Stalk Customers for Fun & Profit: #SMX Intro to Retargeting

Welcome do Day 3 of AIMCLEAR‘s coverage of #SMX East! Retargeting a.k.a. remarketing, a relatively new (and seemingly popular) online advertising technique, requires marketers to get inside the minds of users to define search intent, follow said users around across various websites, and serve tightly focused search & display ads that remind them, oh-so-subtly, that you’re still there, waiting, and ready to turn you into a conversion.

In other words, retargeting requires you to be a bit of a cyber-starlking geek-creep. Right? *Shrug* Maybe so. But the spoils of retargeting, namely a more close-knit relationship with your customer/potential customer, are pretty sweet, and if you do it well, you can side-step that creep-factor altogether!

Moderator Pamela Parker, Q&A moderator Marty Weintraub, and speakers Dax Hamman, William Leake, Bibi Mukherjee, & Alan Osetek took the stage on the final morning of #SMX East 2011 to share insight on this new breed of advertising, as well as tips, tactics and top-notch best practices for creating campaigns that get real results. Many of them encouraged attendees to embrace our inner-stalker and to have fun doing it.

AIMCLEAR live-tweeted this session via @beebow. Read on for the full effect.

Pamela welcomed the audience, introduced the speakers, and explained that this session is a bit of a deeper dive into the Cousins To Paid Search session, specifically, all about retargeting.

Chris was up first. Chris works for Chango Inc., a search retargeting provider, so he had some pretty fresh insight to share. He began by pointing out, “Display has totally changed – that’s an important thing to consider. A couple years ago to do display, you had to buy big chunks of inventory, 10 million impressions on one site.” Yikes!

Now, thanks to real-time bidding and ad exchanges, Chris explains, display advertising is more like search.

What is Retargeting?
Retargeting is a display advertising technique for engaging users based on very specific action they have taken online sometime in the past.

  1. Action – User navigates to site, leaves without converting.
  2. Retarget – Cookie the user, follow him or her around the web.
  3. Convert – Engagement drives customer back so they convert!

Why Use Retargeting?

  • Obvious Reason –> Re-engagement. Converting existing customers by targeting on-site actions.
    • Source of data = You own it.  It’s on your site already. (Make sure you have GA or a similar analytics platform set in place.)
  • Less Obvious Reason –> Prospecting. Find new customer by targeting off-site actions prospective customers take.
    • Source of data = Third party.

7 Types of Effective Retargeting |

  1. Search – Users search your site.
  2. Site – Users completes an action or views certain content.
  3. SEO/SEM – User arrives via SEO or SEM ad. retargeting based on how they get to your site.
  4. Email – Um, wait, why serve display to email subscribers? You’ve already got them! People get a lot of email, and don’t always open everything in their inbox. You can leverage retargeting to subtly remind them to check their email. One time, Chris retargeted users just prior to sending out a newsletter (like, within hours of pushing it out). The open rates dramatically increased 🙂
  5. Contextual – user browses content.
  6. Engagement – user takes specific action.
  7. Social – user shares content. target them, target their friends. sneaky, but smart 🙂

Plugging the “Leaky” SEM Marketing Funnel
In the SEM funnel, you target user based on keyword search with the goal of, of course, getting them to click on your ads. Thing is, folks aren’t always ready to click (to buy), or maybe they click on your competitor instead. Ay, there’s the leak, as Hamlet once said. I think.

Plug that baby up! Retargeting fixes leaky SEM marketing funnel – if user searches your KW and travels elsewhere, you can cookie them and serve up an ad… wherever they go.

Tip: Think of retargeting as moving search engine marketing off of the search engines.

Retargeting – Advanced Optimization

  • You can afford the KWs! It’s not as pricy as you think.
  • Be mindful of KW freshness. With retargeting, the window for serving that ad is time-sensitive.
  • You can increase lift in effectiveness when leveraging dynamic ads. Serve users an ad and landing page that really speaks to where they’ve been and what they’ve engaged.
  • Utilize (and remember!) the frequency cap. Best practice is to keep it to around 4-5 ads per day. Stagger them. Do NOT cram retargeted ads down users’ throats 24/7.

How to Measure Your Retargeting Campaign?

  1. Post-click measurement. Similar to SEM.
  2. Post-view measurement. Engagement! Display ad increases brand awareness and improves search CTR & conversion rate. Measure it!

Next up was Bill, who warned that not enough traditional SEM agencies nowadays are on board with retargeting or display. Integrated agencies know where it’s at. Even if we <3 SEO & SEM, even if that’s what we’ve built our lives around… we need to be display people, too.

Display is as big as search, and it’s going to grow more… Anyone marketing to a considered purchase process knows search is not the handsome leading actor, it’s a supporting actor. Sometimes, it’s just a face in the crowd.

You don’t have to retarget simply based on on-site engagement. Consider retargeting from…

  • Social media
  • Partner sites
  • Various marketing channels
  • Press
  • Portals
  • Google Search within the Site
  • Blended search

If a user comes to your site, take the opportunity to stalk them around the web for the next 90 days.

It’s all about integrated marketing. Bill shows a chart that illustrates such marketing has amazing conversion rates. Essentially: Display only < Search Only < Display + Search!

“Display by itself sucks. It just sucks.” (In terms of conversion)

Display done right drives brand searches. Statistics from 2010 prove this, and now, they’re even higher. Now, we can stalk better than ever. Wee!

“It’s a big world out there,” Bill continued. You have to think beyond search.

