Retargeting Won’t Fix Bad Marketing & 14 Other Truisms #PPC Pros Should Tell Their Clients

Posted in Retargeting

To begin, retargeting (a.k.a. remarketing) rocks out the world. Our team spent much of the last month traveling to visit emergent and mainstream retargeting platforms (Demand Side Platforms, or DSPs) including AdRoll, Acquisio/TradeDesk, Quantcast, Criteo, and others. Retargeting company players we did not visit or have not yet used, we studied. It is our pleasure to share our deep-digging face-to-faces with retargeting industry players. This post is a contribution to the dialog regarding the splendid universe of available remarketing products and what it means to operate according to best practices.

aimClear focuses on the top of the funnel first. Obviously, the more focused a site visitor is, the more potent the retargeting can be. At its best, retargeting amplifies what works, lowers CPA, and increases conversion. At its worst, retargeting can be disruptive and distracting from creative, larger strategies, as well as actual marketing decisions (like top-of-funnel targeting). Knowing when to retarget and what products to use… or not… means everything. Not every retargeting campaign works. If the marketing sucks to begin with, retargeting won’t help. If the marketing is great, retargeting will rock it.

One thing’s for sure: The online marketing industry is experiencing a retargeting frenzy and it’s helping marketers sell more! If your agency, boss, and/or team members have not pinged you to ask, “Gee [your name, dude], have we tried retargeting yet?” then get ready for the inescapable question.

This post provides timely answers. Also, most companies spending substantial online media spend dollars should be prepared for the inevitable sales calls from boutique retargeting platforms and even Google, trying to wrestle a larger piece of the media spend. This post also offers perspective for handling third party platform salespeople and Google alike. Here’s our take: PPC agencies have not been minimized. It is arguable that agencies just became even more indispensable. If you are physically operating AdWords now, consider running your third-party retargeting team. If an agency is operating your campaigns, have them do it. Ceding control to the DSP is like ceding financial control of your campaigns to Google.

Retargeting Gone Ballistic (In A Good Way)
The retargeting uprising should be no surprise to most marketers. The transformation has actually been underway for sometime. While retargeting tools may seem relatively new to some, savvy PPC practitioners have been cobbling together retargeting strategies for a while now.

Retargeting is a relatively simple technology that allows marketers to mark site content waypoints with cookies. After site visitors leave, we can serve them ads on nearly any network, as they visit other sites all over the Internet. Platforms expand a user’s site visit to a high percentage of the Internet by way of various networks. Via API relationships, nearly all retargeting platforms also access GDN and AppNexus. Many push Facebook now, as well. Some only handle FB.

Using retargeting platforms properly can lower CPA and increase scale. In some cases, sales improvement can be dramatic. In most cases, there can be at least incremental improvements.

Big companies have been using retargeting techniques and now they are available to mainstream SMB and mid-size companies. Advertisers, who move now with informed tactics, may enjoy a competitive advantage over others for a period of 6-12 months.

Google Remarketing
Google retargeting works with GDN products, including YouTube, from any inbound traffic source, including search keywords, site referrals, and social PPC. Though Remarketing has been native in AdWords for over year, it’s been a little unwieldy to use at scale.

For those who knew the landing page hack, “search retargeting” was even possible using Google remarketing. Search retargeting means showing specific banners all over the Internet only to those arriving on the site for specific keywords. Now, Google Analytics remarketing lists and URL variable driven AdWords lists have sparked a full-on mainstream revolution. While not completely deployed, key features were unveiled within the last 30 days.

Boutique Retargeting Tools
Proprietary in-house systems, established and emergent retargeting platforms, offer interesting products, some with features Google does not offer… at least for now, anyway. From product level on-the-fly auto-banners to pushing Facebook Ads out only to site visitors meeting certain criteria, niche retargeting firms now offer a rainbow of options. Choosing the right retargeting platform, products, or even if retargeting outside of Google if appropriate at all, is getting more and more complicated.

Same As It Ever Was
Add it all up and agencies like aimClear have a colorful pallet of retargeting options with which to amplify great targeting and creative, and scale conversion. It’s important to keep our heads about us. Little about marketing has changed. Top-of-the-funnel-first-targeting and creative matter more than ever. The more focused and well sourced a site visitor is, the more likely that retargeting amplification will result in higher conversion and lower CPA.

That said, retargeting won’t fix bad marketing. Retargeting is amazing for amplifying pinpoint site visits that hold conversion promise. Retargeting can’t squeeze conversion out of sh_tty traffic. Little about marketing has changed fundamentally. Retargeting simply gives us new distribution tools.

There are certainly opportunities for early adopters at hand.

