Search Retargeting: The Must-Have Media Tactic For Q4

As we rapidly enter the busiest period for the year for retailers, many are turning to Search Retargeting as the keystone for their digital marketing programs. Whereas in Q4 2011 many dipped a toe into the pixeled waters to test out its effectiveness, this year they have embraced it at scale.

In its simplest form, Search Retargeting allows a retailer to find those individuals who have searched for a relevant term on Google, Yahoo! and Bing, but have not yet visited their site. This latter point is critical – Search Retargeting is unlike a typical retargeting or remarketing program in that it focuses on net new customers, not those who have abandoned your pages.

Retailer Case Study

In a recent campaign for a major traditional grocery retailer (with a growing online business), Chango was used to deliver against a set of diverse, and sometimes surprising, set of challenges.

A. Challenges

Our grocery client is in a competitive market, one that is fundamentally evolving because of changing buying habits, especially the use of online grocery ordering. They must compete with behemoths that can outspend them 100 to 1 and are household names, not just brand names. They have dollars to invest, but like many challenger brands, they must be smarter than their competitors, and squeeze out every last drop of benefit.

They struggle to rank for important home delivery terms in SEO because the market is too crowded, and their budget doesn’t stretch to head terms in PPC like [supermarket] because in some markets it is simply cost-prohibitive.

Like many such retailers, their product portfolio has diversified, and they want their audience to know they are a one-stop shop for flowers, electronics and wine. And as a high-end retailer brand, they are extremely cautious about the quality of their ads, as well as the placement

Most importantly, they want net new customers, as these will bring the maximum value over their lifetime.

B. Methodology

Search Retargeting is about defining audiences based on their intent, and that intent is defined by the keywords that the individual is searching on. The audiences defined included:

Curious about online grocery: [online grocery], [online supermarket], [supermarket home delivery], etc.

Competitor conquesting: brand terms of competing supermarkets and retailers, and the brand names of their major in-house product lines

Flower buyers: [order flowers], [mother’s day flowers], [flower gifts], etc.

Wine buyers: [order wine], [wine cases], [wine delivery] and brand names of wine information sites and guides

Each individual was shown an ad that was relevant to the category they were searching for. All ad placements were screened with a three-layer brand safety methodology to ensure suitable placement.

C. Results

  • Against an ROI target of 6:1, Chango delivered results peaking at 11:1
  • 42% of all orders came from net new customers
  • One third of all sales were from individuals who had searched for a competitor’s brand term
  • 20% of sales came from new customers buying wine
  • 26% of sales came from new customers buying flowers
  • The gap created by the SEO and PPC environment was filled, providing a presence for consumers on strategic terms

D. Driving more efficiency

Smart buyers know that a good campaign should be optimized positively, and negatively, against simple ROI or ROAS (return on ad spend); yet, this often was the hardest point to teach media planners when I was on the agency-side.

What we mean by this is that a campaign should be measured against all its goals, not just the single goal of ROI. You sacrifice some ROI in exchange for achieving a secondary goal that has strategic value.

With this particular campaign, the client was very happy with the ROI we were achieving, a peak of 11:1 return instead of the 6:1 goal.  The campaign was analyzed, and it was seen that we could invest more in wine and flower terms, even though they were low performers for ROI – this lowered the ROI initially, but generated thousands of new customers to strategic product ranges.

In addition, the retailer deployed the Exclusion Pixel site-wide, which tells the system not to target any individual who has already visited the site, therefore driving up net new customer percentage, and removing the overlap with an existing site retargeting buy.

Each week, we would supply a list of order IDs associated with the Search Retargeting program, and the client would match them against their CRM system, giving us access to data that helped the optimization further for net new customers.

The Q4 Gold Rush

In a recent eMarketer / Chango study, eMarketer reports that this retailer is typical of others who are turning to Search Retargeting. Nearly all respondents (93.9%) reported that they were using it to acquire new customers, and two thirds (63.6%) were using it to conquest from their direct competitors.


A reason for the latter is that unlike PPC, the targeting of competitor terms is hidden from view; you may see an ad being served for your competitor, but you don’t know which keyword was the trigger. This prevents the bidding war that often breaks out in search.

When coupled with high returns and consistent performance, retailers are realizing that they may have found an early Christmas gift. In the white paper, Retargeting for Retailers Exposed, seven real marketers from brands including Resolution Media and iCrossing speak out on the roles retargeting can play, and also the pitfalls to be wary of.

Happy Q4 conquesting!

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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  • Jaan Kanellis

    @Dax. Can explain step #2? How is Chango tracking something that happens in Google search?

  • Dax Hamman

    Sure. Not sure which piece you are referring to though, can you elaborate?

  • Una

    yea, I also would like to know how can you target someone who have searched something on Google in the past?

  • Pat Grady

    They’re clearly wondering the same thing I am. How does Chango “listen in” on Google searches?

  • Pat Grady

    They’re clearly wondering the same thing I am. How does Chango “listen in” on Google searches?

  • John Shea


    Two questions:
    1. How many big retail sites do you have in your “private network of data partners who cookie individuals arriving from search engines”? If very few (as I imagine) where do you collect targetable transactional search data (eg. competitor brand names) as you suggest above?
    2. How is encrypted search effecting scale in your business?


  • DP

    I have done something similar, but it was/is a beta program offered by our Adwords support team.

  • John Shea


    Very neat. What kind of results did you get? Was there decent volume on transactional keyword targets (eg. nike running shoes)?
    I’m skeptical about the quantity and quality of of targetable transactional search with either model. Presumably the majority of transactional search lands on retail websites (eg. amazon). These sites would be foolish to sell data to Chango or to host search-driven GDN ads. Therefore, I speculate that the search re-targeting opportunity is really restricted just to informational search?
    For retailers, I think something like might be a wiser choice. And longer term, I think building out informational site content for SEO is certainly smarter than targeting banners of informational search.
    Now, that all changes if/when amazon gets into this game…

  • Dax Hamman

    Ah ok, that makes sense. Here is a quick overview from our site that will help answer that. Also, feel free to reach out for a call or over email if you want to dive deeper. It’s pretty interesting stuff, but I might be a little biased :)
    We collect data through a private network of data partners who cookie individuals arriving from search engines – this is called ’referrer data’. All of our data is collected anonymously and stored against a cookie ID, and we abide by all privacy rules and best practices, including those of the NAI and IAB. The data partners that we work with are compensated financially for dropping the Chango cookie on their site. We also build on this search signal using a process we call amplification. During the campaign we monitor the behaviors of the clickers and converters and, using the search data as the seed, find other individuals who will respond favorably to the same campaign; think of this as a search-a-like.

  • Dax Hamman

    Yes, they tried this in beta. Interestingly, they use the same sort of referrer data as we do (see my other response about about how), but they limit themselves to GDN referrer, and so the source is less diverse in our opinion.

  • Dax Hamman

    Hi John – please see answer above, and you might want to download the blue whitepaper (Retargeting Exposed: Not Another White Paper About Retargeting!) for more info:

    We do have some big retailers in our data set too – it’s a great proposition to consider, you want to generate ad dollars without running ads on your site, so why not come to someone like Chango and generate dollars with an ‘invisible ad’.

    With regards to your second question, smart point. And in fact, the impact is negligible. We have become the 2nd largest source of search data in the US and so the volume of data removed has no real impact. In addition, we have data partners doing smart things that mean this data is still collected and passed to us.

  • Dax Hamman

    Good question. We primarily run campaigns on direct response goals, and have clients spending over $500k a month. Lots of scale and performance these days.

  • Carmen Johnson



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