Say you’re browsing online and you see a story on your Facebook feed about a big storm in Kansas, so you click on it to learn more.

You don’t live in Kansas. You don’t know anyone who lives in Kansas. But you saw some gnarly photos of the wreckage, and you were curious to learn more.

The next day, you start seeing ads for storm restoration services in Kansas.

Are these ads relevant to you? Decidedly not.

Sometimes, the examples aren’t as obvious. You might be interested in learning to play the guitar so you start looking at some YouTube videos showing you some chords or how to play a couple of songs. Your cookies show that you’ve been looking at these videos, so ads start showing you books of guitar tabs or even guitars for sale.

You don’t actually play the guitar and you aren’t sure if you will start, so these ads aren’t relevant to you. Brands wasted money trying to sell you something, and you had a less enjoyable online experience because you were shown ads that annoyed you rather than helped you.

Brands and users both benefit from ads that are displayed based on real user intent. What is this? It determines what users are really trying to find when they are searching online, rather than just looking at what sites they’ve been on or what ads they’ve clicked.

There are many ways you can determine real user intent. Here are a few:

Extrapolate from Data

These days, you can get more information than ever about what users are doing online.

For example, Facebook provides thousands of targeting options based on what users like on the site, what pages they follow, and more. When you are starting an ad campaign, you can choose what options you want for targeting users.

You can extrapolate from the data you have about your audience – such as who likes your page on Facebook – to determine what their intent might be.

For example, if you have a Facebook page that leans right politically, you might decide that any users you have with left leanings (as evidenced by the other posts they like and so on) might be following your page for opposition research or to better understand their friends and family members with similar beliefs. Therefore, you don’t want to waste money showing these people ads for your products.

Using this methodology requires a great deal of effort for each ad, and it doesn’t take into account other factors that can affect user intent, such as the timing of the ad placement.

Conduct Focus Groups

Raw data can tell you a lot about user behavior, but unless you have extensive and comprehensive data, you can be missing critical information about what users are thinking or feeling.

You can get that missing element by conducting focus groups in which you ask your audience directly what they are thinking or feeling about specific topics, products, and so on.

Conducting focus groups can be costly and time-intensive, and people are not always honest in focus groups. The question may limit how they answer, or they may answer to try to look good in front of the interviewers.

Use the Right Technology

The best way by far to determine user intent is to use the right advanced technology.

Technology powered by user-intent algorithms looks at more advanced metrics, such as how much time people are spending on content, what their navigation pathway is, what time of day they are looking at certain content, and so on. The technology then generates actionable insights for ad placement.

CodeFuel’s In-Feed is built on this technology, and it automatically places ads according to actionable insights from smart demand programming. Native ads are generated for specific users based on their online behavior and current metrics such as what browser they are using, what time of day it is, whether they are on a mobile device, and so on.

Native ads are often more effective than other display ads because they resemble editorial content like blog posts or reviews that users want and enjoy. The combination of native ads and user-intent technology dramatically increases the conversion rate of your ad campaign. You will get a much bigger return on your investment without having to proportionately increase the money or time you spend on your campaign.

Solutions like In-Feed that are built on this technology are a much better way to determine user intent than manual research. They are smarter and faster, helping you to get the right insights faster than you would have otherwise.

The future is going to be more complex for advertisers as we move toward the Internet of Things and a much more active online landscape. Using the right tools now will help you to remain competitive and be an influential player in that landscape.