  • The first goal is to use current tools to amplify conversion to increase scale and lower the CPA. Ask, “What are we doing now that can be amplified with retargeting?”  If you can’t sell at all using individual channels, it’s probable that you can’t sell with retargeting.  It’s a big deal to decide what targeting and creative to bring into retargeting systems.
  • Retargeting is like a horse. What goes in one comes out the other. Garbage traffic yields useless amplification to wider audiences. Tight theories, top-of-the-funnel targeting and brilliant creative yields awesome amplification by way of retargeting. Crappy traffic to unrelated pages will not yield much better after retargeting.
  • Agencies still serve the same function. However, instead of choosing between classic channel options on your behalf (AdWords search PPC, GDN, YouTube, Facebook Ads, AdCenter, etc…), agencies can now choose between using these channels individually or in tandem with killer retargeting DSPs. It’s possible you may need an agency. Do YOU have time to study all the product offerings or take what sales people say as gospel?
  • Retargeting platforms are not advertising agencies. They don’t know about your products and don’t want (or know how) to be “the agency.” Being an “agency” is in the roadmap for some, but few if any are already there. When I visited with a top executive at one of the best-known retargeting platform’s offices, I pressed to learn where the targeting and creative for the initial visit came from. The exec kept saying that first targeting comes from “first-party data.” What is “first-party” targeting data, I wondered? I came to understand this means that the advertiser provided the targeting, just like it does now.
  • In some cases, it makes sense to consider a third-party platform. In all cases, it makes sense to consider Google retargeting products. Not every advertiser needs a retargeting platform outside of Google products. Nearly every inbound segment, paid and/or organic, to Google can be retargeted (remarketed) inside of Google. In other words, drive a visitor who is a molecular biologist from LinkedIn, and that visitor can be followed in any GDN product, including YouTube. For many advertisers, this will be enough.
  • Don’t worry. Retargeting does not replace marketing, creative, or targeting. Retargeting can amplify a site visit, essentially following the user around the Internet with daily impression caps. A retargeting platform, from Google to AdRoll, does not replace your marketing department. Those tools can expand what already works to decrease the CPA and scale conversion count.
  • aimClear, and most agencies we know, have already evaluated clients’ PPC campaigns and want to discuss setting Google remarketing up for inbound organic segments, PPC AdGroups, Facebook,Tube, LinkedIn Reddit, StumbleUpon demo/psychographic segments. If your agency has not already discussed retargeting with you, soon they will. If they don’t, find another agency.
  • A great agency will also work with you to evaluate if using one of the third-party platforms mentioned above makes sense. These companies can take the focused visitors we send and amplify them to networks other than Google. In some cases, that makes sense. If you are a marketer who says, “I’d spend up to $X dollars if only the PPC inventory were available!” this probably means you.
  • Single channel testing is still best practices. Sometimes, single channels cost less. They should then be amplified by retargeting.
  • It’s time to consider paid amplification of organic events. Should we retarget visitors referred to specific content with an ad? What other organic events, along the lines of traditional web analytics, should be used to trigger retargeting and for what KPIs? Google is somewhat unique in these regards. Still, third-party tools include search amplification to vast DSPs.
  • Don’t be seduced by retargeting just because it is there. Many marketers can reach their goal using only individual channels, which can be cheaper on their own. Some clients will make their monthly budgets just fine using GDN/YouTube to amplify inbound visitors. Remember, you can already send FB, LinkedIn, YouTube or any traffic to your site using GDN and retarget that for amplificationThis is incredibly powerful for both B2B and B2C. Most of the retargeting platforms are fixated on B2C. aimClear is excited about how our long-term experience with both matters.
  • Retargeting is, to a great extent, blunt force. The site visit is marked and those users are followed around in other networks. Retargeting is optimized by placement-level blacklisting layering in targeting the retargeting. “Targeting the retargeting” means not amplifying to wide-open networks. AdRoll and Quantcast confirmed to me that they log into individual channels to target the retargeting. If you are an aimClear client, there’s much less need for that because the initial visit was extremely focused to start. As this generation of blunt force retargeting is widely adopted by way of new Google products and retargeting platforms, the entire world will turn their focus to top-of-the-funnel psychographics again. It’s the same as it ever was.
  • The premium value is still on being a marketer. Understanding products, generating killer creative, top-of-the-funnel targeting, remain crucial components, even the most important considerations. Retargeting is same sh_t different day.

Yep, there is certainly a revolution afoot! aimClear is pleased to share what we know with you to demystify how such amazing capabilities may benefit your bottom line. Having just made the INC500 list, we are more energized than ever.

As we travel the world to visit retargeting firms, our understanding is confirmed over and over. Not much has really changed about PPC marketing. Retargeting does not replace marketers. If your company uses agencies to manage PPC now, you’ll probably need their help more than ever to navigate the fluidity of ongoing paradigm changes. If you do it all in-house, things may stay the same… but you also might want external support.

  • Jason

    The worst thing about marketing techniques is that it is very easy to mess up. Use social media in the right ways and it could really help your business. Thanks for sharing.
    Jason@ Franchise PR

  • Barry Adams

    No mention at all of the threat that the EU Cookie Directive – as well as impending Do Not Track features enabled by default in IE 10 and Firefox – on the viability of retargeting…

    • Marty Weintraub

      @Barry Adams, Now there is mention. Thanks for the contribution.

  • Eric Wittlake

    Marty, good points, particularly that it should be a discussion for every single online marketer!

    One of the challenges I’m increasingly seeing with retargeting offerings is that they are “dumb”. By that I mean they are exclusively focused on the measured outcome and, because the results measure out well, they drive volume by pummeling visitors with ads. The measured ROI may be there, but what is the unmeasured cost? With daily frequency caps of 20 to 30 (if they are set at all), people grow weary of it.

    Even with more aggressive frequency caps, using multiple providers will drive frequency up. So if you look past Google, consider turning off Google retargeting to give yourself better control of frequency and avoid bidding against yourself.

    — @wittlake

  • Jim Banks

    I finally found a company using this stats.g.doubleclick.net/dc.js

    This has been the most profound line of code I have seen all year and in multi billion dollar industries I check the top 10 paid and the top 10 organic and I fail to find them, but I would expect nothing less from aimClear.