Imagine leaving your local Woolworths store with an empty basket and the next place you visit has an ad for all the goods you just looked at. Or you filled in a loyalty card form and you suddenly notice that the company is advertising at all the popular places you go shopping.
That’s basically retargeting ads, or as Google calls it, remarketing. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy for shops to do yet. Sticking a physical tracking device on people is still quite difficult (and not really approved of), unlike the simplicity of cookies we use on the web.
In this guide, we will look at how you can use retargeting to get the most from your marketing budget. We’ll consider different methods of retargeting and which retargeting platforms you should be using.
How can Australian businesses best make use of retargeting to grow their business? We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s crack on.
What is Retargeting?
Have you ever clicked on a banner or search engine ad, just to go to the page, but leave without buying or signing up? You are not alone, that’s what most people do. Maybe you were distracted by a funny cat video, or perhaps you just wanted to compare sites.
Just because a person doesn’t convert on the first visit, it doesn’t mean they won’t ever convert or purchase.
Sometimes, that person may come back in a few days, weeks or even months and remember what they showed interest in. Others, though, might have found another website offering a similar product, or maybe they looked but couldn’t find your site again.
The moral of this story is that you need to keep your site in front of the potential audience. Retargeting works by advertising to customers who have already expressed an interest in your site, rather than those just searching for a topic.
Is There a Difference Between Retargeting and Remarketing?
This is where it can get tricky: the terms remarketing and retargeting are often used interchangeably. Are they both the same? The answer is yes and no, with Google partly to blame for the confusion.
Retargeting usually refers to the kind of online display ads which will be shown to users who have previously visited your page. Remarketing was previously used to describe reaching out to lost visitors using email, so you’d need those visitors’ email addresses.
The confusion can be blamed on Google AdWords (or Google Ads since 2018)
Never ones to make anything too easy, Google has basically grouped both retargeting display ads and remarketing emails under the phrase of remarketing. For the purpose of this guide, we will refer to retargeting but don’t be too worried if you should also see it referred to as remarketing.
How Does Retargeting Work?
Going back to the store analogy we mentioned earlier, imagine your website as a store, like your local Target or Myers.
In Target, maybe you see a jacket you like, you might even try it on for size, but then something distracts you. Perhaps your 6-year-old son suddenly runs out of the Target store and, being the good parent you chase after him, but then you go home—sale lost!
In the outside world, that’s where the potential sale ends. Maybe on the way home, you pass a Myers store, see the same jacket, and buy it. What if the original Target store could track where you were going and place a billboard at the side of the road advertising that jacket.
Put simply, retargeting is about using all you know about potential customers to stay on their radar until they purchase the goods. It could be when they visit your website, which items they clicked on, or when they put something in their basket.
Remarketing can offer the following benefits to online businesses:
- Less expensive cost per display of an ad, or impression.
- Lower CPC (cost-per-click).
- Better rates of conversion.
- An increase in the return-on-investment (ROI).
- Lower cost branding than similar banner ads.
How Do You Retarget an Audience?
Recently, I was looking for a new teardrop trailer RV, and now nearly every page I go to has an advert for one of the websites I looked at. If I am going to buy one, then that site is certainly at the top of my list, as it’s constantly on my web pages.
Let’s just hope the site I visited to buy my wife’s birthday present doesn’t use retargeting, that would spoil the surprise!
Starting an effective retargeting campaign can be straightforward and successful, once you know what you are doing. Retargeting campaigns will either use a pixel or list to target their audience.
Once the visitor leaves your page, the pixel tells your provider, like Google Ads or Facebook, to start displaying your ads to them.
When that person navigates to a page which can display your ads, the ads enter an auction with other eligible ads. This all happens very quickly and the highest bidding ad is shown.
Pixel-based retargeting offers the advantage of speed—it’s instantaneous. When somebody has visited your site and been “cookied,” they will start being served your ads. Sometimes the next site they go to will have an ad that convinces them to go back to your website.
Most pixel-based lists are anonymous, though, so all you know about a pixel-based customer is that they visited your page—not whether they’re an interested customer or a potential competitor trolling your website.
As the name suggests, list-based retargeting uses existing contacts lists. It could be a previous customer, somebody who has signed up for a free book or a person who entered their email for more information.
To start a list-based retargeting campaign, a business simply uploads a contact list to their chosen retargeting platform. This platform then identifies users on the network who have those addresses, and serves retargeting ads to them as they browse the web.
