Search Retargeting: Display Advertising Rides the Coattails of Search

By Jeff Campbell, Vice President

I’ve blogged multiple times on how display exposure drives keyword searches and that display can boost lower funnel paid search performance. This time it’s different: Advertisers are using search to lead and display to close! It’s called Search Retargeting and it’s gaining momentum with consumers and advertisers.

What it is & How it Works
Search retargeting is a customized display ad that shows to a consumer that has searched a specific keyword. There are subtle differences between Yahoo! and AOL’s approaches (ad formats, individual vs. categorically group keyword targets, network size, etc.), but essentially it’s the same idea. When a consumer searches a targeted keyword, they see the normal experience on the search engine results page (SERP) (and may even see or click the advertisers paid search ad or natural listing – but that’s not a requirement). Now, the new element for the consumer is that soon after they enter that search, they’ll see a display banner from the advertiser when browsing throughout the publisher’s network.

Why it’s Great
This means more relevant and useful ads for consumers – and display advertisers can finally target the coveted “pull” audience (consumers raising their hands ASKING for products and services).

There are only so many searches for “new golf driver,” but if they so choose, Nike Golf could haunt that searcher with display ads for their new SQ Machspeed STR8 Driver throughout popular networks like Yahoo! sports, Fantasy sports portals, or Mapquest, after they leave the search results. Some of these networks may be in Nike’s typical display media buy – but many of those impressions are wasted on uninterested eyeballs or the ad must be generic to include several Nike Golf products. With Search Retargeting, Nike Golf could also offer a more enticing offer to this consumer, say 10% off, as Nike knows they are in shopping or buying mode based on search behavior. Both Nike Golf (with a laser targeted ad) and the consumer (with a display ad they may actually care about that saves them money) win with a more efficient display product.

With the stellar performance of paid search, many advertisers are already spending all they possibly can to show up on every relevant keyword for every search. Second, many advertisers have been disappointed with the decline of display as a direct response medium. Because of these reasons, advertisers are rushing to test Search Retargeting to see if it’s the next frontier to increase interactions with interested online consumers. What about the rest of consumers? They are continuing to fixate on anyone who will give them a deal or discount.

So Who Manages it?
To dominate Search Retargeting, an advertiser (or agency) must have four skill sets at the foundation:
• Understand consumer intent through search queries (i.e. picking the right keywords)
• Identify attractive offers to searching audience (i.e. PPC adcopy testing for CTR, & CVR)
• Ability to build frequent, somewhat custom, display ads (one size doesn’t fit all)
• Experience with dynamic, exchange-based bidding environments (while some publishers currently have flat CPMs, advertisers are willing to pay more for interested eyeballs and thus demand will soon convert to an exchange)
Simply put: three parts search marketer, one part creative designer.

Where is it Going?
More advertisers mean higher prices as well as more publishers/agencies getting involved. With Google announcing in March that it would start site retargeting, even Big G is getting into the behaviorally relevant ad/display space. The biggest concern is around consumer privacy, which is a concern that could cripple a lot of the retargeting efforts. Time will tell – in the meantime, test, test, test!


Jason said...

Retargeting certainly goes with paid search. Plus, Google’s recent announcement to include it with Adwords just validates that it works. Something also to consider is the importance of advertising across multiple content networks. By doing so, you can really expand your reach and connect with a larger audience. Here’s an interesting article on how effect it can be:

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