How to get results from ad dollars you’ve already spent by using retargeting

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

John Wanamaker, founder of Philadelphia’s historic Wanamaker’s department store, once said, “I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted – I just don’t know which half.” In online marketing today, metrics can tell us exactly which dollars spent on pay-per-click advertising clicks wound up converting to a lead or sale and which may have been ‘wasted.’ “On average less than 3 percent of online shopping search clicks today end up in a lead or sale ‘conversion,’” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “However there is a tactic available that can recoup results from that lost 97 percent.”

SmartBusiness spoke with Hourigan about how a company can get better mileage from and literally resurrect results from their spent PPC dollars.

What is this ‘Resurrection’ paid search tactic?

The tactic is interchangeably called ‘Retargeting,’ ‘Remessaging’ or ‘Remarketing,’ and it works in a similar manner as other paid search advertising campaigns. Google Adwords, Microsoft AdCenter and numerous online ad service networks support this campaign format. A code is put on pages of your website that places a ‘cookie’ with people as they visit your site.  Then as they are browsing around the Web, your retargeting campaign shows them your specific text or display ads to them for up to 30 days later (This is typically the life of a cookie before it expires).

How does Retargeting save ad-spend?

Retargeting focuses on searchers who have indicated an intent and interest in your product or service through their initial click to your site. Retargeting ads keeps reminding them of you, which not only promotes a targeted branding message, but also gives them a quick and easy way to convert into a lead or customer further down their searching and buying cycle. For that 97 percent that did not become customers on their first click, case studies have shown significant ‘view-through’ conversions (people returning to your site later directly and then purchasing). The really great part is that, as with any Pay Per Click campaign, you only pay for click costs. So anyone exposed to your retargeting ads who comes back your site later directly does not cost you another dime in advertising expense.

I have a case study that highlights the powerful influence of retargeting, where the retail business   tracked the sources of their online customers over one month. 85 percent of their customers who were exposed to retargeting ads returned directly to their site to make a purchase, which means they only paid online advertising click-costs for the 15 percent that clicked through the ad to buy from them.

What are the best ways to use Retargeting?

You can get as granular as you need to with retargeting campaigns, and you should. You can set the campaign up to trigger when a person lands on any page of your website, on just the home page, or on specific pages. Many businesses have distinct product or service areas so drilling down to specific product or service pages and creating a retargeting campaign on that specific topic will tend to have the most closely matched and best performing results.

For example, if you sell collegiate team flags and a searcher visits your University of Florida flag page, you can set your retargeting campaign to show Gators-specific retargeting ads (vs. rival Florida State University Seminoles themed ads) and even bring them directly back to your Gators product page when they click.

Another recent study of online shopping behavior shows that 71 percent of customers fill a shopping cart and then abandon it. Consumers find this a great way to conduct comparison shopping with all information at hand (prices, availability, shipping, taxes, product, numbers, etc.). When a shopper does not buy right away, and continues to ‘Google’ and shop for a specific product of interest, retargeting gives you the opportunity to present them with a discount code or other incentive to return and purchase from you. This is also a great way to encourage online shoppers (while they are in the shopping mode) to consolidate multiple item purchases with you versus breaking up their order among slightly different priced alternatives.

As shopping online becomes more popular and as online shoppers become more adept at purchasing on the Internet, retargeting offers a key way to stay in your online shopping targets’ top of mind. Using retargeting as part of a seasonal or holiday advertising effort can significantly improve the results.

Knowing the habits of your target customer will help you craft the best strategy for using retargeting as a paid search tactic. Determine the pages on your site that signal lead generation or purchase intent, and then match a retargeting ad message to these. This may call for several separate campaigns (for example: if you sell shoes, pages on men’s work boots versus specific brands of women’s running shoes).

Evaluate the incentive you choose to bring shoppers back. Is a price discount best, or free shipping, or another enticement (including just the reminder of you and an easy one-click way to get back to their shopping cart on your website). Test these to find the best performers. A great benefit of paid search campaigns is that changes can be made instantly and tests can quickly render meaningful results.

Are there any dangers, and how do I avoid them?

Retargeting is a paid search tactic, so the same principles of paid search apply. In addition to thoughtfully crafting your retargeting campaign, triggers and content, you need to be on your A-game with bidding strategies and knowledge of the tools and platforms you use in deploying retargeting.

Another point to consider is:  Do you want to stop retargeting when your target purchases? Depending on your product, this may be a good idea. It may even be a trigger for next step (next product need) retargeting messaging. Many tools have been developed that allow you to control the frequency of retargeting messages, when to start and stop them, and other aspects that address specific customer situations.

The specialized tactic of retargeting is evolving, and as with most Internet tools and tactics, at a dynamic pace. I highly encourage partnering with an expert who not only knows what they are doing in this area, but who can synergize this among all your online marketing tactics, as well as harmonize with your offline advertising.

When implemented correctly, retargeting can bring greater returns for your ad dollars spent, and turn that average 3 percent conversion into a much higher number of leads and sales.

<< For details on the case study mentioned above, click to:

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, click to:

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or