Retargeting: Focusing In For The Kill

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Synopsis – Time spent crafting the perfect advertising campaign, a compelling call to action, and a website that converts is never wasted, but  with average conversion rates not even in the double digits, the reality is that most people who visit a site do not convert. What marketer doesn’t want another shot at convincing members of that non-converting group to buy their product or service? One way to do this is via retargeting, a campaign that continues exposing non-converting visitors to ads on other sites until they either purchase or the marketer becomes convinced that that individual has absolutely no interest in what he or she has to offer. Google AdWords is currently offering a beta retargeting option (that they are calling “remarketing”), but the technique is also available from other companies.

In his article, “Retargeting: Focusing In For The Kill,” David Rodnitzky explores the concept of retargeting, explaining why almost all retargeting in today’s marketplace is site-based rather than search-based. And although it sounds intriguing, retargeting is not for everyone. Rodnitzky discusses four significant facets to consider prior to embarking on a retargeting campaign, each of which is crucial to possible success and each of which requires serious consideration and investigation. If you think your efforts are not getting the results they should in standard pay-per-click advertising, this article will help you decide if you should consider retargeting as the next step in your plan of attack to raise conversion rates.

The complete article follows …

Retargeting: Focusing In For The Kill

You can spend hours crafting the perfect ad text and landing page combination, fine-tuning geo-targeting, adding negative keywords and site exclusions, and playing with day-parting settings — all with the aim of pushing your conversion rate through the roof. Yet even well-optimized SEM campaigns can only expect conversion rates of 4% to 5% for ecommerce and perhaps 10% to 20% for lead generation. To put it another way, despite our best efforts, between 80% and 95% of clickers never end up doing what we want them to do.

Wouldn’t a second chance to pitch to all of those non-converters be great? A different message or a special promotion might help to change their mind. If this sounds appealing, you may want to consider retargeting your campaign.

What Exactly Is Retargeting?

Retargeting is a relatively new marketing technique that promises to turn some non-converts into sales. The concept is simple. When someone visits your website (through paid search or any channel) and fails to convert, a retargeting campaign continues to serve them ads (on partner websites) until the user ends up converting or until you’ve served so many impressions that you conclude the user is just not interested in your website.

Almost all retargeting today is site-based, not search-based. In other words, your ability to retarget users is based on whether they came to your website, not whether they clicked on your paid search ad or on a specific keyword. Also, retargeting is a form of display advertising — retargeting ads are graphical, not textual, and retargeting is typically paid for on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis instead of a CPC (cost per click).

Technical implementation of retargeting is as easy as installing Google Analytics or any other type of tracking. To start with, you need to add code that cookies a user’s computer through a pixel on your landing page. The placement of this pixel is extremely important. For example, if returning visitors come to your homepage to login to their accounts, don’t place the pixel on the home page or you will wind up retargeting users who are already members of your site.

For this reason, I recommend adding the pixel to a page (or pages) that a user would only access if it were clear that they are not already converts to your website. This could be a landing page only accessible from your current paid search campaigns or a user sign-up form, for example.

The next important part of the implementation is adding the “burn” pixel on a page or pages to indicate that the user has converted. Once this pixel is fired, the retargeting campaign stops serving ads to the user, since the campaign is now classified as a success. As with the primary pixel, you need to think carefully about placement of this pixel, as you don’t want to stop serving an ad too soon, nor do you want to continue serving ads to a user who has been sold on your site.

My advice is to put the burn pixel on  the same pages that currently house your Google conversion pixel. This would include pages such as the “thank you page” after a completed sign-up or the checkout confirmation page in the case of an ecommerce site.

Is Retargeting Right For You?

While the concept of getting a second chance at converting a customer surely appeals to any search engine marketer, the reality of retargeting is definitely not right for everyone. Here are a few items to consider before you begin a retargeting campaign.

1. Past Banner Advertising Experience — Most search engine marketers have little-to-no experience with banner advertising. If you count yourself in this category, tread carefully before beginning retargeting. Do you know how to design effective banner ads? Can you talk-thetalk when it comes to negotiating a banner buy (terms such as “frequency,” “out clauses,” and “impression caps,” for example)? If you don’t feel comfortable with banner advertising, think twice before jumping head first into retargeting.

2. Size Of Your Test Budget — Unlike search engine marketing, banner advertising campaigns often require minimum spend commitments, and retargeting is no exception. For example, the minimum commitment amount on Yahoo! (which offers retargeting through its huge banner distribution network) is around $20,000 per month. Other, more reasonably priced options, are available if you want to get your feet wet with as small a test as possible. A company called Retargeter.com, which offers campaigns from as little as $500 per month, may be a good starting point. At the time of this writing, Google AdWords had a beta retargeting program (which they are calling “remarketing”) that was CPC-based and integrated into your AdWords account. The Google program has no minimum spend and operates the same way that a typical Google Content campaign works.

3. The Reason(s) Users Don’t Convert — If 99% of visitors don’t do what you want (i.e., they’re not converting), you need to improve your site’s usability or the offer itself, rather than throwing money at retargeting. Retargeting works on the assumption that a user needs just a little more convincing to try out your product or service. However, if your website does a poor job of selling your value proposition, no amount of extra nudging is going to turn prospects into converts.

4. Traffic Volume To Your Website — Because retargeting is only delivered to non-converting users from your site, without enough traffic, you either won’t meet the minimum monthly fee for a retargeting campaign, or you will spend a lot of time with pixel implementation and banner creation for little-to-no results.

Summing It All Up

Although I have spent the last few paragraphs talking about reasons for caution when considering retargeting, I’m actually quite bullish on the concept. In fact, the limited testing I’ve done so far with the concept has shown positive results.

The convergence between banner advertising and search engine marketing continues to march forward, and retargeting offers the inferred intent of SEM with the graphical power of a banner ad. But retargeting — and all forms of banner advertising — require additional knowledge and effort to make them work beyond what you may already have learned from standard pay-per-click ads.

If you feel that you still have tons to do to make your AdWords campaigns successful, it may not be the right time to expand into new areas. If, on the other hand, you are looking for incremental ways to drive new conversions, retargeting might just become a pivotal part of your online marketing program.

About the Author

David Rodnitzky is CEO of PPC Associates, a leading SEM agency based in Silicon Valley. PPC Associates provides search, social, and display advertising management to growing, savvy companies. To learn more, visit ppcassociates.com, or contact David at david@ppcassociates.com.

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One Comment

  1. I'm not a Premium Subscriber, but trust that David's written something that everyone considering retargeting should take heed of. Blogation has always been one of my favorite SEM blogs, and David one of the most knowledgeable SEM experts I know. As PPC Associates now works in display advertising as well, I'm sure David's built up great expertise there too.