Wednesday, September 14, 2011

5 Simple Steps To Stop Wasting Budget With Poor Retargeting

Search Engine Land Columns Newsletter

Search & Display

5 Simple Steps To Stop Wasting Budget With Poor Retargeting

Dax Hamman

Is this really another article about retargeting? Absolutely, but with very good reason - whilst marketers think retargeting (or remarketing) is an obvious and established practice, many are still failing to get it anywhere near right, and are actually harming their campaigns by doing it badly.

Not All Retargeting Is The Same!

A few months ago in this column, we explored the idea that search marketers are the future media planners and with very good reason. But sadly, it is search marketers that are the guiltiest at wasting money in retargeting. In this article, we will explore the right way to do retargeting, often using skills that search marketers already have.

The term 'retargeting' to most people means 'site retargeting', the concept of placing display ads in front of people who have visited a website. But let's think about that process for moment - a site visit takes place, a cookie is dropped and when that person appears again, you buy an ad impression to try and bring them back to the site.
BUT – you aren't actually targeting a person - you are targeting nothing more than a cookie with a value that says 'this person has previously visited Site A'. (Just like Neo in The Matrix when he sees the World in code for the first time, you need to start seeing retargeting as cookies, not people!) It may sound clinical, but it opens up endless possibilities.
So now that we are thinking in the right way, there are many other events that can occur where you can drop a cookie and retarget to your advantage. In the infographic below, the 7 effective types of retargeting, we can see a number of events that can be cookied, both on the site and off the site.
Chango infographic - the 7 effective types of retargeting
Infographic courtesy of Chango: the 7 effective types of retargeting

On Site: Segmenting A Site Retargeting Campaign

In your SEM programs you are used to the idea of optimization, matching keyword to ad copy to landing page and you do this because you know it works, and you know that constant modification will keep your program fresh and your results high.
Site retargeting should be no different; just as a generic piece of ad copy and a link to the homepage won't work in SEM neither will dropping the same cookie on all your site's pages and serving one display ad for your media campaign, yet this is the most common scenario we see.
By using multiple pixels, divide the site into 'actions', or 'areas of intent', such as homepage (browsing), product page (researching), shopping cart (buying) and conversion page (customer).
Now instead of one generic audience, you have four distinct audiences to target and your SEM strategies can be mimicked more easily.
Whereas a 'researcher' may need encouragement about the site's benefits or a financial incentive, a 'customer' can be targeted with upsell opportunities and other offerings.
Tip: My golden rule for making a difference is 80/20 - you will get 80% of the benefit from 20% of the effort - you could pixel every page, invest heavily in dynamic creative and spend months testing, but the incremental return is often little in comparison to a simple segmentation strategy like this.

The Dirty Secret Of Site Retargeting

Before you rush out to create new pixels, you must understand why you are doing retargeting at all. When you first activate the campaign the results will look incredible, probably outpacing any other display technique on the media plan, and you probably look awesome!
The problem is that you are only talking to your existing site visitors, people you have already paid to bring to the site. Whilst few will say it to their client, site retargeting is not a direct response technique; it is actually an onsite conversion optimization tool, like dynamic landing pages or customized content.
With high CTRs and low CPAs does it really matter? It does if you don't understand how to measure it.
Time and time again, I see agencies and brands setup their display campaigns in a tool like DoubleClick or Atlas and add their site retargeting placements into the mix. The 'problem' with ad servers is they try and de-dupe the results they see in order to avoid your revenue adding up to more than 100% of what the site sees.
Consider this: you use some behaviorally targeted display placements to drive a visitor to your site, they browse around, leave to continue researching, get served a site retargeting ad, return and convert.
DoubleClick will show that your site retargeting program came through again, and that your original display placement did nothing. You are now getting a false view of your marketing efforts, and your decisions about where to invest will be incorrect.
Simply put, consider measuring your site retargeting program as a cost, and stop it from de-duping the placements that are bringing in the traffic.
(Learn more options in our previous article about 3 simple alternatives to attribution modeling for the search marketer.)

When Retargeting IS Direct Response

The infographic also shows a number of ways in which 'retargeting' can be a direct response or acquisition tool, and primarily that is retargeting events that have taken place away from the site.
The primary such technique is search retargeting. If we think back to our new way of seeing the world (cookies) we know we are looking for events that show someone is interested in what we have to say, what better event is there than someone searching for a word or phrase?
Search retargeting allows you to drop cookies on individuals when they have searched for a relevant term on Google, Yahoo, Bing and beyond, and then retarget that cookie with a display ad later. And just as with our segmentation example earlier, targeting the message to the event will drive up performance, in this case at the keyword level.
In addition, in our new world, we should be looking at all the places it makes sense to drop cookies - on syndicated content, from shared videos and even from our email programs - all can be added to the cookie pool for retargeting with their own message.

It's Never Cool To Be A Stalker

Within display we have the ability to set a frequency cap, a control mechanism that says 'after x number of impressions, stop targeting cookie x with my ads.
Please use it!
Look at your own site, product or service and analyze the buying cycle in order to calculate how long you should be retargeting a cookie for.
In nearly all cases it will be less than 7 days, giving you a good metric with which to program the length of your retargeting program. Targeting for longer is simply wasting impressions, and therefore dollars, and is highly irritating for the consumer!
Equally, saturating their browsing experience within that 7 days is also irritating, and so cap the number of impressions to be served each day. You should be able to see a report from a tool like DoubleClick that will show CTR at each impression frequency, giving you a clear indication of what to set this too (very often around 7).
But, if you are using a good vendor to run the program, you should also set some padding into your program - the minimum time in between each ad impression to one cookie, ignore this setting and you could serve all 7 impressions in just a few seconds.

The Simple Steps To Getting Retargeting Right

  • Understand that retargeting is so much more than 'site retargeting'
  • Use the same type of segmentation from your SEM program in your site retargeting program
  • Be brave and look at new ways to measure the performance of site retargeting
  • Retarget events that have taken place away from the site, like search retargeting
  • Cap your campaigns to avoid irritating the very people you are trying to attract
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Dax Hamman is the Chief Revenue Officer at Chango, a leading company in Search Retargeting, and is based in Chicago and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @DaxHammanSee more articles by Dax Hamman

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