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The 3 Main Types of Display Retargeting -- and How to Make the Most of Them

The 3 Main Types of Display Retargeting -- and How to Make the Most of Them Marc Poirier
If you're looking for a way to increase your leads and conversions -- and maybe generate a bit of brand awareness in the process -- display retargeting offers you many ways to reach out to potential customers. When it comes to retargeting, there are three main types:

  • Creative retargeting

  • Site retargeting

  • Search retargeting

Which type of retargeting makes sense for you will depend largely on your needs and your goals. If you're more interested in creating brand awareness with large volumes of impressions, then creative retargeting is likely your best bet. But if you want a retargeting campaign that may have lower volume, but a greater impact on increasing leads and conversions, consider search retargeting (but one particular kind of search retargeting -- more on that later.)

Let's take a closer look at the three most common display remarketing strategies and explore how to get the greatest benefit from each:

Creative Retargeting

In creative retargeting, you purchase a set number of display impressions on highly relevant, highly trusted websites from a third-party provider -- and in the price, you negotiate the ability to cookie visitors who see the ad. This means that not only does the visitor see your ad in the context of a website that they trust, and that is highly relevant to your product or service -- it also means that you can quickly build out a large pool of visitors with relevant cookies, and can retarget these visitors as they move and search across the Web.

For example: Imagine that your business sells extended auto service warranties and you're trying to target used car buyers who may be in need of your services. In this situation, you'd approach the ad network and put together a deal that included a variety of sites -- sites that sell used cars, sites that provide reviews for used cars, and perhaps even highly-respected used car forums. By dropping a specific "current used car shoppers" cookie onto the computers of all visitors who are served this ad, you're able to then recognize the users and are able to retarget them across the exchanges, including on sites that may be less costly than the ones on which you originally purchased.

Creative retargeting can be more expensive than other options, but you get a lot of bang for your buck; you pay relatively low CPMs for ad impressions on relevant, well-branded, trustworthy sites, and you also get a very valuable cookied web visitor that you can remarket to across the Web.

Making the Most of Creative Retargeting: High-Impact Brand Awareness
Creative retargeting is excellent for branding, but its average cost per acquisition makes it a more expensive solution for generating direct response. You'll be able to get a lot of impressions at a great price, but the follow up impressions that take place on other lower value sites with less stellar locations are less likely to drive a visitor to take action. Consider a creative retargeting campaign if generating high-impact brand awareness at a low price is your goal.

Site Retargeting
In its most basic sense, site retargeting happens when you tag pages of your company's website to cookie site visitors. After you've dropped a certain number of cookies, you can use the exchanges to retarget ads to these visitors.

However, specific site retargeting strategies vary, from blanketing the site with tags, to tagging only specific pages. For marketers just starting with site retargeting, tagging every page on the site to cookie visitors may be the fastest way to get some traction. Or, you may want to tag all of the pages on the site, except for one specific section -- like the Careers section -- so that when you retarget, you don't retarget to visitors who were on your website looking for a job with your company rather than considering your product or service.

For marketers looking for better site retargeting results, you'll need to develop and implement a specific tagging strategy -- setting tags for a specific page or set of pages that indicate interest -- and then cookie visitors accordingly. Going back to the extended auto warranty example I mentioned previously, a smart site retargeting tagging strategy may be to cookie only those visitors who viewed the "more information", "pricing", or "request a warranty quote" pages of your site but did not convert, as visitors who viewed these pages are likely more interested than visitors who simply viewed your home page.

Making the Most of Site Retargeting: Beneficial Brand Recall and Reasonable ROI

When it comes to site retargeting, you're basically creating retargeting segments with the data you already have. From a branding perspective, site retargeting is pretty good; the volume of impressions may not be as high as via other methods, but with the proper timing you can do an excellent job of promoting brand recall. From the perspective of generating leads and conversions, site retargeting will likely serve you well, with acceptable volume and a decent ROI. It may take you longer to build out your segments, but what you lack in initial volume you will more than make up for in terms of quality. Because these visitors have been on your site at least once, it's reasonable to believe that they are more engaged with your business than someone who has never visited at all.

Search Retargeting

At its most basic form, search retargeting is a form of display advertising where you retarget visitors based on a previous search they performed. But beyond this foundation, the way vendors handle search retargeting can vary quite a bit.

One form of search retargeting involves buying aggregated cookies from a third party vendor that has cookied visitors who landed on a website in their partner network. For example, if someone searches Google for "2009 Ford Mustang" and clicks through on a search result to "BestMustangReviews.com", part of the 3rd party's partner network, they'll receive a cookie. The vendor takes this cookie, and the search query that drove it, and compiles it with other cookies and their related search terms, then sells the aggregated cookies to you.

The thought behind this form of search retargeting is that the user's initial search indicated interest in a topic relevant to your product or service. Is it possible that by the time you remarket to them, that they may have already fulfilled their needs? Potentially, which is why this type of retargeting may be less expensive than the others. Another consideration is that you may have difficulty finding cookies from searches and sites that are truly relevant to your business. If you're in the B2B realm, you may be out of luck when it comes to finding vendors with relevant cookie data. For these reasons, we're going to focus on the other type of search retargeting for the remainder of our discussion.

The other (and in my opinion better) form of search marketing relies on retargeting based on your search data, rather than search data purchased from a third party. Using this form of search retargeting, when someone clicks on one of your ads, they are cookied along with all of the info associated with that click -- what the keyword was, which text ad it was, which budget it was, and what the ad's historic conversion rates were. With these info-rich cookies in place, you'll be able to very specifically retarget these visitors when you purchase display advertising on different networks. This type of search retargeting is regarded as the most focused form of retargeting available, and many marketers opt for this type of search retargeting to get squeeze even more value out of their mature, well-optimized search campaigns.

Making the Most of Search Retargeting: Amazing Potential for Lead Generation

Using your own search data, the brand awareness value of search retargeting is somewhat limited, but still acceptable; similar to site retargeting, you will get some brand recall benefits if your timing is good. However, when it comes to generating leads and conversions, search retargeting's potential is incredible! Because you're retargeting visitors who have searched for and visited your site, you're reaching out to grab the lowest hanging fruit available and to turn them from window shoppers into customers. If creating leads and conversions is your goal, insist on employing search retargeting using your own search data.

Choosing the Display Retargeting Strategy that is Right for You

When it comes to selecting the right mix of display retargeting, let your goals be your guide. If you're interested in creating brand-awareness on high-value sites, consider creative retargeting. For a good mix of branding and lead generation, take a closer look at your options when it comes to site retargeting. For the highest potential to generate leads and conversions, explore the opportunity to perform search retargeting -- ensuring that you're using your own data, not that of a third party. Try a combination of retargeting tactics until you find the mix that works best for your specific needs.

Marc Poirier is a professional internet marketer with more than a decade experience and one of the top 5 PPC experts in the Search industry. He is Co-Founder and CMO of Acquisio where he leads all sales and marketing activities. He often speaks at...

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