to create content that’s user- and SEO-friendly
  • How to select the best images for your content
  • Five CM best practices to grow audience share
  • How comments and other user-generated content help get higher Google rankings
  • Six psychologically proven ways to increase conversions
  • And a new favorite of mine— 25 blog post templates

If there’s a topic you want to see in this newsletter, let us know. We’ll share the best material we find.

All our best to you and yours.

Thomas Gunning

Content Marketing Editor


5 Modern CM Best Practices to Increase Audience Share

You have a content calendar. You have a blog. You have a social media strategy. All you’re missing is, well, the big kahuna: audience share that reflects the value of the fantastic content you created to promote your client’s brand and services. It’s imperative to stay current with SEO best practices to ensure that your content has the best shot to appear high on search engine results pages, says Sean Van Gilder of the Content Marketing Institute. That means getting crazy smart about how search engines view your content, and how they prioritize rankings based on how helpful your content is.

25 Blog Post Templates to Make Blogging Faster

We’ve all been there. It’s time to write your next blog post and you have no clue where to start. For many writers and non-writers, it’s easy to come up with an idea or a topic, says Alicia Thomas, blogger for But to structure your thoughts into a readable, skim-able and engaging blog post is the challenge. Luckily for us bloggers, there’s a wealth of blog post templates to use for your next great blog post. Whether you want to write a how-to post, listicle, review or other style, you’ll find a simple-to-follow guide among these templates.

7 Ways to Craft User-Friendly SEO Content

How can you choose between writing user-friendly and SEO content? You can’t and you shouldn’t, says Gloria Kopp, founder of When 61 percent of online consumers say they’re more likely to buy from a company that creates custom content, crafting the best of the best is key (Dragon Search). Yet when it comes to actually creating the content, striking a balance between what your readers will enjoy and what the search engines want can be difficult. Yes, you want to provide your audience with useful, informative content they’ll want to read – but they have to be able to find it first.

A Marketer’s Guide to Selecting the Best Images for Your Content

If you create online content without images, you miss a chance to increase engagement, reach a wider audience and maximize conversions, says Joe Griffin, CEO of ClearVoice, a content marketing technology firm. If you add images to a post, you can nearly double its views. And 67 percent of consumers say images are more important than product descriptions when buying decisions are made. Images should be carefully selected and high quality, and they need to add true value to your content. They should be visually appealing, relevant and appropriate for your client and the marketing channel.

6 Psychologically Proven Techniques to Boost Website Conversions

How does a 1961 experiment relate to boosting website conversions? First, some important facts:

  • For every $92 spent on advertising, the average business spends just $1 on conversion.
  • 99 percent of people who visit your website will not make a purchase their first visit.
  • The average shopping cart abandonment rate is 68.81 percent — yet a whopping 73 percent of companies have no idea why people abandon their shopping carts.

Conversion optimization shouldn’t be a mystery, says John Stevens, founder of Hosting Facts.

Why Blog Comments Are Great for Google SEO and Users

There has been a major backlash against comments about blogs. Many websites dispensed with feedback altogether. A big reason is to prevent Google from negatively impacting them due to low-quality comments. This is the same reason many sites remove other types of user-generated content like forums and contributor articles. But Google often refers to user-generated content as a valuable quality signal, notes Jennifer Slegg, search engine marketing expert at Comments can play a large role in a site’s overall quality and subsequent ranking.

5 Reasons Duplicate Listings Can Damage Local Businesses

Duplicate listings are responsible for much of the bad data that plagues local businesses online. In addition to damaged credibility and reduced visibility, duplicate listings can spread to other sources and cause even more duplicates, says Brooke Henderson, “Back to Basics” blogger at Whether duplicate listings are created by accident or on purpose, they are always detrimental to the business’ local presence. Though it takes time and patience to clean up local citations, it’s well worth the effort. Here are five reasons businesses should be concerned about duplicate listings.

Blackstone District – Partnerships, Events, Grassroots Marketing Savvy

Third in a series on Group Marketing

Phil Anania has no misconceptions when it comes to running a business.

He’s an owner at Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob and also helps the Blackstone District through marketing and planning with GreenSlate Development. Founded by two Omaha millennials – Matt Dwyer and Jay Lund – Greenslate had a vision for redeveloping the stretch of Farnam Street west of Midtown Crossing leading up to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Taking risks other developers wouldn’t, the sudden growth of new and rehabbed residential properties with the revitalization of the commercial hub at 42nd & Farnam Streets brought Omaha the Blackstone District. It’s a mix of eclectic, locally-owned businesses that benefits from group marketing.

“Business owners don’t have a lot of time to go to meetings or to post on social media,” said Anania. “Everyone’s on their own island.”

Yet when it comes to drawing people to visit the Blackstone District, Anania thinks bigger than individual islands. “Businesses here want help with networking and social media. We’re trying to sell a whole neighborhood – not just one business.”

It’s another Omaha story where local character meets partnerships, events and grassroots marketing savvy to help define what makes our community unique.

Events and social media

Anania credits live events as one of the biggest draws to the neighborhood. Big scale events like Farnam Festival help line the streets while smaller, weekly events – such as the live music featured at The Blackstone Meatball – help bring waves of customers into the neighborhood. “The more events, the better,” said Anania.

Strong partnerships

Similar to the Old Market and Benson, Blackstone also has a Business Improvement District (BID) to help generate funds for maintaining and promoting the area. Unlike the other two though, there are much fewer property owners in the area, so having a full-time marketing manager like Anania is something the businesses can all support.

That also makes for more focused promotions and group offers.

The Blackstone Pass is a discount card provided to GreenSlate tenants (Blackstone’s residents) and UNMC students. The card provides exclusive discounts to holders, which Anania says works particularly well with the college students. They flock to the neighborhood to utilize the savings offered by the card. The specific discounts change frequently, but oftentimes feature substantial discounts. The exclusivity of not everyone having a Blackstone Pass ads to the lure of the card.

Anania said partnering with neighboring large corporations help keep the Blackstone District thriving with a mix of smaller corporate events. “We love Kiewit, Nebraska Medicine and Mutual of Omaha. We’re just going around and starting little fires.”

Those “fires” involve bringing Blackstone District businesses together to draw in more customers. Recently Anania did a quick audit of social media posts from Blackstone District businesses and was surprised to find many of them hadn’t posted in some time. “I tell them – they have to post every day.”

He’s right; small businesses that frequently engage with customers via social media see their profits go up as their sales increase.

The Blackstone District is a diverse neighborhood featuring premier businesses and impressive residential buildings. As the businesses continue to work together, the Blackstone District will continue to thrive.