Direct Match vs. Probabilistic Match: Which is Better and Why?

Updated on March 1, 2023

An online marketing campaign that works is one that hits all the right notes: It features exciting products announced with brilliant creative design, supported by a healthy marketing budget. But all those elements are going to add up to the sad song of campaign failure if one key thing is missing: a strong data match that links you with your most likely prospects.

There are two types of prospect match lists to choose from:

  1. Deterministic matching is the direct method of matching prospects and has always been the preferred approach. This method provides identifying data culled directly from things like social media channels, content download and information request forms, and event attendance records, to name a few. Each data source provides unique identifiers (name, address, sex, etc.) that provide the highest level of accuracy.
  1. Probabilistic matching is a data set that tells you who your prospects probably are. Matches here are simply those who have displayed a variety of consumer identifiers, such as browsing patterns, IP address, and device type. This list of potential probabilistic matches is much larger than that of deterministic matches. When data gathering is handled effectively, probabilistic matches can have a high likelihood of providing strong, suitable leads, even though they’re not directly matched. But on the other hand, results can be disappointing if the data-gathering is sub-par and assumptions are incorrect.

Which type of match should you use in your campaign? In the old days (even five or ten years ago), the answer was usually either one will do. But nowadays, thanks to the vast amount of data that’s available to slice and dice, the answer is easy: both! Using a combination of the two data sets can bring you great success.

The secret to that success, of course, is complicated. You must work with a marketing partner who understands the complexities of making your deterministic and your probabilistic data matching work in harmony. This partner will know exactly how to build probabilistic data sets that are accurate and complement the accuracy of your deterministic data. When done correctly, campaign success is music to your ears.

To get learn more about how to maximize your campaign results from both direct and probabilistic matching, contact us at, and check out our handy guide to retargeting.

to our newsletter

Fresh sales trends and consumer insights to help
you plan and win.