7 Ways to Make Retargeting More Effective

tips for better retargeting

Everybody leaves. Well, most everybody.

Despite all your hard work, the vast majority of people who come to your site will leave without taking any action.

I’m not talking about 70 percent of the people. I mean like 95-98 percent of the people – the vast majority.

This has to sting, at least a little. You worked really hard to get those people to come to your site. Their clicks are precious. You either paid for them, or created content for them, or did something like an event or a podcast or a webinar.

Those clicks are the final step in a long process.

But for 97 percent (or more) of your visitors, that precious click – that brief visit – is the last time you’ll ever see them.

Unless you use retargeting.

Just so we’re all on the same page, when I say “retargeting” I mean retargeting as a subset of remarketing. “Remarketing” includes all the possible channels you could send messages through – everything from postcards to billboards, emails and events. Retargeting is a subset of that. It refers expressly to online advertising.

And it is exceptionally effective. So much so that marketers named retargeting and remarketing as the most effective tactics for social media and search advertising earlier this year. They also came in as the second easiest tactics to implement.

Most of the smart kids know this already, and they are rigorously applying the knowledge. High revenue companies are nearly twice as likely to invest in retargeting as low revenue companies:

And the odds are good you already know all this, too. And that you’re already using retargeting. But we wanted to help you kick your game up a notch. Here are 7 ideas for how to do your retargeting better.

1. Retarget from links.

The traditional way for retargeting to work is that you place a pixel (a tracking pixel) on your site. Whenever someone comes to your site, as they download the other elements of your page or pages, they’ll download that pixel as well. Once that pixel is downloaded, it works like a cookie so that whenever the user goes to any other website, there’s a little tag on that browser’s history that says, “I once visited Company XYZ’s Widgets page!”

But you don’t actually have to use a pixel. With the right tools (like MeteorLink or similar), you can do retargeting via a link.

Any link, actually. A link in an email, or a social media post, in a quest post link, or in a PDF document, or a Kindle book, or … wherever else you might want to embed a link.

After someone clicks that link, you can show them content around the web that is complementary to the link they clicked on.

If they clicked on a link within a guest post you wrote, even if that click goes to a third-party site, you can later show the person who clicked that link a complementary ad… like a white paper that’s a deeper dive into the same subject the guest blog post was about. Or you could show them an ad that promotes the services your company offers, which your guest blog post could only mention in passing.

2. Use negative matching audiences.

One of the principles behind why retargeting works is that it lets you laser-target your advertising resources. Instead of spending a ton of money advertising to every person who goes to the industry hub site XYZ.com, you can advertise only to people who go to XYZ.com and that have also been on your site.

This is a great start, but you can take it further.

You can take that limited number of people – people who go to XYZ.com and have been on your site – and you can narrow that audience down. You can use a negative matching audience to screen out people who have, for instance, viewed your job offerings page.

Or you can screen out people who are just on your site to use a calculator. Whichever page visitors you want to screen out, you can. Which will leave you with an even more targeted audience, and a way to stretch your advertising budget even further.

To do this, you’ll need a retargeting provider that lets you add “negative audiences” or that lets you exclude audiences. AdWords has this functionality; there’s a good video for how to exclude an audience on either the Search or Display networks here.

For remarketing providers besides AdWords, if you want to exclude people you’ll probably need to tie these website visitors’ sessions to an email address, an IP address, or some other unique identifier. That identifier will have to be something your targeting provider can recognize and use to screen those people out with.

If your system isn’t that smart or just doesn’t work that way, you could also create your own list to be used as a negative audience. For example, you could make a list of everyone who has already signed up for the webinar you’re promoting. Then you could remove those people from your universal list before you launch the retargeting campaign promoting that webinar. It’s extra work, sure. But it will reduce your advertising costs.

Note that this sort of filtering could also benefit from machine learning. A smart algorithm might be able to crunch the data on thousands of visits and tell you which particular pages (maybe even in what order) your highest-value, most likely customers view.

You could then apply that algorithm’s learnings to your ad buy, and maybe get the sort of ROAS (return on ad spend) that marketers dream about – not just the 300% ROAS which retargeting often delivers, but a ROAS like 3000%.


3. Test CRM Retargeting.

Got data? We bet you do. Most B2B marketers have a tremendous amount of data… and some of the best of it is in their CRM software.

With the right retargeting software (or the right integration with your retargeting software), it is now possible to hook up the two systems. So you can show ads based on CRM data like scheduled demos, email clicks, phone calls – every possible way you could communicate with a prospect or a customer.

