The Beginner's Guide to Search Retargeting

Jody Pellerin
Published: Apr 02, 2020
Last Updated:
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Did you know that only 2% of your website visitors make a purchase? How would you like to convert folks in the other 98% into customers?

With search retargeting:

  • Up to 70% of visitors who leave your website without purchasing are more likely to convert in the future than if they aren’t retargeted.
  • Conversion rates for users who abandon their shopping carts more than triple from 8% to 26% when you use search retargeting.
  • Retargeted online viewers are 43% more likely to convert.

While not a new practice, search retargeting can be confusing. Here, we’ll help you increase conversions at a fraction of the marketing cost by teaching you the basics of search retargeting.

What is search retargeting?

Search retargeting involves automatically displaying dynamic ads to users based on their search histories and web browsing behaviors. Also called search intent retargeting, the marketing tactic helps businesses identify, bid for, and optimize their keywords for search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

As users browse the web, they’ll be served relevant display ads based on terms they previously searched.

Search retargeting is primarily meant to help businesses find new customers and increase brand revenue. An upper funnel marketing strategy, search retargeting uses intent to connect businesses with web users through behavioral targeting. Users are shown ads based on your display inventory as they move through other sites.

What are the benefits of search retargeting?

The most obvious benefit of search retargeting is that it helps your business acquire new customers. However, the marketing tactic also brings many more noticeable boons:

  • Retargeting increases trademark search behavior by up to over 1,000% compared to other targeting strategies.
  • Search retargeting helps you stretch your marketing dollar. Because it’s based on intent and browsing behavior, retargeted ads are highly relevant to the user and help you reach your target audience more effectively and efficiently.
  • You can create branded ads with high visual impact that are not possible with a typical pay-per-click (PPC) campaign.
  • Because your advertisements are based on display inventory, the ads are more affordable. You will cut costs on highly competitive keywords that become expensive due to bidding wars.
  • You will glean valuable insights into your target customer’s online behavior. Data you receive about your ads and how users interact with them will help you measure your search retargeting campaign’s effectiveness and determine whether you need to tweak your content.
  • Users come back when they’re ready to buy. In fact, the average click-through rate for retargeted ads is 10 times higher than that of PPC display ads.

How does search retargeting work?

At a high level, search retargeting captures user data surrounding intent as they perform searches and browse the internet. You use the data to target specific ads to prospects based on their search history and browsing behavior.

Think about it. Repeatedly showing an ad to someone who has not signaled they are looking for your product is an ineffective and inefficient use of your marketing spend. Let customers tell you with their search histories and browsing habits when they’re ready to engage with your offerings. With search retargeting, you’re in prime position to reveal your products precisely when users are most ready to buy.

Most prospects don’t mind seeing ads for items they’re already interested in.

A Quick Search Retargeting How To

  1. Select a display side provider or ad network such as Google Ads. These services collect data from marketing partners that use cookies for users that find their sites using a search engine.
  2. Determine your keywords. Consult your search engine marketing list, use a tool such as Google Trends, or analyze your traffic to learn the terms people use to find you.
  3. Optimize your display ads for the highest impact and clearest calls to action.
  4. Place bids for keywords.
  5. Monitor click and conversion behavior. Make appropriate changes to further optimize your keywords and ads.

3 Simple Tips for Success in Search Retargeting

1. Measure, Measure, Measure

The old adage remains valid. If you don't measure, you won't know what works. Be sure to track key metrics such as:

  • Impressions
  • Click-through rates
  • Cost per click
  • Click-through conversions
  • Number of visits

Determine your ad spend performance for every keyword, domain, time of day, and other parameters.

2. Start Big

Search engines such as Google use sophisticated algorithms to analyze tons of data to provide users the best answers for their queries. Use that to your advantage.

  • Start with a broad set of potential keywords before narrowing terms down to the ones that work best for you.
  • If you start with a narrow list, you will miss similar search terms that don’t precisely match your keywords but may work better.
  • Use branded terms, lower funnel keywords phrases, competitor terms, any keywords that relate to your offering.
  • Measure performance and weed out underperforming terms.

3. Discover Keywords from an Existing Audience

If you haven’t already done so, identify keywords by using customer data stored in your system. Use data from contact forms and purchases.

Look for common keywords and phrases current customers use to find your site, and don’t be too quick to throw out a phrase.

<div class="tip">Search retargeting is a game-changer for getting leads that might otherwise never return to your site—but done poorly, it won't be effective. Watch out for these retargeting mistakes.</div>

Final Notes

Search retargeting is an effective marketing tactic that you can easily start using with your current keyword list and customer data. With it, you will:

  • Boost your brand awareness.
  • Raise the value of your marketing and sales funnel.
  • Enhance visitor engagement by providing ads for things people have already shown an interest in buying.
  • Increase your odds of selling while cutting the cost of keyword bids.

To make the most of search retargeting, practice accurate keyword-level retargeting. Consolidate your keyword list and display ads before making your bids, and then monitor the performance of each keyword and ad so that you can optimize your pieces into a finely tuned campaign.

This article was written by writer Jody Pellerin.


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