Game On: Search Retargeting

I know a lot about football -- and by a lot, I mean relatively nothing at all. A lifelong fan, I've played in a confidence league for years and, this September, boldly entered a fantasy conference. I can see calls before the refs (oh settle down, I know it's likely going to be, "holding") but my ability to spot the 1st down marker has waned because of technology. More than a decade ago, ESPN and SportsVision debuted that little yellow stripe magically painted on the field (technically, the “Virtual Yellow 1st and Ten” line) and in October 2013, that same line was pink in the occasional game as part of, "A Crucial Catch," the NFL's breast cancer awareness program.  Today, as a digital advertiser, there’s something to be learned from SportsVision’s breakthrough of embedding desired information in content the audience is already consuming.    



For most websites, only 2% of web traffic converts on the first visit, and time spent on a search engine results page is estimated at less than a quarter on all online activity. Just like SportsVision, put your message where the audience is – in this case, online content. Retargeting through display advertising is a great channel to reach consumers with your brand message on content sites, after they have left your site or failed to click on the SERP.

There are many types of retargeting, depending on where your customer may be in the funnel: site, search, email and social.   Based on your KPIs, you can determine which is best for your business, and the answer may be several.  With search retargeting, for example, you are attempting to capture consumers that have previously searched for and expressed intent in your product or service, even if they haven’t interacted with your site or brand.

If you’re new to the retargeting space, plan a campaign that will support and complement your existing SEM activities. When you’re evaluating a vendor, ask the right questions:

  • What measures are in place for brand safety?
  • Who are the data partners, and what is their corresponding inventory?
  • Are the data collection techniques reliant on cookies? Does the vendor offer a more accurate method?
  • How do they address opt-out/privacy concerns?
  • What drives the optimization strategies?
  • For search retargeting, where does the vendor source the keywords they run?
  • Is there transparency on costs and reporting?
  • What is their mobile strategy, and how do they plan to grow it?

I caught up with Anders Hjorth, BDBL Media founder, who presented a case study at SMX London in May. BDBL implemented an extension product for its paid search clients, targeting users who had previously interacted with the client’s site, and found that it increased the number of conversions at the same CPA level. Hjorth warned that that de-duplication and an accurate attribution strategy are essential to proper analysis.  "You need to channel all conversions through one single tool, in real time, to best adjust your campaigns.  Separate [your campaigns for] search from display and, at the end of the month, determine who gets the conversion." He advocates real-time bidding as an intelligent and scalable method for brands to hit a qualified user base, enabling an extension into audience buying via the same tools and technology used for your initial retargeting efforts.

Best of all, Hjorth reminds us, "prospects do not have to visit your site or interact with your ads. When you go beyond cookie-based targeting, you can capture look-alike audiences with the same characteristics as your existing client base."

In an age of fragmented media, we need to break down barriers and be creative about reaching new people.  There’s renewed life in using your search query report outside of the SEM channel to avoid an interception and retarget those already in market for your offerings (touchdown)!

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