Defense - Northwestern Networks Group

Harini Sridharan
Stephen Duraski
 Behavioral Targeting (BT) is a technique that uses a
user’s web-browsing behavior to determine which
ads to display to a user.
 BT is a technique used by online advertisers to
increase the effectiveness of their campaigns.
 As of the writing of this paper, it is underexplored in
academia how much BT can truly help online
advertising in search engines.
 First, we aim to empirically answer the question of
whether Behavioral Targeting truly has the ability to
help online advertising.
 Second, we aim to answer the question of how much
BT can help online advertising using commonly used
evaluation metrics.
 Finally, we aim to answer the question of which BT
strategy can work better than others for ads delivery.
 We use 7 days’ ads click-through log data coming
from a commercial search engine, dated from June
1st to 7th 2008.
 The dataset includes web page clicks and ad clicks
of users. We do not include any demographic or
geographic data to be clear of any privacy concerns.
 “BT uses information collected on an individual's
web-browsing behavior, such as the pages they have
visited or the searches they have made, to select
which advertisements to display to that individual.
Practitioners believe this helps them deliver their
online advertisements to the users who are most
likely to be influenced by them.” [15]
 We measured the effectiveness of BT using the click-
through rate (CTR).
1. Does BT truly have the ability to help online
To answer this question, we validate the basic
assumption of BT, i.e. whether the users who
clicked the same ad always have similar browsing
and search behaviors and the users who clicked
different ads have relatively different Web
2. How much can BT help online advertising using
commonly used evaluation metrics?
To answer this question, we use the difference
between ads CTR before and after applying BT
strategies as the measurement, i.e. the degree of
CTR improvement is considered as a measurement
of how much BT can help online advertising. The
statistical t-test is utilized to secure the significance
of our experiment results
3. What BT strategy works better than others for ads
We consider two types of BT strategies, which are
(1) represent user behaviors by users’ clicked
pages and (2) represent user behaviors by users’
search queries respectively. In addition, how long
the user behaviors have occurred in the log data is
also considered for user representation.
 We adopt the classical Term Frequency Inverse
Document Frequency (TFIDF) indexing [8] by
considering each user as a document and considering
each URL as a term for mathematical user
 A user is represented by a real-valued matrix  ∈  ∗
where g is the total users and l is the total URLs visited.
 A user is a row of U which is a real value vector with
each user represented as:

 = (log #      + 1 ∗ log
ℎ  = 1,2, … ,  = 1,2, … .
 We also build the user behavioral profile by simply
considering all terms that appear in a user’s search
queries as his previous behaviors.
 With this method we can represent each user in the
Bag of Words (BOW) model.
 We use Porter Stemming [3] to stem terms and then
remove stop words and terms that only appear one
in a user’s query text.
 470,712 terms are removed and 294,208 are reserved
 We use the same TFIDF indexing to index the users
by query terms.
 Many commercial BT systems use long-term user
behavior, while many others use short term
 There is no existing evidence to show which strategy
is better.
 As a preliminary survey, we will consider 1 days’
user behavior as their short term profile, and 7 days’
user behavior as their long-term profile.
 We will validate and compare four different BT
strategies in this paper. They are:
1. LP: using Long term user behavior all through the
seven days and representing the user behavior by
2. LQ: using Long term user behavior all through the
seven days and representing the user behavior by
Query terms
3. SP: using Short term user behavior (1 day) and
representing user behavior by Pageviews
4. SQ: using Short term user behavior (1 day) and
representing user behavior by Query terms
 7 days CTR data from June 1st to 7th 2008.
 We use user IDs associated with cookies stored on the
users’ OS to identify individual users.
 No other user information, such as demographic or
geographic data, is used.
 To filter robots, any user with >100 clicks per day is
filtered out.
 Data covers 6,426,633 unique users and 335,170 unique
ads within 7 days.
 Ads with <30 clicks over 7 days are removed, leaving
17,901 ads, the results are averaged over that number.
 Let  = 1 , 2 , … 
be the set of n ads in our dataset.
 For each ad  suppose  = {1 , 2 , …  } are all the
queries which have displayed or clicked  .
 Users who have clicked or displayed  is
 = {1 , 2 , …  }
 To show whether 1 has clicked  we use
 In this work, we used two common clustering algorithms,
k-means [10] and CLUTO [7] for user segmentation.
 Suppose the users are segmented into K segments
according to their behaviors. We use the function:
  = 1  , 2  , … ,   ,  = 1,2, … , 
to represent the distribution of  under a given user
segmentation results where   stands for all users in 
who are grouped into the  ℎ user segment.
 Thus the user can be represented by
=1,2,…,  ( )
 We first represent the users by their behaviors using
different types of BT strategies.
 After that, we group the users according to their
behaviors by the commonly used clustering
 Finally, we evaluate how much BT can help online
advertising by delivering ads to good user segments
 Within- and Between- Ads User Similarity
 The basic assumption with BT is that users with similar browsing
behavior will have similar interests and therefore be inclined to
click the same ads.
 If this is true, the similarity between users who clicked the same
ad must be larger than the similarity between users who clicked
different ads
 Click-through rate
 Once we have validated the basic assumption that similar users
click similar ads we have to show that BT can help online
 Ad performance is generally measured with either click-through
rate or revenue, since advertiser revenue is difficult for us to
obtain, we use CTR.
 If user segments exist where the CTR substantially improves
over the same ad shown without user segmentation, then BT is
 The improvement of CTR after user segmentation can
only validate the precision of BT strategies in finding
potentially interested users.
 We can calculate the precision and recall.
 The larger the precision, the more accurate we can
segment the clickers of  . The larger the recall, the better
the coverage we achieve in collecting all clickers of  .
 The integration of precision and recall give use the F-
measure, the higher the F-measure, the better
performance we have achieved with BT.
Users who clicked  are positive instances, users were
displayed but did not click  are negative instances, Precision
and Recall are defined as:
 ∈ () ( )

