We have now moved into the Age of Data. Behavioral targeting, social graph targeting, contextual targeting -- around us are data providers and data sellers each offering the promise of two-times lift, five-times lift, or even 10-times the lift if we just use their products. It's hard to know what works and what doesn't.
One thing we know that has worked, even in this slow economy, is paid search. Since arriving on the scene almost a decade ago, paid search (aka, PPC, sponsored search, etc.) has consistently driven high ROI with its unique ability to target users based on their search terms. The user's query -- this tiny nugget of intent, as search marketers call it -- reveals the meaning of the user's online behavior and is at the heart of this nearly $13 billion industry in the U.S. alone. These keyword-targeted ads represent almost 40 percent of all online marketing ad revenues and is even expected to take more market share in the near future.
However, there are a few key downsides to paid search. First, the three-line text ads of the medium just don't have the impact or influence of the sight, sound, and motion of online display as seen in Flash banners, rich media, or video advertising. The second and more important issue is that of scale. Because search is a pull medium, there's only as much inventory available as users searching on those terms on the engines. So many marketers, eyeing their incredible ROI from paid search, would certainly take as much of the traffic that they could buy if it was available. In fact, the secondary or tertiary goals of some online campaigns are in fact to increase awareness on the advertiser's most profitable keywords in order to increase the search volume on those terms.
Enter search retargeting. Data providers in this space such as Magnetic, Chango, and Simpl.fi acquire search data from various sources (second-tier search engines, search toolbars, etc.) and cookie users based on their search term. Advertisers can then purchase the ability to target those users via the ad exchanges based on a specific keyword list or even topic clusters based on keyword groups. Bingo! Suddenly there's instant scale and the ability to reach those search users with highly relevant, impactful display ads.
Should we automatically assume that search retargeting can work as well as traditional paid search? There are some issues to consider, such as whether searches will still be relevant to users days later. Paid search taps into an immediacy that few other advertising opportunities can provide. However, the intent is still there. Isn't it possible that someone searching on "Colorado ski vacations" or "Places to buy antiques" could still be interested a few days later? Of course. As with many data provider solutions, the jury's still out, and proper testing is needed to evaluate the value of this channel. However, search retargeting looks promising, and many advertisers are beginning to dip their toes in the water to see if it can be effective for them.
Some of the companies involved with search retargeting include the following:
Tag line: Search Marketing, Beyond the Search Engines
Top dog: Chris Sukornyk, CEO and founder
Founded in: 2008
HQ: Toronto, ON, Canada
Homepage quote: Chango is a demand-side platform (DSP) that targets an audience with dynamic display ads based on their recent search history. Simply import your existing keywords, bid prices, text ads, budgets, and CPA targets from AdWords to get your Chango search retargeting campaign live in minutes. Find new customers and easily extend your search campaigns beyond the search engines.
Quote: "At Chango we are focused on simplifying the process of extended search marketing campaigns to the vast reach of display exchanges. We believe that search marketers do not want to abandon their existing keyword lists and learn a new form of targeting with unproven results. Our entire platform is designed to work with existing keyword lists, bid prices, and text-based ad copy. It feels like AdWords for the rest of the internet," says Chris Sukornyk, CEO and founder.
Tag line: Harnessing the power of search outside the search engine
Top dog: Josh Shatkin-Margolis, CEO and founder
Founded in: 2008
HQ: New York, N.Y.
Product: Search Re-targeting Marketplace
Homepage quote: Magnetic is search re-targeting. The Magnetic data marketplace empowers advertisers and publishers to use search data as the key indicator of intent and re-target campaigns to the most relevant audience online. With more than 200 million search profiles, Magnetic significantly lifts the value of media and improves campaign performance.
Notes: Magnetic works with more than 40 ad networks, agencies, and demand-side platforms to apply search data to all kinds of online advertising.
Quote: "At Magnetic, our mission is to help our customers find their customers. Our search re-targeting product helps advertisers use search data to re-target customers through all online advertising while they are in purchase mode -- the most crucial point of contact in customer acquisition. Until now, marketers have only been able to reach users who are either actively searching for their product or have already been to their site. It's our goal to enable advertisers to reach customers outside of the search engine," says Josh Shatkin-Margolis, CEO and founder.
Tag line: Display Advertising for Search Marketers
Top dogs/founders: Don Epperson (exec. chair); Frost Prioleau (CEO); Paul Harrison (CTO); Armin Roehrl (CD)
Founded in: 2010
HQ: Fort Worth, Texas
Homepage quote: Simpli.fi allows online marketers to reach more searchers, more often, and at a lower cost than high priced search advertising (text ad) campaigns.
Notes: Search marketers just upload keyword lists along with CPC prices, and then target recent searchers across billions of display impressions.
Quote: "Simpli.fi combines the effectiveness of search advertising with the reach and brand impact of display advertising to enable online marketers to improve their advertising ROI," says Paul Harrison, CTO.
Josh Dreller is VP of media technology and analytics at Fuor Digital.
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