Give Your Advertising a Second Chance

You’ve probably heard about lots of different ways to target an ad to potential customers, but what about retargeting an ad? It’s an evolutionary step beyond behavioral targeting, and though it promises great returns, it’s not for everyone. Read on to learn more.

For those who may not be familiar with the kind of advertising on which this concept is based, let’s start with an explanation. “Behavioral targeting,” “behavioral advertising,” or “behavioral marketing” all refer to basically the same thing in the context of search engine marketing. The idea is that you track the kinds of web sites a potential consumer surfs, and later serve them ads based on their interests, regardless of what sites they visit.

To help you understand that, let’s contrast it with the better-known online advertising technique of contextual advertising. With contextual advertising, someone surfing to a web page that details the attractions of sunny Fort Lauderdale might see ads for hotels in the area. With behavioral targeting, if it was clear from that person’s surfing habits that they were really into flea markets and bargain hunting, he might see an ad for the huge Swap Shop on Sunrise Blvd – while his friend the music buff might go to the same page and see ads for the latest attractions at the Sinatra Theater.

So how is behavioral retargeting different from behavioral targeting? Well, the idea is as simple as the fact that effective advertising is based on repetition, repetition, repetition. Let’s say the music buff clicks on the ad for the Sinatra Theater, noodles around for a while on its web site, but for whatever reason decides not to buy anything (or do whatever it is the theater hoped he’d do).

As he cruises around the rest of the Internet, he encounters display ads for the Sinatra Theater. This isn’t just coincidence; it’s part of a planned advertising campaign to follow him around. Eventually, when he’s ready to buy, the display ads will have fixed the Sinatra Theater more firmly in his head, and he’ll go back to that web site and make his purchase. Thus, a potential customer that was originally “lost” is regained.

As with behavioral targeting, behavioral retargeting makes use of cookies. Both forms of targeting need to be able to track web surfers as they travel the Internet to be effective. The nice part of it is that, since the potential customers have already visited your site before, you won’t need to use something that is as costly as a sponsored ad in a search engine to get their attention.

Indeed, one form of behavioral retargeting is known as behavioral search retargeting, because it tries to lure web surfers back to your site after they visited it once by clicking on an ad in a search engine. When you’re paying by the click for visitors, it only makes sense to try to recoup some of the expense involved when visitors don’t convert. So it’s not surprising that Yahoo is one of the companies that offer behavioral retargeting.

Behavioral search retargeting, so the theory goes, is particularly effective because the customer is “in market.” He or she is already doing research about something, probably with an eye toward buying. A lot of buying decisions take time, though, depending on various factors. That’s why you want to retarget the web surfers who visited your site once from a search engine; while they’re making up their minds about who to buy from, you want to stay in contention and not have them decide to buy from someone else because they forgot about you.

But behavioral search retargeting isn’t the only kind of retargeting. There is also web site retargeting. With this, you’re retargeting visitors to your site for ads regardless of how they arrived. You can follow them around on your site and retarget them for ads based on their click-stream, search path, registration activity or purchase history.

A third type of retargeting is ad exposure retargeting. Just because a web surfer saw your ad once and didn’t click on it doesn’t mean he might not click on it if he saw it again. Or it could simply be that the offer you presented in that particular ad was not of interest to him. Show him another ad, with a different offer, and he just might go for it.

If you’re going to use any form of retargeting, there are a number of points you need to keep in mind. First, think about your potential customers’ past behavior. If you want to inspire a conversion, you need to retarget based on what they’ve shown an interest in.

Also, keep in mind how long it takes the average consumer to decide to purchase your type of product. For example, if it takes them three weeks to reach a decision, you want to retarget your potential customer again and again throughout that period. In fact, retargeting is considered to be more effective when the length of the sales cycle is significant; remember that when you’re thinking about whether to use retargeting at all.

As things stand now, there isn’t quite enough traffic based on retargeting alone to carry an entire advertising campaign. Retargeting can deliver impressive numbers for a lower cost, but at least one company that offers the service advises users to figure retargeting as no more than 10 percent of their advertising strategy.

Remember that retargeting and behavioral targeting aren’t the same thing. They aren’t interchangeable. They do both utilize user cookies, though, so if a site visitor deletes or refuses to accept cookies, he or she won’t be exposed to your retargeted advertising.

Retargeting does call for pixels to be placed on your web site so that web surfer behavior can be monitored and surfers can be tracked when they leave your site. While a single pixel may not slow down the load time of your site, multiple pixels may, especially if one of your servers can’t handle the load.

Like other forms of advertising, retargeting requires you to create a well-thought-out plan for it to work. You need to think like a customer to puzzle out, based on their past actions, their next moves and future intentions. You need to know what is motivating them, and pitch to that.

Remember what I said earlier about using a variety of display ads to follow web surfers around? Well, since you don’t have any way of knowing exactly where they will go when they leave your site, you need a full selection of ads available in all sizes so they can fit wherever a surfer goes on the network: banner ads, skyscrapers, islands, the whole nine yards.

As I mentioned, behavioral retargeting is a subclass of behavioral marketing, and that form of advertising has been seeing some fairly serious growth. Back in 2004, Jupiter Research figured the percentage of marketers who used behavioral targeting at 16 percent. Two years later, iMedia/Ponemon Institute issued a study in which they stated that behaviorally targeted advertising will make up nearly 21 percent of all online media purchases in 2006. That may not sound like much of a rise, but it shows the advertisers who are using behavioral targeting are growing more confident in their results – because that’s more than double the percentage of ads that actually used behavioral targeting in 2005.

eMarketer provides us with actual dollar amounts. It estimated spending on behavioral marketing will reach $1.3 billion this year. That’s an increase of 30 percent over last year. Before you say that’s not particularly impressive for Internet-based growth, here’s something to chew on: overall online advertising only grew by about 24.7 percent in the same period. However you look at it, behavioral targeting is a growing trend.

So what about behavioral retargeting? It’s a strong part of that trend, and for a good reason: it’s cost effective. Advertising.com reported that one of its recent behavioral targeting campaigns showed a conversion rate almost 10 times higher than a standard run-of-network campaign. In fact, it achieved the same number of conversions as that standard campaign with only one-twentieth of the ad impressions.

Other companies that offer behavioral retargeting services include 24/7 Real Media, Tacoda, Burst Media, Claria’s Behavior Link, and Undertone Networks. Some of these companies are also familiar names in the behavioral targeting space, of course. If you are interested in using behavioral targeting and/or retargeting, you should interview several firms to find out whose approach you’re most comfortable with. Again, keep in mind that behavioral retargeting might not be a good match for the products and/or services you offer; as with any form of advertising, you must consider whether it is appropriate for your business. Good luck!

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