Post-Search Retargeting: The Future is Here.

SES San Jose 2007 | Advertiser Track| Post-Search Ads
Moderator Misty Locke

sesThis session was first of the day here @ SES San Jose but it was fascinating and densely packed with useful information. I must say that I’m impressed with the sheer relevance and depth of the advanced content offerings right out of the chute at this conference.

Conversions Can Take Time and Repeated Customer Engagements.
The art of re-targeting return traffic (with more and more relevant ads) well after someone queries a phrase for the first time is at the forefront of technology enabled media buys. Now we can plug in and stalk potential customers based on previous behavior across our site and other channels. It’s called Search Profiling. The strategies, tactics, and targets of post-search will probably define the very future of the SEM industry.

The session’s moderator Misty Locke, President & Co-Founder Range Online Media kicked off the event explaining how re-messaging based on previous behavior is an incredibly powerful tool. The panel was comprised of Kevin Lee, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder and publisher of Kevin A. Lee’s Software Development Blog, Dave Carberry, Director of Search Marketing, and Richard Frankel Senior Director of Product Marketing, Yahoo Marketing.

Behavioral Data is Priceless.
Even though sales can take multiple engagements, a failed sale can be a win. It may just be the first salvo in a buying process funnel. Technology gleans and harvests the visitor’s intent and the data is used to target ads to other channels after the fact. It’s possible to retarget at engine level, to your own search visitors, and/or buy post-search marketing from networks like DoubleClick that specialize in selling these types of clicks. Large search engines still have the greatest leverage at this point in history because they see a considerable percentage of the word’s Internet users.

Over 200 Ad Networks Use Cookie Tracking.
Technologies for tracking users by preferences and behavior across channels are based on setting cookies. This is a sensitive topic amongst privacy advocates ad networks alike. A significant percentage of users disable their cookies but the scale of Internet traffic is so massive that, even absent the 15% of non-cookie users, the sampling is enough to provide tremendous insight.

Preaching to the unconverted
Some say you’re lucky if non-brand keywords get a 5% conversion. That means 95% of site visitors thought well-enough of you title description and domain name to click via paid or organic search results but didn’t buy. Even though the sales pitch didn’t work right away the information mined regarding our visitors’ behavior can be valuable. Serving ads based on user-breadcrumbs gathered makes advertising spends more likely to generate even more focused traffic and that conversion will be improved. Remember that “traditional” keyword marketing works pretty well to begin with 🙂 .

The Ultimate Multi-Headed Branding Monster
Generating brand awareness across multiple channels segmented by user preferences improves the quality of overall ad spends. Richard Frankel quipped that Yahoo can “get pretty granular, able to identify a large part of their audience down to the zip code level to deliver brand rhetoric.” Scale is the limiting factor regarding how deep Yahoo drills at this point. In terms of granular data, Yahoo can see a large percentage of their each customer’s DMA at this time.

Of course it’s possible to dive much deeper, like foraging in the contents of someone’s Yahoo or Gmail account. Complex behavioral patterns like sites visited and content viewed over time can be logged and exploited. However that level of granularity is either not useful at present scale or too socially sensitive to micro-mine personal information. That said, Google says right up front that it mechanically reads your email to target ads.

200 Ad Networks Use Cookie Tracking
The technologies for tracking users by preferences across channels are based on setting cookies. This is a sensitive topic amongst privacy advocates and search engines folks alike. A significant percentage of users disable their cookies but the scale is so massive that the sampling is enough to provide tremendous insight.

Ad Networks Target Non-Search Traffic.
Engines are expensive to buy but everywhere else on the web is inexpensive and undersold. Ad networks leverage non-search traffic all over the Internet while tracking users through their travels and learning personal interests from clues, syntax of language, and other signals. This is not really a secret sauce. A person reading an article about insurance fraud is probably not interested in purchasing insurance. A customer who visits the financial section of NY is not necessarily ripe for opening an online brokerage account. It’s all about capturing a snapshot of assumed intent and categorizing the decisions visitors make all the while keeping track in databases blowing terabytes of data by at an astonishing rate.

The Future of Paid Search?
Post search technology is a rapidly growing field of endeavor. Everybody wins. Web users see relevant ads while their privacy is maintained. SEMs/agencies and their advertisers reach users who are in purchasing mode on the content sites where they spend the other 95% of their online time. When leveraging aggregated behavior data, conversion rates go up. Clicks originating from post search ads convert 5-10 times better than clicks from non-targeted ads advertisers earned $80 of profit for every $1 spent.

The panel provided a good deal of data and colorful anecdotes which we’ll cover in future posts. For now steel yourself Internet marketers. It’s not just about success the first time the customer hits the landing page. It’s a multi channel dance where we close in on the prospect and make sure that we’re on time with the right message when they’re finally ready to buy.

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