How To Sell Search Retargeting To The CMO

Whether you are a search marketer or a display planner, chances are you now know what search retargeting is and are contemplating a test (for those of you not familiar, search retargeting is a display media buy that focuses on just those individuals who have searched for something that matters to you but who haven’t yet visited your site).

The last barrier to overcome is to convince the CMO of its merits.

How Does Search Retargeting Work?

If you are going to sell a search retargeting test internally, you need to know the basics better than they do:

  • search retargeting is a display media buy
  • the data is primarily collected using ‘referrer’ data through data partners that are paid for placing a vendor’s pixel
  • primarily the data is from the major engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo!) but may also be amplified using a variety of techniques
  • the media is bought from the exchanges and from premium inventory sources
  • brand safety should always be included using a tool like AdSafe or DoubleVerify
  • use resources available (i.e. Retargeting Exposed)

A typical test campaign will be between $15k and $50k and the campaign charged on a dCPM (dynamic CPM) basis, meaning that the advertiser gets maximum benefit passed backed to them.

Retargeting Is Not What The CMO Thinks It Is

“Oh we already do that” is a common response to the search retargeting story; the problem is that our micro industry used the phrase ‘retargeting’ and so the CMO often assumes that we are referring to ‘site retargeting’, a commonly used tactic that talks to those individuals who have abandoned your site.

It is very useful to position search retargeting at this level using the term ‘prospecting’, making it clear from the start that this is something very different. And in fact, there are many tactics that fall into the ‘retargeting’ bucket, as can be seen from this infographic (The 7 Types of Effective Retargeting).

Retargeting Is Not Digital Stalking

Unfortunately, all types of retargeting are often tarred with the same brush and can have the negative connotation of being like digital stalking. We have all been on a retailer’s site and left only to be followed by their ads for what feels like forever more, giving us a negative experience.

No display tactic has to be like that!

With simple and correct use of frequency capping, a campaign can stay relevant to your audience and that feeling of over exposure eliminated – as an added bonus this will also save you money because you will be wasting less impressions!

The right frequency cap will depend on your own business and product, but a good starting point is 7×7 – a maximum of 7 impressions per day per individual for 7 days after they left the site.

On a similar note, search retargeting is highly targeted and some will ask about privacy concerns. All that is captured about an individual is a randomly generated cookie ID number and then search terms are matched anonymously.

Be sure to check that anyone you work with is also fully compliant with the NAI and IAB, and is providing an opt-out mechanism in line with the guidelines.

High ROI & Lots Of New Customers!

The CMO is going to want this by the numbers – if they are going to commit the dollars, what will the benefit be for them. Speaking about Chango’s clients only, we find there are 2 key metrics that matter – ROI (Return On Investment) and NTF (New To File).

The easiest sell is ROI – clients will often achieve a return of $2 to $10 for every $1 they invest into search retargeting, that’s hard to ignore! The actual return will vary for each type of product or business, but as a general rule search retargeting will be the top or second to top performing display tactic on a media plan.

The second is NTF – put simply New To File refers to the percentage of sales driven that are from individuals who are brand new customers for that business. Retailers in particular care about this metric, and will often be prepared to pay more for a sale if the customer is new rather than a repeat sale from an existing customer.

It will take a little more work to product this metric (collect the order IDs and run them against your CRM system) but the results are worth the effort.

Measuring The Impact Is Easy

Is the value really incremental? Is it overlapping with my PPC investment?

These are common questions that could be solved with a complex attribution study, but given how complex that can be to achieve (read impossible) then there are some alternatives that we have discussed in this column before – see 3 Simple Alternatives to Attribution Modeling for Search Marketers.

Your Competitors Are Doing It

Every CMO has a pot of money stashed away for testing new ideas primarily so that they can find new and innovative techniques that will keep them ahead of the competition.

Newsflash – some of your competitors are running search retargeting already. If I look across our client base, retail is huge, as is finance and travel, but we have clients in almost every industry – search retargeting has become mainstream.

There are also no restrictions on what terms are used, so your competitors are likely bidding on your brand term too.

Search Retargeting & Site Retargeting Working Together

Cupid himself couldn’t have found a better partnering that search and site retargeting! Search retargeting is the prospecting engine – it finds those new people based on the intent they are expressing using their search language, it delivers the individuals most likely to convert.

Once they have arrived, site retargeting can take over and ensure that if those same individuals leave before converting then they are served with a relevant message to bring them back for a second chance.

The Data Says Search Retargeting Has Tremendous Value

In a recent ComScore study, it was revealed that whilst 18.7 billion searches took place on the major search engines, a further 9.9 billion searches took place on non-search engines – that means 35% of all searches are taking place outside of the reach of Google AdWords and therefore your reach.

Those individuals are in the consideration cycle, actively looking for someone else to buy from or reviews of your service. Using the right type of targeting you can isolate just those individuals and ensure you are present at this very critical time.

Testing Is Simple

The really good news is that testing all of this is simple! To test search retargeting you need a keyword list, any existing display creative and your landing page URL – that’s it!

You can sometimes have the option to be self-serve or full-serve, but full-serve is available at the same price and will ensure someone is optimizing your campaigns on a daily basis.

So Your Message To The CMO…

Search retargeting is a prospecting tool that has established itself as a high performer for giving consistent returns as well bringing net new customers.

Whilst it may still seem very new, search retargeting has become mainstream and appears on many of your competitors marketing plans. Testing is easy, so why wait?

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 the Chief Strategy Officer at Chango, the solution to programmatic marketing and "big data", and is based in San Francisco and London. You can follow him on Twitter @DaxHamman.

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  • Dmitry Pakhomkin

    Very good post Dex,

    but let me get this straight… May be a stupid question to ask at SearchEngineLand, but anyway :)
    If there are thousands of people coming to our site and we know what kind of products they are looking to buy in their neighborhoods (so query includes exact item/category and physical location), we can “sell” these users (via cookie or something like that) to a company that will later hit them with ads?

  • VroomVroomVroom

    I’m a CMO. I got sold re-targeting. Loved the ROI. Until I realised the reporting on re-targeting is very flawed. Re-targeting takes credit for sales that should be credited to other things. If a sale was made because a user left to eat lunch or check with the wife and came back again, re-targeting would take credit for it. 

    For me, re-targeting had value. But mostly for brand awareness. Not for ROI. 

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  • Dax Hamman

    @twitter-14959892:disqus That is a valid and common problem. I actually think site retsargeting is a site conversion tool – it will have a very solid ROI, but that has to be credited in the right way. Something like search retargeting often loses credit to site retargeting, a good attribution model or one of these alternatives will help:

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