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Search Re-Targeting

How To Use Search Re-Targeting as Part of Your Digital Display Advertising Strategy

Search Re-Targeting can be a useful way to keep your message in front of potential customers who have expressed “in market” tendency based on what they’re searching, but haven yet taken that next step toward engagement.  

Search History Can Tell a Lot About Where Prospects Are in the Buying Cycle

In almost every industry today, both B2C and B2B customers tend to begin researching purchases on-line.  Depending upon the length of your typical buying cycle, using search history as an indicator of interest and urgency can be very effective.

For example, no one searches “wisdom teeth” unless they’ve been told they’ve got to get them removed.  What better time to inject your business into that conversation than when mom first reaches out to begin her research for an oral surgeon to remove her teenage son’s wisdom teeth?

Despite Recent Privacy Changes, Search History is Still Commonly Available

Certainly not all, but a material percentage of all search history is readily available on the most sophisticated targeting platforms.  As an agency with access to the most powerful tools available, we build search re-targeting audiences for a high percentage of our clients, most of whom find search re-targeting to be a valuable tactic in their overall digital display advertising strategies.

If you’re confused about search re-targeting as part of your digital display advertising strategy or you’re just wondering if it can help you grow your business, we are happy to offer some insight.  We offer a free initial marketing consultation.  By helping us understand how you want to grow your business, we can help you decide if digital display advertising is right for you, and if search re-targeting is the best method of targeting.

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How To Know When Search Re-Targeting Can Help Grow Your Business

When is audience re-targeting a smart tactic within your digital display advertising strategy?  It all begins with our formula:


By following this simple road map to design, execute, and evaluate campaigns we can know our return on investment (ROI).

Make Sure You Can Track Any Digital Display Advertising You Place

We typically accomplish this with two primary tactics:  (1) Pixel tracking, and (2) UTM or other tagging.

Some digital advertising platforms offer tracking pixels.  We deploy these to know which visits to the website are driven by each campaign.  Combined with Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager, this allows us to know how far down our customer acquisition funnel each prospect goes.

When tracking pixels aren’t available, we use a tagging process that communicates with Google Analytics to achieve the same goal.

Use Layers of Targeting to Avoid Waste & Make Your Ads More Relevant to the People Who See Them

Begin with the end in mind.  We often layer multiple targeting methods for best results.

For example, we often use questions like these to determine targeting layers:

Q:  Are there locations visited that indicate someone is a potential customer?

A:  This often includes places like competitor showrooms, restaurants similar to yours, nearby hotels, or even certain office buildings (location behavior can often be tracked to specific floors of high rises).  We commonly use location behavior as an indicator for targeting.

Q:  Is there past search behavior that indicates someone is “in market” for your product or service?

A:  It’s common for people to begin a purchase with an on-line search.  Being able to target your ads based on keywords and phrases can be helpful.  We commonly use recent search behavior as an indicator for targeting.

Q:  Is there past purchase behavior that indicates someone is a good prospect for your product or service?

A:  This often is represented by categories.  For example, if someone has purchased pet products in the past, it’s a strong indicator they have pets in the household.  We commonly use past purchasing behavior as an indicator for targeting.

Q:  Are past customers, and/or past visitors to the website important prospects for the future?

A:  Whenever someone visits your website and doesn’t become an actionable lead (or make a purchase), that may be a strong indicator that they are “in market,” but not yet ready to make a buying decision.  This is the classic application for audience re-targeting.

Q:  How specific is the customer persona?  Age?  Gender?  Location?  Income?  Home?  Car?

A:  For example, let’s say your best customer prospects are women 35-64 in a series of high-end zip codes who drive luxury import cars, are in the top 20% of household incomes, and live in homes valued at over $900,000.  That target can be built quite easily.

These various qualifiers can be layered on top of each other to narrow in on your best prospects.  And once you build the universe of your best prospects, you can then begin 

When Is Search Re-Targeting Most Useful?

Search Re-Targeting is most useful when you have an extended buying cycle.  If customers tend to make a quick decision (on-the-spot), then search re-targeting won’t likely be as useful.  However, if customers tend to research and make a buying decision over 3 days or more (we have customers who have identified a buying cycle as long as 12 months or more) search re-targeting can play an important role in your strategy.

A key benefit of search re-targeting is the ability to evolve the messaging to create more and more urgency.  For example, you may find that offering a discount or added-value offered to search re-marketing prospects may dramatically increase your conversion (closing) rate.  

Re-marketing based on search history also allows you to go straight to what makes you better than the rest.  If you feel confident a prospect has gotten the basic research already from a previous search, you can take the messaging more in-depth on factors you find are most important to customers who buy.  For example, if you are in a price-sensitive business, that’s the time to inject a discount or value-added with a time-constraint.  “Buy in the next 48 hours and save…”

Alternatively, if your competitive strength is quality, re-marketing is a good time to emphasize why you use the products you use, and what’s unique about the quality of your people.  For example, you could re-marketing with messaging like “Three reasons quality-conscious customers choose us.”  It’s also a chance to go negative (fear is often a good motivator) with “How to avoid these horror stories…” which is simply content that speaks to how you’re better than the competition.

Context is Meaningful to the Outcomes

Reach, simply because it’s available, doesn’t always translate to success.  In our experience, reaching the right people with the right message has to happen in the right context — the correct time and place that allows your potential customer to engage.  Ads that reach prospects when they can’t respond won’t get the desired levels of engagement. 

Our unique Bullseye Marketing Method is designed to track the context where our best engagement comes, and make adjustments to the campaign to focus on the most successful days, times, and other aspects of context that prove to be important for success.

When properly organized, you can deploy test campaigns on multiple digital advertising platforms and track the results to know which combinations of messaging and platform get the best results.

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