=1 ( )
Integrated F-measure:
 Intuitively, if the clickers of an ad  dominate some user
segments and seldom appear in other user segments, we
can easily deliver our targeted ads to them by selecting
the segments they dominated.
 However, suppose the clickers of  are uniformly
distributed in all user segments, if we aim to deliver the
targeted ads to more interested users, we have to deliver
the ad to more users who are not interested in this ad
 The larger the Entropy is, the more uniformly the users,
who clicked ad  , are distributed among all the user
segments. The smaller the Entropy is, the better results
we will achieve.
 The usage of within and between ads was to validate
whether the users who clicked the same ad may
have similar behaviors and that the users who
clicked different ads had relatively different

be the average
within and between ads of the dataset collected, the
average ratio of this was calculated and detailed
results for the user representation strategy was
tabulated as follows.
 Let  =

 The fact that average Sw is greater than average Sb implies that
users who clicked the same ad are more similar than the ones
that clicked different ads.
• To validate whether the difference between Sw and Sb, statistical
paired t-test was implemented and the results were all less than
0.05. This in turn implied that, statistically, the within ad user
similarity is always larger than the between ads similarity.
 Using clustering algorithms and grouping users into 20,40,80 and
160 clusters(irrespective of the clustering algorithm used), ∆  =
   ∗  − 
was calculated, which represents the CTR

improvement degree of ad  by user segmentation in BT.
 The ads CTR improved by as much as 670%.
 The reason why the short term user behaviors are more effective
then the long term user behavior for targeted advertising is that
users have multiple interests that always change rapidly.
 Search queries can work a little better than page clicking for BT, as
the queries have a strong correlation to the ads displaying while
the page clicks have no strong correlation to that in the dataset we
 In this work, we try and provide a systematic study to
understand the click-through log of a commercial
search engine, so the one can validate and compare
different strategies of behavioral targeting.
 This also happens to be the first systematic study for
BT on real world ads click-through in academia.
Demographic and geographic data were not
considered during the study due to privacy concerns.
Ranking of user segments for a given ad has not been
In general, user behavior modelling for BT is
underexplored and hence we did not have a lot of
resources to start with.
Study of algorithms for large sets of user data and their
rapidly changing user behavior was not possible as BT
requires large scale user data which is incremental.
 The following conclusions can be drawn from our
1. Users who clicked the same ad will be more
similar than users who clicked different ads.
2. 2. The CTR of ads can be averagely improved as
high as 670% over all the ads we collected, using
fundamental clustering algorithms.
3. 3.Tracking short-term user behavior can perform
better than tracking long-term user behavior for
the user representation strategies.
Modeling the Impact of Short and Long Term
Behavior on Search Personalization
Paul N. Bennett, Ryen W. White, Wei Chu, Susan T. Dumais, Peter
Bailey, Fedor Borisyuk, and Xiaoyuan Cui
 This is a paper from 2012 that studies customizing
results in search engines based on user behavior.
While their focus was not ads, it did come to the
conclusion that short term behavior was more
effective than long term behavior when a session has
been ongoing.
 Learning to Rank audience for behavioral targeting in display ads -
Jian Tang, Ning Liu, Jun Yun, Yelong Shen , B Gao, S Yan,Ming Zhang
 Online Targeting, behavioral advertising and privacy - Avi
Goldfarb,Catherine E Tucker
 Transfer learning for behavioral targeting - Tianqi Chen , Jun Yan ,
Guirong Xue , Zheng Chen
 Analyzing content-level properties of the web adversphere - Yong
Wang , Daniel Burgener , Aleksandar Kuzmanovic , Gabriel MaciáFernández
 ISP-enabled behavioral ad targeting without deep packet
inspectionGabriel Maciá-Fernández , Yong Wang , Rafael
Rodríguez-Gómez , Aleksandar Kuzmanovic
 Linking visual concept detection with viewer demographics Adrian Ulges , Markus Koch , Damian Borth
 Using advanced user segmentation algorithms can
lead to better results.
 Study of better user representation strategies such as
search sessions, content of user clicked pages and
user browsing trials can be explored.

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