07
Jun
2012

Successful Search Retargeting in Three Questions

06/07/2012
My father is full of great one-liners. Once, after spending the afternoon installing a ceiling fan, he said, “Well, that was fairly simple until it got complicated.” For too many marketers, this holds true in regard to search retargeting. To others, it is true of search retargeting and installing ceiling fans. Well, I can definitely help with one of those.Installing a Ceiling Fan As search retargeting gains momentum, I consistently hear questions about what leads to a successful campaign. Most are looking for tips, tricks, verticals, and/or anything that ensures the best possible results. First, I will reiterate the most important element in successful search retargeting campaigns: relevancy. As without relevancy none of the following tips will work. It’s crucial to ensure you’re getting the right message to the right consumer. For example, with Simpli.fi keyword level search retargeting, clients have the ability to serve dynamic display ads or to create specific keyword segments associated with very specific creative content to ensure ads are relevant to the viewer. Aside from the importance of relevancy, there are 3 questions search retargeters must answer to ensure successful campaigns.   What keywords best identify my converting audience? Not all keywords are created equal, and not all keywords perform the same across different tactics. The job of the search retargeter is to leverage the absolute best possible list of keywords for every campaign. Just like in search marketing, you will find small variations perform completely differently. For example you may find that “New York Hotel” performs great while “NYC Hotel” may simply not convert. At, Simpli.fi, we find that starting broad, testing different types of keywords, and optimizing quickly are best practices. Optimizing includes expanding and removing keywords based on performance. By far, the largest mistake I see in new search retargeting campaigns is marketers that only test their PPC (or paid search) campaign keywords. While these keywords are a great launching point, search retargeting is much more subtle and a user can be marketed to more than once. And that changes everything. It also leads us to our second question.   How many times do I need to show an ad to convert the audience? In many ways, I feel frequency has been misapplied in many display-targeting campaigns. I have been on more calls than I can count that discuss frequency capping as a way to prevent a user from being served too many ads. While this is important, an over-focus can lead to limiting the campaign. For these campaigns the question becomes “How do we show as little as possible?” The real question is not how many ads are too many, but rather how many ads are enough? I would gander that 1-3 impressions are not enough to convert a user. In daily life, are we really influenced to try a new product by a single impression or is it the impact of being reminded within the time of making a decision? While I do feel that uncapped campaigns can be counter-productive, we must be careful that we are not simply mentioned, but remembered. Memory is built on repetition. In fact, with search retargeting you may only have a short window of time to influence a user. In these cases, higher frequency is required to have impact. And speaking of time…   How much time do I have before the audience is no longer interested in what I have to say? One of the biggest challenges in search retargeting is to retarget a user for the right amount of time after they perform a search. Most solutions in the space default to a 30-day window, and in most cases, this is too long. For example, would it make sense to retarget a user that searched for “NYC hotels” 28 days ago? No, odds are the user has already booked a hotel. The simple truth is that even if a user converts somewhere else, any impressions served to them after they convert are wasteful. Many marketers will attempt to solve this by placing an exclusion pixel on the conversion page. Exclusion pixels are a start, but to maximize your budget, recency should be analyzed based on every impression. We find more often than not, the data can really educate the marketer on how long a user is open to influence. Another common mistake that we see is setting all in impressions to “next impression”. This is a tactic that serves the display ad if the search term is on the previous page. While this can definitely help performance, we find impressions that are served within an hour of the search can have significantly higher results than even the “next impression”. Again, these higher results can most likely be attributed to the fact that most searchers need to see a display ad more than once to be converted.   Getting the answers – Data, Data, Data Whether you are using cookies, segments, or servers, one thing is always true, data beats assumption. Coming from search marketing, this is an easy concept to grasp. There is a gap between how we think a user will search and how they really search. The same is true of search retargeting. When evaluating which partner to choose for a search retargeting campaign, the focus must be on the level of transparency of data. Any partner that only gives you a portion of the data is not allowing you to be fully educated about your client. The true value lies in finding a provider that gives you the real answers to these three questions:
  • What keywords best identify my converting audience?
  • How many times do I need to show an ad to convert the audience?
  • How much time do I have before the audience is no longer interested in what I have to say?