  • 81% of your target market is reached by display
  • 8% by paid search

Staggering! Again – with paid search, people may see your ad, but not be ready to engage. “Most of the [PPC] tree is dealing with fruit that’s not on the ground,” Bill mused.

Retargeting allows small brands to compete with big brands, small budgets to compete with large stupid budgets.

Ongoing Issues & Challenges

  • Impressions – Easiest to measure, almost everyone has inventory in this format
  • Clicks – Easy to measure, but not always valid
  • Online advertising industry = $10B –> Optimizing to the click results in more than $1B loss (ouch!)
  • Creative. Formats = Multiple, production, testing
  • Placements (1 ad exchange or DSP)
  • Attribution
  • Ongoing management

Reclaiming Attribution from Email Marketing Bastards
From the top-down of the conversion funnel, it goes impressions, clicks, leads & online sales, to offline sales. If you have a house list of customers, don’t let “those email bastards” steal all the attribution for the sales! Retarget, steal the attribution back!

B2B Keyword Types
Bill points out that performance, intent and ROI vary tremendously by type.

  • Company KWs
  • Product KWs
  • Industry category KWs
  • Tactical pain KWs
  • Broad focus KWs

Next up was Alan, set to discuss specifically about the agency and search marketers perspective on search KW retargeting.

Why retargeting? It’s considered by advertisers to be the most effective media channel for reaching consumers who exhibit intent.

Challenges with straight-up paid search:

  • High PPC prices
  • Scalability issues
  • Limited to text ads

Retargeting works around these limitations. Sweet 🙂 .

Alan compared the features and benefits of network providers Yahoo, Chango, Magnetic, and Simplifi.

The main takeaway? There isn’t one provider that’s always better than the other. Be responsible, do research. Dig into the inventory each provider… provides. Dig into where their data comes from to understand the quality level. Do this on a product-specific basis.

Tips for Overcoming Internal Agency of Company Objections to Search Retargeting

  • Objection: Ad exposure – Where will my ads be showing up?
  • Solution: Many platforms allow you to create white lists (I want my ads here!) and black lists (I never want my ads here!). Additionally, you can leverage technology like Double Verify or Adsafe — programs that prevent an ad from showing on sites with content you have deemed inappropriate.

8 Retargeting Best Practices

  1. Working through the creative process is new. Give yourself time to familiarize yourself with what it’s all about!
  2. Consider ad serving training. Learn the details behind ad serving as a part of the campaign.
  3. Networks vary in scale and performance. Do research, talk to providers, learn inventory, specifics about data.
  4. Managing search retargeting companies. Providers vary in agency-like approach. Understand how closely they can monitor campaigns, and how well they manage them.
  5. Timing. Leave 3-4 weeks free to implement a retargeting campaign start to launch– from strategy, to KW research, to understanding your target, and going live.
  6. Use historical client campaign success metrics. Share them with providers, if you can. They’re usually pretty good about integrating that data into your retargeting campaign.
  7. Optimize, optimize, optimize!
  8. Effectively partner with search KW providers like Magnetic, Chango, Simplifi, etc.

Last but not least was Bibi, who planned to focus specifically on Google’s search-based remarketing platform.

Sale Stages:

  • Browse – User comes to your site, looks around, then leaves. Cookie the user. Serve user a customized PPC ad that speaks to the stage he/she was in when you cookied him/her. For example, “Welcome back!”. Create a dedicated landing page that reinforces this concept.
  • View – User comes to your site, views products, thereby demonstrating deeper intent (closer to making a sale). Serve user a customized PPC ad that directly references the products he/she looked at. “Come back to view more [product]!”
  • Abandon cart – User came to your site, added products to shopping cart, then left. Serve user a customized PPC ad that pulls at their heartstrings. “You were so close!…” Lead them to a customized landing page. Consider offering an incentive of “20% off since you came back!” or something similar.

Bibi reminded the audience that just with all other campaigns, nothing about retargeting is “risk-free.” An ad inviting users to “Come back, we luv you!” might irritate users. Seeing your ad too many times might turn users against your brand.

Audience & Remarketing Lists
So you’re thinking about retargeting! Well… unless you have an audience, how do you know who to go after? In AdWords, activate your “audience” tab. You can create audiences based on three categories:

  • Interest-based
  • Remarketing list
  • Custom combinations

For retargeting purposes, focus on the latter two options.

Your remarketing list is built of people who come to your site in the default timeframe default is 30 days. You can adjust this default! Depending on your sales cycle, (is it fast-moving? longer term?) you might want to. Change the default timeframe to reflect the goal and length of your sales cycle.

Custom combinations are rad, and give you a tremendous amount of… customization! You can target people based on the fact that they started converting, and eliminate from your targets people who did convert, so you serve the most relevant ad possible.

As a basic best practice, Bibi strongly recommends creating a mix of video, image, and text ads for your remarketing campaign.

Performance Highlights of Retargeting

  • Higher conversions
  • CTR similar to search
  • Low cost per conversion


“Happy stalking!” Bibi concluded. It was on to the Q&A. Here’s some highlights:

Q: What type of attribution value should the post-impression get?

Bill: More than 0%, less than 100%. factor in # of touches, value of customers.

Bibi: Check out the conversion tab in Google, it shows the first through last click attribution path, gives you a good idea of how much weight to grant a given touch.

Alan: The easy solution is to give them all equal credit.

Literally, after one question, we ran out of time. Big thanks to the speakers for awesome and actionable advice! Thanks for sticking around AIMCLEAR blog for coverage of #SMX East 2011. Catch y’all next year 🙂

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