With list-based retargeting, you know exactly who your ads are going to.
However, where list-based targeting can fall down is with the emails you have been given. Often, users will submit a different email to a website than the one they use on social media accounts. Because of this, uploading your email list to a platform like Facebook may only match up with a small percentage of users.
Which Is Best, Pixel-Based or List Based Retargeting?
List-based retargeting may offer you more control over who you target with your ads but will be more time-consuming. You have to first collect that list, then upload to your retargeting platform, assuming they have given you a valid email address.
Concerns about online privacy have made pixel-based retargeting harder to operate in recent years. Many browsers now enable users to switch off cookies and some areas have laws where you must advise a customer of any cookies.
You’re basically asking for permission to stalk somebody, which they may not always give—Kylie certainly didn’t when I asked her, but that’s another story, and one I can’t go into for legal reasons!
A simple view would be quantity of leads versus quality of leads, but both forms of retargeting serve their purpose. We usually recommend using both methods, along with other SEM and SEO practices, for the best results.
The Goals of a Retargeting Campaign
It’s not all about sales and conversions/ Retargeting can also be about building awareness. The key to any successful online marketing is knowing what your goals are, and this will affect which method you choose.
Most people would use pixel retargeting for more sales. After all, marketing’s ultimate aim is to create profits and more revenue for your site.
Pixel-based retargeting can help to turn potential customers into actual paying customers. Using a pixel-based retargeting campaign, your intention is to entice visitors to your site to return, and either make a purchase or fill in a lead form.
A list could then be used for encouraging visitors to sign up for your next webinar, download a white paper, or even sell more to existing customers. This can be done via personal emails, or a list-based retargeting campaign.
Retargeting to Build Awareness
Awareness campaigns can be useful when you would like to re-engage with visitors to your website and inform them of relevant products. Again, you would normally start to serve these ads with a pixel-based campaign.
Awareness campaigns will remind the visitor of your existence, to stay in their sight until they are ready to convert. You would like to be the first site they think of when they decide to commit.
Although awareness campaigns may not directly lead to profits, a successful awareness campaign can improve how well your other campaigns perform. Profits will be slower from an awareness retargeting ad, but the visitor is more likely to return for conversion.
Retargeting on the Google Display Network
One of the biggest platforms for retargeting ads is the Google display network. With a retargeting campaign, you are not looking for people searching for your site—they’ve already found it! Instead, you would like to remind visitors, once they have left, that your site is still there or maybe of offers that they missed out on.
Google Display Network
Reaching more than 2 million websites, and over 90 percent of the internet, a Google network display ad can put your business in front of audiences worldwide. Google integrates your ads into chosen websites, while users shop, read or browse rather than just searching.
The Google display network can reach your audience as they play a game on their phone, watch a news video, or even while checking email. The wide coverage of the network means you can quickly retarget your visitors. Perhaps that funny cat video which originally distracted them will take the customer to YouTube and one of your ads.
Getting a customer early in the buying cycle, or at the top of the sales funnel, can be key to achieving conversion. They could be still researching, weighing up the different options, or not even be aware that they need your services.
Google Search Network Versus Google Display Network
“But I already advertise on the Google search page!”, I can hear you saying. A Google Ad search campaign can have better results than organic searches, especially with some extra CTA (call-to-action) content. However, The Google search network relies on the audience actively searching for your keywords.
The Google display network (GDN) is much more passive, placing ads on carefully chosen websites as your audience browses the web. The GDN also allows for more visual and media-rich content to be used, rather than just plain text ads.
The fact that the brain processes 90 percent of information by a visual cue, makes the GDN a big game changer.
Where does the Google Display Network Show Ads?
Although the Google display network does reach over 2 million sites, that doesn’t mean your ad is going to go live on every single site. The network has different tiers of websites.
Google has its own sites, like YouTube, Blogger, Gmail and Google Finance, to name a few. Your ads will also be shown on publishing sites, where the site manager signs up to participate, like Adsense or DoubleClick Ad exchange.
While you could run your ads across any or all of these different groups, that won’t deliver the highest return on investment (ROI). Fortunately, Google allows you to hand-pick your ad placements, or you can let Google pick them for you, using certain keywords and topics relating to your ad.
How to Use the Google Display Network for a Retargeting Campaign
Basically, if you already have an AdWords account, you should be using the Google display network for retargeting ads. Starting up a retargeting campaign is relatively painless, just remember Google calls it “remarketing”.
