Google is expanding its retargeting program, available in beta since March 2009, to all AdWords accounts. The move gives thousands of small advertisers the ability to target non-converting prospects and other site visitors through display ad inventory on Google Content Network sites they later visit.
Google began its retargeting trial a year ago as part of its interest-based advertising program. With that program, Google began maintaining behavioral profiles of users based on their Web activity (but not their search history). It also began offering about 500 beta advertisers the ability to track site visitors via a Google cookie and then retarget those users - a practice Google calls "remarketing" - on sites in the Google Content Network.
Beta program participants included Infinity, Samsung, and InterContinental Hotels Group.
In addition to retargeting their own site visitors, AdWords users can reach out to individuals who have interacted with their brand on YouTube, including either their YouTube brand channels or a YouTube homepage ad.
Samsung said it was able to reach more than 100,000 users who interacted with its YouTube homepage ad on Valentine's Day. Infiniti meanwhile used remarketing to drive awareness of its G Coupe and QX SUV series models during the NCAA March Madness tournament, in conjunction with its television advertising. And InterContinental substantially increased the size of its investment in remarketing, according to Google.
Each of those advertisers is large and represents somewhat high-consideration products - in other words, fairly typical of what one would expect from retargeted media buys. By opening the program to all advertisers, Google hopes to see the practice thrive among smaller as well as more branding-oriented advertisers.
By their nature, small marketers will find limited inventory to reach their site visitors on other sites in the Google Content Network.
"The nature of remarketing for any small business is you're constrained ultimately by the size of your list," said Google product manager Aitan Weinberg. But he added, "For small advertisers...while the ultimate volume may not be as large, [effectiveness] can still be really strong."
For all its current enthusiasm, Google actually came late to the retargeting game. Retargeting offerings were available on major publishers and ad networks such as Yahoo, Advertising.com, and ValueClick years before Google's program.
Notably, Google has not yet embraced retargeting of ads based on consumer search activity - as Yahoo does. However several years ago it began delivering ads based on its users' immediately prior searches. That practice, which resembles behavioral targeting without the use of stored user profiles, can better capture the context of a search and the searcher's intent, Google argues.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
March 19, 2014