Best Practices for Retargeting (Part 1):  Are you reaching new customers or just annoying your best ones? 

retargeting best practicesJohn Wanamaker once said he’s wasting half his advertising but not sure which half.  In today’s programmatic buying, this sentiment can be updated to “I’m only buying the good half and annoying half of them with the wrong ad.”

Creative seldom has a seat at the table when planning a programmatic buy.  Media planners are more focused on the media logistics such as which audience to target and what to do in the platform itself to make it all work.  Despite what we all inherently know about the benefits of pairing messaging with the right audience, creative is usually an afterthought and/or done over here and not over there.  This is a missed opportunity and potentially annoying to customers who expect you to know their buying history with your brand.

We also annoy our customers with retargeting.  Many do it well but some not so much.  It is often said that search marketing is an art and a science.  While this blog post about Display, not Search, most people do run remarketing out of the Google AdWords interface, and it is expertise with that platform where the art and science come in.  At bare minimum, you create an audience, pixel your site, load in creative, set a budget and your ads start showing.  Where the annoyance of remarketing comes in is in four main areas:

  • Seeing ads over and over again for the same brand. This can be solved with a simple setting called “Frequency Capping.”  There is no set rule on what your frequency cap should be, but I use the following guideline:  If you have a limited budget, set the frequency cap very low – as low as one impression per week or even per month depending on low your spend threshold is and the size of the audience.  At higher budgets, 3 per week is a good guideline for the max.
  • Despite having just purchased from a brand, remarketing doesn’t seem to recognize that. A friend just told me she recently made a donation and the very next day received an email asking where she’s been and why she isn’t involved with this non-profit anymore. Without knowing the details I almost want to say there are a combination of problems happening here.  It sounds like this could be email retargeting gone bad: good delivery but wrong messaging.  Even if it was simply a coincidence, hits to a thank you page should always be suppressed from active retargeting efforts.
  • Three or more display ads for the same brand are showing on a single web page. This drives advertisers crazy.  If the buy was done on CPC, it’s not like you’re paying any more for these multiple impressions but you are certainly not putting your best foot forward to your customers.  If the buy is on CPM, you are paying for multiple impressions.  I offer two solutions to this.  First is, if you are using more than one retargeting partner (not a best practice, btw, because they cannibalize each other and bid up your cost), make sure each is given unique creative so you know which partner is serving which ad and then ask all but one partner to blacklist that site from their targeting.  If only one partner is being used, ad verification technology can identify this without your having to actually come across the ads yourself.
  • Your online creative looks nothing like your offline creative. Most brands and agencies still live in silos with offline over here, search over there, analytics someplace else, etc.  To your customers, though, you are one brand.  For well-known companies, customers will recognize them regardless, but for smaller ones, it’s possible they won’t.  Creative should be integrated, so the customer can easily recognize that your’re one and the same brand.

In Part 2 of Retargeting Best Practices, we will discuss innovative ways to leverage your audience data to drive more sales and new customers.


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