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Insight/ Online Media

Understanding Search vs. Site Retargeting


by Ben Plomion
VP, Marketing & Partnerships

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Retargeting has been building a lot of buzz in publications across the Web. This is great--we're obviously big fans of the technology--but we're also seeing people overgeneralize and confuse the different types of retargeting.

The muddling usually goes like this: Retargeting is explained as the act of searching for something, finding a site, not buying anything, and then getting targeted with ads for that something elsewhere based on search keywords. 

If a consumer finds a site, doesn’t buy anything, and is then retargeted, that’s actually a technique specifically known as site retargeting.

In fact, there are seven effective types of retargeting, which we highlighted in an article here on last June. One of those techniques is search retargeting. As Joanna Lord, director of customer acquisition and engagement  at SEOMoz, put it: “Rather than target those who have come to your site already, you are targeting visitors that have performed recent searches on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.”

In short, search retargeting brings in entirely new customers who have never visited your site before. The retargeting is based purely on the keywords someone enters into search engines. 

Search retargeting is uniquely effective because search terms are the language of intent for active shoppers. In other words, if a shopper is taking the time to search for a product or service online, then there's a good chance that person is interested in paying for it. It's the same power of intent that has made advertising within search results so effective. 

Previously, there was no good way to target customers who had never been to your site; you had to buy a massive amount of media on sites relevant to your consumer demographic and hope to get lucky. This is a much more expensive path that also requires going through traditional ad networks, whose goal is to sell as much media as possible.

Search retargeting vendors represent only the advertiser and focus on targeting only those who have already demonstrated a potential interest in your brand via their searches. 

The benefits are clear. While site retargeting is a very effective optimization tool, search retargeting targets a much larger number of prospects who have not visited an advertiser’s sites. In a recent branding campaign, Chango found that more than 80 percent of users who had performed a valued outcome on its client’s Web site were first-time visitors coming from search retargeting.  

While search retargeting beats site retargeting for the stated reasons, it also requires a lot more data. That’s why the major search retargeting companies have partnerships with large publishers--to collect billions of search terms each month from the actual searches people conduct on Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. This wealth of data allows them to run campaigns on brand-safe sites across almost any vertical.

Retargeting tends to stir up controversy, which is why major search retargeting companies follow the industry's best practices to ensure user privacy--the data captured can't be used to identify any individual person, and all of the ads display the About Ads icon. 

It's also worth remembering that if you're searching in any major search engine, then the search engine, itself, is already serving you ads based on the keywords you enter. 

It's the magic formula that recently prompted Digiday to crown retargeting "The Hottest Area in Tech." It is feeling awfully toasty in here.

About Ben Plomion

Ben Plomion is VP of Marketing & Partnerships at Chango, where he heads up marketing and is also responsible for expanding the company’s data and media partnerships. Prior to joining Chango, Plomion worked with GE Capital for four years to establish and lead the digital media practice.