This lets you evolve your advertising from a one-message-fits-all model to something truly adaptive. This “behavioral targeting” or “targeted advertising” could let you create as sophisticated a system of ads as you have for your triggered emails.

  1. Retargeting can be used with marketing automation.

This point just takes “behavioral targeting”/ “targeted advertising” and automates it.

Basically, with a good marketing automation system, you can segment your prospect and customer databases. Then you can use the email addresses within those segments to create targeted audiences. Then you can use those targeted audiences for retargeting campaigns.

Here’s a simple example of how it might work, and the rules you’d have to set up in your marketing automation system:

4. Use AdWords Frequency Reports to avoid ad fatigue.

Ever had a retargeting ad follow you around forever? It’s annoying. The worst example of this I’ve experienced was when my dog was dying, and somehow I got targeted with an animal cemetery ad. That ad followed me around the internet for weeks – several weeks after the dog was dead and buried.

I’m sure your ads will never cause that much angst, but there’s a way to make sure they don’t: Limit how often you show them. This makes for a better experience for your prospects and customers, but it could also save you a lot of money.

One survey of consumers found that one of the top reasons people dislike retargeting ads is how they can persist long after a prospect has lost interest. We can presume that B2B buyers probably have the same problem.

But the challenge, of course, is to know when your B2B buyers have lost interest. This could be gleaned by studying your reports enough to see when the effectiveness of your ads is falling off. Or it could also be another opportunity for machine learning or AI. An algorithm might be able to do a better assessment of this data than a human could, especially if you’ve got a lot of different personas and buyer journey paths.

However, you come to find the limit of interest for your ads, please find their limit. Because advertising to people beyond that window is just wasting money.

When you do know the time limit, change the settings in your retargeting accounts.

For AdWords users, this is fairly easy. Just head into the AdWords Frequency Report and take a look at when engagement is dropping off. Then limit the frequency cap accordingly.

You can get somewhat similar information about your ads in Facebook by looking at Delivery Insights. These appear at the ad set level in your campaigns. They can show you how many times your audience has seen your ads.

Unfortunately, Delivery Insights won’t actually tell you that your response rates are dropping off after, say three impressions. You may need to create a tiny test audience and monitor it closely to figure out when to stop showing retargeting ads to people. Or just when to swap out the creative.

6. Use “smart burn” pixels and pages.

We don’t need to show ads to people who have already taken the action those ads are trying to incite.

This is pretty obvious, yet it’s a mistake many advertisers make. Even email marketers make this error – I routinely get webinar invitation emails for webinars I’ve already signed up for.

Fortunately, this is an easy fix. Just set a “smart burn” pixel or page for each of your retargeting campaigns. This is just a setting that tells your ad platform to stop showing ads after a user has completed a given conversion action.

If you’ve got a well-defined customer journey, you could also use conversion actions to move people into a different retargeting segment. So – for example – once they’ve signed up for the webinar, you could urge them to go complete an online assessment. And then, with the information you learned about them from the assessment, you could customize the advertising they see even further.

7. Don’t spend money nudging people who don’t need a nudge.

The advertising company Nanigans published an infographic earlier this year about “optimizing for incrementality”. It asserts that “U.S. retailers are leaving $5 billion on the table” because they spend their retargeting budgets advertising to people who would have bought from them anyway.

The way to save this $5 billion dollars, they say, is to “optimize for incrementality”, which means to show ads only to people who need a nudge to make a purchase.

This principle would probably apply to B2B buyers, too. And while it might be tricky to figure out who needs a nudge and who doesn’t, you could start to figure that out by watching how quickly each prospect goes through the triggers of your buyer’s journey.

For example: If a prospect spends more than half an hour on your website the first time they visit, and they download three resources while they’re there, that might be someone who doesn’t need you to spend $50 in ads to get them to finish the assessment.

A truly advanced retargeting program (or an algorithm) might be able to assess prospects not just on where they are in the buyer’s journey, but how fast they’ve moved through to that point.

Rapid triggers (buyer’s journey “velocity”?) could tell your retargeting system to conserve ad spend on this particular prospect, as the prospect may be so keen to buy that they don’t need any additional advertising. Instead of showing them more ads, have a sales rep call them.

Final Thoughts

Retargeting can be a sophisticated way to reach prospects and customers with highly targeted messages. If you’d been doing retargeting, but haven’t yet started segmenting your ads or – even better – using automated systems to show specific groups specific messages, it’s time to upgrade your game. The technology exists for all of us to get way more strategic about how we advertise.






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