How Search-A-Likes Can Improve Both Search Retargeting & SEM Campaigns

Regardless of medium, the best marketers know cross-channel integration is key, and the exchange of information between channels should be a two way street. The world of online marketing is no exception, as more and more search marketers are looking to search retargeting as a way to leverage their knowledge of search engine marketing over into the rapidly evolving world of online display advertising.

There are several motivations for search marketers to get involved with display advertising. These include:

  • Lower CPC costs. In many cases, CPC costs are lower in display than they are in search, especially in verticals where there is significant competition exists and keyword prices are bid up to levels that make it uneconomical to further increase bids.
  • Increased Reach. While search marketing can be highly effective, search marketing often offers limited reach, and advertisers are often looking to target a larger audience.
  • Increased Frequency. In search, frequency is limited, as the only inventory available is on the search engine results page. Advertisers are looking to reach their audience more often.
  • Business Expansion. Search marketers can significantly broaden and grow their businesses by meeting more of their clients’ performance marketing needs.

Insights Can Flow Both Ways

For search marketers, search retargeting is an especially attractive way to expand their efforts into display, as it enables them to take advantage of their knowledge and experience with search keywords and keyword level bidding.Two way road

Most see this as a one way street, where their knowledge of search engine marketing will help their search retargeting efforts in display, but not vice versa.

However, savvy search retargeting practitioners, are now leveraging knowledge gained from their search retargeting campaigns to improve the performance and reach of their search campaigns.

They are doing this with the help of search-a-likes, a form of look-a-like modeling that uses search data.

Whereas traditional look-a-like modeling expands target audiences by using demographic, social or behavioral data, search-a-like modeling uses search data, which is commonly recognized as the data that indicates the highest level of intent.

How Search-A-Like Modeling Works

  • First, a conversion pixel is placed on the advertiser’s conversion page. This can be done either prior to a campaign starting (to collect existing converters), or once the campaign is running.
  • The conversion pixel enables the collection of anonymous IDs on browsers that are converting on the offer.
  • Once a sufficient number of converting browsers are identified, the search patterns of the converting browsers are analyzed. This analysis accounts for not only the search queries that brought the converters to the advertiser’s site, but other searches that the converters executed as they visited sites across the Internet.
  • Unique search terms that index highly to the group of converters are identified and extracted.
  • These terms are then added to the search retargeting campaign as keywords, and can also be added to search engine marketing campaigns.

Benefits Of Search-A-Like Modeling

Adding keywords from search-a-like analysis provides several benefits to the advertiser:

  • Increased delivery. The additional keywords expand the reach of the campaign.
  • Improved performance. The keywords added are known to be uniquely popular with existing converters, so typically these show strong performance.
  • Deeper insights. The insights gained from search-a-like analyses help marketers design new campaigns, and exploit cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

Search-A-Likes In Action

Examples of effective keywords discovered by doing search-a-like analyses vary widely. In some cases, keywords that are closely related to the advertised topic are discovered.

For example, in a recent auto campaign for a full sized gasoline powered sedan, the keyword “electric cars” was identified as a search-a-like term, was added to the search retargeting campaign and performed very well.

Similarly, in a campaign for an exercise boot camp, several military related keywords that were identified added both reach and improved performance to the campaign.

In other cases, keywords identified as search-a-likes are not as closely related. In a campaign for a mountain vacation resort, search-a-like analysis identified exercise and fitness related keywords that brought incremental reach and improved CPA performance to the campaign.

To fully take advantage of the insights both search retargeting and search engine marketing offer, marketers can now embrace the “two way street” notion and integrate information and learnings from one type of campaign to the other.

Search retargeting has benefitted from the knowledge and keyword level adjustment techniques search marketers perfected long ago, it’s nice that search retargeting can now return the favor.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display | Search & Display


About The Author: is a seasoned online advertising executive, specializing in targeting, optimization, and technology. Frost is CEO and co-founder of You can follow him on Twitter @phrossed.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.

Comments are closed.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide