Online marketing messages informed by a user’s browser history or search queries are more than twice as effective as standard network ads in terms of triggering purchases, according to a new study.

The report, conducted for the Network Advertising Initiative by economist and former Bureau of Consumer Protection director at the US Federal Trade Commission Howard Beales, found that the conversion rates for behaviourally-targeted (BT) ads was 6.8 per cent in 2009.

This is compared to a rate of 2.8 per cent for run-of-network ads.

Furthermore, the average relative cost of BT messages was 2.68 times greater than standard ads last year.

Based on figures from 12 advertising networks, BT content accounted for 19.4 per cent of revenue from internet marketing services in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from 16.2 per cent during the first quarter.

"This study found that behaviourally-targeted advertising is a critical component of ad network, publisher and advertiser success," Mr Beales said.

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