At the end of the day, search retargeting shows all the signs of being a great channel for display advertising. While it may appear to be complex, it does not have to be for you. By answering these three questions for every campaign, you can be confident that your campaigns are moving to success. My father is full of great one-liners. Once, after spending the afternoon installing a ceiling fan, he said, “Well, that was fairly simple until it got complicated.” For too many marketers, this holds true in regard to search retargeting. To others, it is true of search retargeting and installing ceiling fans. Well, I can definitely help with one of those. As search retargeting gains momentum, I consistently hear questions about what leads to a successful campaign. Most are looking for tips, tricks, verticals, and/or anything that ensures the best possible results. First, I will reiterate the most important element in successful search retargeting campaigns: relevancy. As without relevancy none of the following tips will work. It’s crucial to ensure you’re getting the right message to the right consumer. For example, with Simpli.fi keyword level search retargeting, clients have the ability to serve dynamic display ads or to create specific keyword segments associated with very specific creative content to ensure ads are relevant to the viewer. Aside from the importance of relevancy, there are 3 questions search retargeters must answer to ensure successful campaigns. What keywords best identify my converting audience? Not all keywords are created equal, and not all keywords perform the same across different tactics. The job of the search retargeter is to leverage the absolute best possible list of keywords for every campaign. Just like in search marketing, you will find small variations perform completely differently. For example you may find that “New York Hotel” performs great while “NYC Hotel” may simply not convert. At, Simpli.fi, we find that starting broad, testing different types of keywords, and optimizing quickly are best practices. Optimizing includes expanding and removing keywords based on performance. By far, the largest mistake I see in new search retargeting campaigns is marketers that only test their PPC (or paid search) campaign keywords. While these keywords are a great launching point, search retargeting is much more subtle and a user can be marketed to more than once. And that changes everything. It also leads us to our second question. How many times do I need to show an ad to convert the audience? In many ways, I feel frequency has been misapplied in many display-targeting campaigns. I have been on more calls than I can count that discuss frequency capping as a way to prevent a user from being served too many ads. While this is important, an over-focus can lead to limiting the campaign. For these campaigns the question becomes “How do we show as little as possible?” The real question is not how many ads are too many, but rather how many ads are enough? I would gander that 1-3 impressions are not enough to convert a user. In daily life, are we really influenced to try a new product by a single impression or is it the impact of being reminded within the time of making a decision? While I do feel that uncapped campaigns can be counter-productive, we must be careful that we are not simply mentioned, but remembered. Memory is built on repetition. In fact, with search retargeting you may only have a short window of time to influence a user. In these cases, higher frequency is required to have impact. And speaking of time… How much time do I have before the audience is no longer interested in what I have to say? One of the biggest challenges in search retargeting is to retarget a user for the right amount of time after they perform a search. Most solutions in the space default to a 30-day window, and in most cases, this is too long. For example, would it make sense to retarget a user that searched for “NYC hotels” 28 days ago? No, odds are the user has already booked a hotel. The simple truth is that even if a user converts somewhere else, any impressions served to them after they convert are wasteful. Many marketers will attempt to solve this by placing an exclusion pixel on the conversion page. Exclusion pixels are a start, but to maximize your budget, recency should be analyzed based on every impression. We find more often than not, the data can really educate the marketer on how long a user is open to influence. Another common mistake that we see is setting all in impressions to “next impression”. This is a tactic that serves the display ad if the search term is on the previous page. While this can definitely help performance, we find impressions that are served within an hour of the search can have significantly higher results than even the “next impression”. Again, these higher results can most likely be attributed to the fact that most searchers need to see a display ad more than once to be converted. Getting the answers – Data, Data, Data Whether you are using cookies, segments, or servers, one thing is always true, data beats assumption. Coming from search marketing, this is an easy concept to grasp. There is a gap between how we think a user will search and how they really search. The same is true of search retargeting. When evaluating which partner to choose for a search retargeting campaign, the focus must be on the level of transparency of data. Any partner that only gives you a portion of the data is not allowing you to be fully educated about your client. The true value lies in finding a provider that gives you the real answers to these three questions: What keywords best identify my converting audience? How many times do I need to show an ad to convert the audience? How much time do I have before the audience is no longer interested in what I have to say? At the end of the day, search retargeting shows all the signs of being a great channel for display advertising. While it may appear to be complex, it does not have to be for you. By answering these three questions for every campaign, you can be confident that your campaigns are moving to success.