In the world of online display advertising, retargeting is the hands-down winner for showing a fabulous return. Its ROI (define) and the resulting advertiser demand are the reasons so many networks offer this targeting option. But is it always the go-to option, and how much should you trust those numbers?
At the most basic level, retargeting allows advertisers to cookie visitors to their site or to particular site pages and to continue to serve them targeted ads on the Web where your publisher or network finds them. It is incredibly useful for e-commerce, where sales and revenue are the only real measurement that matters. Consider that once someone has been to your site or exhibited other desirable behaviors, they are, de facto, more likely to convert than the general public. That is what makes those behaviors desirable. But some networks have tremendous audience reach and so by virtue of their size alone are likely to have some exposure to the retargeted audience and often get credit for sales or leads that had nothing or little to do with the ad exposure or might have happened under any circumstance.
Taken With a Grain of Salt
To paint a more realistic picture of the retargeting contribution to your overall results, you can take a few steps. First, manage your cookies so that view-through conversions have a reasonable window. The goal is to capture those ad viewers who may have been influenced to act by the ad exposure, not just to grab credit for anyone your network happens to serve. The appropriate view-through window will vary by client, audience segment, sales consideration cycle, messaging, and a host of other factors.
Second, coordinate your analytics so you can get an integrated picture of the audience touch points and paths to conversion across tactics and channels. Third, test. There are many benefits to having a consistent behavioral program in place, but if you really believe it isn't contributing the ROI that the reporting shows, then turn if off for a time and see if and where your overall program results suffer.
Why Not Retargeting?
It's becoming harder to resist going to a display media model with a strong element of retargeting. It converts very well at lower costs, so it makes for great campaign reporting and it can scale quickly across a network or multiple networks. So why would you do anything else?
Many reasons. Below are a number of situations or scenarios where I typically would not recommend retargeting:
While retargeting is an incredibly useful tool for marketers, it serves no one if we put it on a pedestal. It should earn its place in your plan just like other campaign elements. Recognizing the halo effect these retargeting programs often have doesn't diminish their efficacy. It just creates more appropriate accountability for providers, agencies, and marketers and more opportunities to realistically and suitably compare budget outlays and returns across the growing array of options in online marketing.
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Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.
Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.
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