The first step of your GDN remarketing is to add a Google pixel or remarketing code tag to your website, before creating your ads and then setting up the campaign. If you are new to Google Ads, the following YouTube video is a good place to start.
Retargeting campaigns on Google Ads (yet another name change) can be extremely easy. It would be such a wasted opportunity not to use the remarketing platform of the GDN if you are already a Google customer.
Facebook as a Retargeting Platform
We couldn’t talk about wide-reaching platforms without mentioning what is maybe the largest of all, Facebook. With an estimated daily 1.3 billion users, Facebook is a highly effective method of getting in the view of any audience. Even better still, Facebook owns Instagram, where retargeting ads can also be run.
Using Facebook for retargeting ads or campaigns is as easy as adding the Facebook pixel on your page to track any visitors. Although there are some stick-in-the-mud people who refuse to use Facebook, you will find the majority of your customers end up there—normally two or more times a day.
The problem we have found with Facebook retargeting is there’s too much going on. Users are playing games, checking on social aspects of their relationships, and would rather know what Lucy did today than check out ads. I mainly just click to get rid of an ad if it pops up in the middle of Angry Birds.
For awareness campaigns, Facebook can be an effective remarketing tool. It will appear on plenty of visitors’ feeds and, even if they don’t click or convert, it will remind them of your presence.
Twitter as a Retargeting Platform
Pretty much like Facebook, you can use Twitter to serve your retargeting ads, although they tend to be less successful than both GDN and Facebook. If you thought Facebook was distracting, Twitter tends to be even more so.
For the most important campaigns where you need the most exposure, Twitter is a good place to start, just don’t expect a good ROI. A Twitter pixel on your website can be a powerful way of building an audience but, in our experience, not sales.
A bonus of social platforms like Twitter or Facebook is that users may talk about or share any experiences with your company on that platform. Word of mouth advertising for the 21st century!
You can directly set up your retargeting campaign on any of the “big three” platforms quite easily yourself. If you would like to get better results with retargeting ads, though, you may want to consider using a retargeting service.
There are plenty of retargeting services or tools out there, like Perfect Audience, AdRoll, Retargeter and more, who can direct your web and social retargeting. While some claim to reach up to 98 percent of the internet, retargeting services also offer better tools for segmenting your audience.
You will find with retargeting services that you get what you pay for. Choosing the service which is right for you can be a fine balance between the options you actually need and what you can spend.
Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)
It may not strictly fall under the remit of this guide, but you can’t afford to ignore search-based ads when remarketing. Display ads might grab the attention more, but how do you reach those visitors who came to your site via a text-based ad?
RLSA allows advertisers to customise their campaigns to previous visitors who arrived through searching on Google or search partner sites. Tailored bids and ads will normally come at a lower cost than a regular search, as you are targeting customers already familiar with your site.
Using Google Analytics, you can set up your audience and create a more traditional search campaign, but using your remarketing list. As you track any conversions, you can monitor whether your RLSAs have been more effective than cold search campaigns.
For a more personal touch, you could always run an email retargeting list. We’re not just talking about an email of the latest offers to your cold lead list, but a pixel in those emails, which follows them around the web.
After opening your emails, the pixel will fire up on the subscriber’s browser. As the subscriber browses the web, they will feel your company is almost everywhere—which it will be while they’re on the web.
This is a good way to build your brand or company with existing customers who feel justified in their choice of business. It can also encourage more repeat sales or conversions, and upselling of replacement products or services.
How Is the Success of a Retargeting Campaign Measured?
Sales, and more sales, might be the obvious answer you would like to hear. How did those sales happen, though? Was it a direct click, or through another channel?
Unlike traditional display advertising methods, retargeting ads credit both the click-through conversions and view-through conversions. Agencies will often report both types of conversion to you, and a total. You have to determine whether the campaign has achieved your aims.
Click-through conversions are when a conversion happens as a direct result of a visitor clicking a retargeting ad they have been served. View-through is more like an assist, where conversions are credited to the last click, but at one time the visitor has seen a retargeting ad.
Analysing these results can tell you a lot about your ads and the landing sites as the numbers change. Does your landing site drive conversion, or is the targeting ad just building awareness of the entire site?
Best Retargeting Practices
Now you know what the different types of remarketing are and the platforms you can use, how do you ensure your campaign is successful? Here are some key principles you should consider.
