The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Taboola Cookieless Contextual Targeting

4 steps to master cookieless targeting on the open web



Open Mic article

This content is produced by a publishing partner of Open Mic.

Open Mic is the self-publishing platform for the marketing industry, allowing members to publish news, opinion and insights on

Find out more

December 14, 2022 | 8 min read

With the cookieless future on the horizon, advertisers need new and innovative ways to safely target their customers at scale or face steeply increasing CPA

With the cookieless future on the horizon, advertisers need new and innovative ways to safely target their customers at scale or face steeply increasing CPA. One cookieless advertising solution that advertisers are turning to is native advertising on the open web.

Native ads blend into their surroundings — be it a social feed, search results page, or publisher article. Since native ads match the look and feel of the content around them, they yield more seamless and less obstructive user experiences than display ads do.

When you pair native advertising with the massive reach of the open web, and the first-party data that native platforms have access to as a result, you have a compelling way to reach users at scale without relying on third-party cookies (which you'll have to do by 2024 anyway) and break free from the walled gardens of Facebook and Google.

So how do you target on the open web in a cookieless world? Native advertising offers a wealth of privacy-safe targeting opportunities outside of third-party cookies. But don't be alarmed: “privacy-safe" targeting doesn't mean less effective targeting. It just means you'll need different tools and strategies to reach your customers.

Here are four strategies for effectively targeting audiences with native ads on the open web.

1. Contextual targeting: Customers are what they read

You don't have to gather personal information about customers to target them with relevant campaigns. Instead, you can use readership data to match your ads to the content they're already consuming.

If you're a kitchen appliance brand, for example, you might place native ads underneath a recipe blog post. Or if you're a finance brand offering an investment solution, you could run native ads across articles on how to get started with investing. Basically, you're targeting the right publisher page instead of the right person. So you can deliver relevant messaging that matches customer interests without being creepy or invasive.

This is called contextual targeting. And, done right, it has the power to be more effective than third-party cookies ever were. Contextually relevant ads have been found to increase neural engagement by 43% and produce 2.2X better ad recall. The ability to match your ads to their environment is a unique strength of native advertising on the open web. By contrast, on social media, your ads are presented within each user’s unique feed of content, much of which is user-generated, making it difficult or impossible to contextually target users based on what they’re reading about.

Marketing agency Grou used contextual targeting technology to increase leads among prospective customers. Based on readership data, Grou discovered that their target audiences were interested in articles about business, personal finance, technology, and computing. After placing native ads in these contexts, Grou generated a double-digit growth in their average conversion rate.

2. Audience targeting: Reach unique segments of people

Even if you're not collecting data from individual users, you can still aggregate data from your audience as a whole and divide that into unique segments. You can gather this data from a variety of sources, such as your CRM, mobile app or website. With this data, you can analyze how customers interact with your brand, learn about their characteristics and behavior, and use this information to retain existing customers, create new customer relationships, and ultimately drive revenue growth.

You can feed this data into your native advertising platform to create custom targeting segments: for example, you could retarget customers who've already engaged with your website content or completed a certain action, like adding an item to their cart or downloading an asset. Open web native advertising platforms are especially effective at this, because their placements are hard-coded into publisher sites - in Taboola’s case, over 9,000 of them, generating 63 million pageviews every month. This means that they are able to build up first-party data using the signals received when users click on articles and ads on each publisher’s website.

To augment your own first party data and that of the native ad platform, some platforms also have partnerships with Data Providers. While some partners still work with third party data, others, such as Liveramp, don’t rely on third-party cookies.

What does this look like in practice? The Motley Fool used native advertising to retarget users who'd already engaged with their website but hadn't converted. The brand launched native ads that led to editorial content like, “5 Growth Stocks Under $5." With audience retargeting, The Motley Fool was able to generate 25K leads and 400 subscription sales in just three months.

3. Creative targeting: Build personalized content experiences

The simplest targeting strategy of all is simply letting your creative do the work for you. If you're selling back-to-school supplies, for example, you might craft a headline like, “Students Will Love These Back-to-School Deals." Or if you're targeting entrepreneurs, you might use ad copy like, “5 Small Business Owners Share Their Secrets to Success." By calling out the target audience in your headline, you capture the attention of relevant users, and filter out those who don't fit the profile and would be unlikely to convert. This way you know you're only paying for clicks from target readers.

You can also personalize ads with dynamic keyword insertion (DKI). This tool automatically places relevant keywords in ad titles based on certain factors, such as user location, device, or day of the week. For instance, you might use DKI to populate this headline: “People in [CITY] Are Loving This Food Delivery Service." The tool will automatically generate the city of each user, increasing the relevance of the ad and making the user more likely to pay attention.

Online wine club Naked Wines targeted their creatives towards consumers who normally buy wine at the supermarket, attracting their attention using headlines like, "Why you should stop buying $10 supermarket wine". After pre-qualifying their audience with the headline, Naked Wines drove users to a short quiz which asked them questions like how wine is priced, where the proceeds go, and how much a label can tell you about the wine, highlighting issues with supermarket wine. At the end of the quiz, consumers were prompted to enter their email to receive a discount code, encouraging them to convert. As a result, they acquired over 8,000 new users within eight months, with a 33% higher lifetime value than the average Naked Wines customer.

4. Let the algorithm do the rest

Once you’ve implemented all these targeting methods, there’s one more piece of the puzzle that can take your campaign to the next level: the algorithm of the ad platform you’re using. Taboola’s algorithm is a deep learning technology that takes into account signals from over 500 million daily active users, 12,000 advertisers and 9,000 publishers to serve recommendations in those placements and to those users that are most likely to engage with your ad.

Although third-party cookies still play a part in many campaigns running across native advertising platforms, these make up only a small part of all the signals the Taboola algorithm uses to decide which recommendations to serve, where and when.

Drive results without relying on third-party cookies

Cookieless targeting may take some getting used to. But with the right strategies, you can reach engaged audiences at scale in more privacy-safe ways than before.

Using native advertising on the open web, you can target customers with contextual tools, defined audience segments, creative personalization and algorithms. Layering all these strategies will allow you to create detailed audience segments and deliver intuitive customer experiences that drive results.

Taboola Cookieless Contextual Targeting


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +