Bouncy balls? Fun. Bounce houses? Kids love them. Bounce rates? If your site or landing page has a high one, bouncing suddenly sounds a lot less fun. Your “bounce rate” is the percentage of website visitors who leave your site after viewing just one page—sure, they take a look, but then they leave just as quickly. A high bounce rate is especially frustrating when you’re running a PPC campaign. The visitor was interested enough to click on your ad, so there was probably higher-than-average interest, at least initially. But how can you turn these “lookie-loos” into applicants, enrollees, or at the very least, additions to your email list? Retargeting—using ads that are specifically targeted at web users who have already visited your page—is one way you can try to woo them back.
What is Retargeting?
Retargeting is a specific type of online marketing that usually uses display ads (though these can be text ads as well) that appear only to web users who have already visited your site. Your ads show up on other sites they visit, or within a given site. For example, Google serves ads to a wide range of sites, so retargeting ads in Google’s network might appear on blogs or news sites that the user visits. On the other hand, retargeting within a site—like Facebook—means that your ad might show up as a sponsored item in the user’s feed or in the promotional area on the right side of the page.
The basic idea is to keep track of web users who have visited your site, and then show them ads that will entice them to come back. This means that the ads that you use for retargeting may be different than your regular text or display ads. The web user already knows you—you just want him or her to come back and actually fill out your form, explore more of your site, or give you a call. Your ads can therefore be less “Hey! Check us out!” and more like, “Hey, remember us?” You can use more specific pitches (instead of “our university offers nursing degrees,” you could use “our university’s nursing graduates have X% job placement rate”) or offer different incentives that you wouldn’t just throw out to anybody. The targeted web users aren’t leads yet, but they’re a little further along than a complete newbie, and so retargeting ads reflect that status.
How Does Retargeting Work?
The cookie is what tells the retargeting network that this is someone who’s been to your page before, so when it’s determining what ads to display to a user—something that happens so quickly the user never sees it happening—your retargeting ads can be in the mix. This doesn’t impact any “regular” ads you may be running; those will still appear to web users who have never visited your website. The “cookied” users, however, will now see your retargeting campaign instead of regular ads. This happens pretty much instantly; as soon as new users land on your site, they’ll get a cookie, and that cookie will go to work as soon as they leave. This is all invisible to them, unless you employ a cookie alert (“this site uses…”), and doesn’t slow down the performance of your site or other sites that the user visits.
A less commonly used type of retargeting uses email addresses instead of cookies. It’s a more refined type of retargeting, since you’re targeting people whom you already “know” (usually web users who have already opted-in to receive email marketing from you or have otherwise provided you with an email address). These are most often used for retargeting ads on social media. You upload your list of email addresses to Facebook or Twitter, for example, and the platform serves users with those email addresses your retargeting ads. On one hand, this kind of retargeting lets you get highly specific, because people who have given you their info are generally pretty interested in what you have to offer. On the other hand, most people today have more than one email address—and the email address you have for them isn’t necessarily the one they use to sign into a given social network. That means you might be missing some users even though they are active on that network. This is hard to estimate though—these so-called match rates can be as high as 80% or as low as 20%, but you don’t really have a way of knowing. That said, if you’ve got a robust email list, this kind of retargeting can be a good way to reach especially well-qualified prospects.
What Makes Retargeting Effective?
Retargeting can be a powerful tool, but it has to be done right. Your retargeting ads are only shown to web users who have demonstrated some interest in your brand; every time they’re served your retargeting ads, you’re making sure your brand is still on their radar. This allows you to really tell a story and show off different facets of what you have to offer—you don’t have to stick to the basics, because the introduction has already been made.
It’s important to be careful, however, because many people find retargeting a little bit… well, creepy. Just as most people don’t take the time to use the settings that allow them to opt out of receiving cookies in their browsers, most people also don’t understand that cookies are anonymous. Yes, the user is being followed, but it’s not as if they’re being stalked. All that the cookie tells the retargeting network is that the user has been to your page before—it doesn’t store any other information.
Still, this is a reason to be smart with your retargeting. It’s important to only serve the same user so many of your ads—the best practice is to serve a user between 7 and 12 ads in any 30-day period. More than that can be overkill, and instead of being a friendly reminder you’ve now become the pushy salesperson. It’s also important to vary the ads. Show off different aspects of your brand rather than pushing the same message again and again. You’re still getting impressions, but since you aren’t hammering on one point you’re less likely to have the user develop a negative impression.
How is Retargeting Used?
There are two main strategies that are generally used with retargeting: awareness and conversions. Awareness is the most common, i.e. you’re just trying to stay on the web user’s mind. This can be used to try to bring back recent visitors, but it can also be used for cookies that are more, ahem—stale. If you’ve got a new announcement or a special event, you can use an awareness campaign to retarget even web users who came to your site a while ago. It’s important to remember though that “awareness” is a pretty amorphous goal. The anonymous cookied web users showed some interest in your site, but only one click’s worth. You can shoot for impressions and engagement, but you’re not necessarily going to get these users to take the next step.
Going beyond simply awareness, what gets web users to take the next step—whether that’s downloading a brochure, giving you a call, or filling out a form? Conversion campaigns make that next step clear, with a specific offer. If you’re using list-based retargeting, this can be especially effective. Web users who have already given you their email addresses are that much more engaged with you, so a conversion ad can be just what they need to seal the deal. That said, you can focus on conversions with cookie-based retargeting, too. You’re casting a wider net, but the leads you grab with it will be stronger.
Where Can You Use Retargeting?
In general, you can create a retargeting campaign anywhere that you can do pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Google was, unsurprisingly, a relatively early adopter. In fact, because Google initially referred to this practice as “remarketing,” retargeting is still sometimes referred to by that term. Using a big ad network like Google allows your ads to follow cookied users all over the web, since these networks serve ads on sites large and small.
On the other hand, especially if you’ve got a robust email list, social media remarketing can be especially effective. Social ads are integrated within the platform, so not only are they easy for users to interact with (liking, replying, retweeting), they also are more trusted since they come from your account. They’re still ads, but they feel more like native content. According to Facebook, adding their network to a retargeting campaign lowers costs per impression and click while bringing as much as a 92% increase in impressions.
Wondering whether retargeting could take your lead gen to the next level? Higher Power SEO can help with ad design, campaign management, and more. Call us at 760-881-4736 to learn more.