Choose or Segment Your Audience
Users will visit your website for different reasons. Some may be interested in making a purchase, while others might just enjoy reading your blog. Some may just click on your page by accident—that’s what I keep telling the wife if any more Kylie merchandise stores start following us around!
You don’t really want to send the same remarketing ads to all those people, do you? It would not be a smart investment of your time or money. Instead, take more time and choose which ads, if any, different sectors of your visitors respond to.
Using different criteria, like time spent on your site, the demographics or geographical location, you can segment your potential audience. It’s no good selling your plumbing services to somebody who lives in California—maybe they just wanted to compare Aussie prices with their local rates!
You can use different pixels on specific pages of your website to recognise which message best meets the needs of that specific segment. By segmenting your audience, you can target those people who just read your blog in a different way to those who leave an item in their basket.
Frequency of Retargeting Ads
Just like on a Friday night out drinking beer with the lads, more is not always better. Too much can often have negative effects, and nowhere is this truer than retargeting ads. Most retargeting experts would agree 15–20 impressions of your ads per visitor per month is enough.
While some experts would disagree and say once you’ve got them, bombard them till they convert, it can irritate many potential customers. The idea is to build your brand’s exposure, not offend any prospective clients. Apart from being annoying, it can also result in ad blindness that’s counterproductive to your marketing campaign.
We tend to prefer a more hybrid approach, or strike while the iron is hot. You can configure a campaign to recognise how long it has been since the visitor last viewed your site. For the first 1–2 weeks, you can bombard potential customers with remarketing ads, reducing the frequency as time goes on and the likelihood of conversion falls.
Burn Codes or Pixels
Just as annoying as too many ads can be ads for something you have just purchased. If your customer has just converted and purchased what you were advertising, do they really want to see another ad for it?
From the business point of view, is there any point retargeting somebody who has already bought the product? Fortunately, there is a burn pixel which you can add to your thank you or order confirmation page. This pixel or code excludes the customer from normal retargeting ads.
Burn pixels are handy little bits of code, which can do so much more, and this brings us to the next point.
Keep Them Coming Back for More
That same burn pixel which stops the retargeting of customers who have converted can also get them to come back. The best retargeting campaigns will be those that encourage people who have already converted to convert again.
For example, if the customer buys a 3-month supply of pool cleaner, a good idea would be to retarget the customer after about two months. Although they may be happy with the product, they might also have seen alternatives, or a better price.
You can even encourage people to upgrade with a burn pixel, by estimating the lifespan of a product or how often users upgrade on average. This way, you can highlight the benefits they could enjoy by upgrading, just as they are thinking about it—the perfect remarketing!
Not all products or services are suitable for retargeting ads. If somebody is browsing through Amazon looking for an antifungal foot cream, they’re unlikely to want those ads showing up on their Facebook feeds.
Likewise, if a visitor has signed up for a weight-loss plan, do they really want to be reminded of the fact that they were fat, six months down the line? Respect the privacy of your customers and maybe serve a more subtle retargeting ad.
Remember, you are not trying to force a customer at gunpoint to buy your product or service. Think of it more as trying to lead them into making that conversion themselves.
Rotate Your Retargeting Ads
Ad or banner blindness is very real. A 2013 study by Infolinks found 86 percent of consumers suffer from just not seeing banners. “Suffer?” you say, don’t you mean they’re lucky? Well, not too lucky for the retargeting campaign manager.
Even retargeting campaigns, where the audience has shown interest in your site and is more likely to notice your ads, can suffer. Once you have seen something for what seems like a thousand times, you simply start ignoring it.
If, as part of your retargeting strategy, you don’t change your ads every so often, you may be missing the chance of plenty of conversions.
To prevent this problem, test new images or content on a more regular basis with A/B tests. Not only will this keep your campaign fresher in customers’ minds, but it can also tell you which type of ads are more successful with your audience.
Hopefully, we have given you enough food for thought to convince you to start your first retargeting campaign. If we haven’t, don’t worry we will tell you again later while you play Angry Birds, and again tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, etc—a little retargeting joke for you!
We have covered everything you need to know to start your own retargeting campaign, from platforms and services to some of the best practices. Every platform offers its own tools for creating an effective retargeting, or remarketing for Google, campaign.
AdWords is a great place to start for Australian businesses looking to remarket to potentially lost customers. However, feel free to experiment with other platforms or services, which may be better suited to your site.
If you need any extra help, want to add a few suggestions, or just share your story, please leave a comment below. We will be happy to take a look and recommend a retargeting strategy for you.