Why Search Marketers Are Losing Out With Search Retargeting

Search retargeting finds those individuals who have searched on Google, Yahoo! or Bing for a keyword that matters to your campaign, but who have not visited your site before. Unlike site retargeting that talks only to those people who have abandoned the site without competing an action, search retargeting is for new customer generation.

Arguably the people with the best skillset to manage a search retargeting program are those skilled in PPC – search retargeting (when done right) is setup and optimized at the individual keyword level, and often a campaign begins by using the terms from an existing PPC account, and so the search marketer is front and centre in the process from the beginning.

In addition, the media that is bought to show the ads is through RTB (Real Time Bidding) from the ad exchanges (AdBrite, AdMeld, GDN etc), which is an auction environment… just like PPC.

(See: ‘Why Search Marketers are The Future Media Planners’)

And when we started Chango we presumed search marketers would be the bulk of our revenue, but interestingly it doesn’t work that way yet because any type of display buying still seems alien to the search marketer. Display media planners are in the game though and currently owning the space.

Why aren’t search marketers getting involved?

Scared Of Being Creative?

The creative unit in search marketing is the PPC ad, limited to 3 lines and a link, and is very different to the visual ‘banner’ units that display planners work with, and because most search marketers don’t have access to creative resources often find it intimidating to get started.

Display ads don’t have to be scary!

Every day online we see some very cool examples of interactive Flash units, homepage takeovers and clever use of video, and this must seem daunting if you haven’t done campaigns like this before. But the reality is that most campaigns can be started with a basic static as unit and improved on from there.

To get started, there are tremendous resources I have come across over the years that can help you cross the divide.

  • Canned Banners (http://cannedbanners.com/)
  • Build Flash ads easily using templates at a very low cost, quickly and easily. Very, very easy and they actually look really good if you spend a few hours working on them.
  • Which Test Won (http://whichtestwon.com/)
  • A great resource to learn quickly what works and doesn’t work in digital creative, and also the importance of lots of testing!
  • Moat (http://www.moat.com/)
  • See instantly what your competitors are running and learn from their efforts and designs.

The golden rule is just get started, get some basic ads produced and start running campaigns.


In the search world campaigns are measured on spend, clicks, CTR, CPC and conversions. The display world is similar, but contains an added element of view thru (VT) or post impression (PI) revenue.

Simply put, this occurs when someone sees an ad but doesn’t click on it prior to converting on the site. Search marketers would love this to be the case with their AdWords investment, but just because it can’t be, don’t be closed to it with display!

I believe that counting 100% of the VT revenue is incorrect as some of the audience would have visited that site and converted anyway, but counting 0% is also incorrect as decades of advertising tells us the ads work! Importantly, the budget holders for display mostly believe in VT and so understanding how to work with it is critical.

In a recent article we explored 3 Simple Alternatives to Attribution Modeling that will give you some simple ideas for how to do this. Some of these techniques require the use of an ad server like DoubleClick in order to measure the VT impact, but DoubleClick is very expensive and has large minimums. Check out AdSwerve who have a unique reseller agreement and can offer the same tool for a very small minimum.

Go Innovate!

As the highest performing line item on media plans, search retargeting has cemented itself as a key prospecting tool for marketers. It’s only going to grow in popularity and usage and search marketers should act now, overcome these barriers and grab their share of the program.

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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  • mylesyounger

    Hey Dax, thanks for the mention! Instead of a few hours spent creating Flash ads on Canned Banners, how does instantly sound?

    We’ve got an API in the works, and once it’s ready, a search marketer will be able to take existing search ads (e.g., a CSV file), feed them into a Canned Banners app, and automatically generate display ads. We already have the tech to grab stock images from Getty Images’ API, so you’ll literally be able to create finished display ads by supplying nothing but the text content — no design work needed! We’ve got a demo app here: http://demo.cannedbanners.com/getty-images/

    We want to ensure that search marketers won’t have any barriers to generating and refining display creatives.
    Last thing: http://www.mixrank.com is also a good source of intelligence on competitors’ ads.

  • http://www.stanleyoppenheimer.com searchengineman

    I listened to an interview with 

    Shelley Ellis interviews James Moore, Chief Revenue Officer at Simpli.fi on “What is Search Retargeting”.. a long time ago Nov 2011.  http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/18828745
    The idea was fascinating..using realtime display placement, based on search patterns and behaviour, I’m assuming Chango is into the same service.
    Is Search Retargeting only available for Campaigns with excess spends of 15K and upwards?  I understand the concepts. Isn’t this out of the range of SMB advertisers, and only for the big brands?  I’m not sure if its creative thats keeping searchmarketers back, but sticker price for the service.Searchengineman.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ross-Bradley/502566604 Ross Bradley

     pps; “Search retargeting finds those individuals who have
    searched on Google, Yahoo! or Bing for a keyword that matters to your
    campaign, but who have not visited your site before.” – Dax Hamman

    Story: Why Search Marketers Are Losing Out With Search Retargeting


  • http://twitter.com/celwell Chris Elwell

    Your experience may be that search marketers don’t buy display, but the data from attendees to our Search Marketing Expo – SMX conferences doesn’t support your point. Of those who buy internet media:
    - 84% buy paid search advertising
    - 74% buy paid social
    - 66% buy display

    Perhaps it’s your messaging to the search marketers and not their reluctance to consider display that is the issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnTimothyShea John T. Shea

    dax, i enjoy your articles. a question for you and the rest of the search re-targeters: how has the encryption of search data from logged in google users effected the size of opportunity in search re-targeting?  thanks…  


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