Retargeting Q&A with Arjun Devora of

This is a Q&A on retargeting with Arjun Dev Arora, Founder and Chairman of ReTargeter, a retargeting solutions provider based in San Francisco, CA.  @arjundarora  @retargeter

Can you tell us about ReTargeter? What services do you offer, and what types of businesses do you work with?

ReTargeter is a full-service display advertising solution specializing in audience targeting and retargeting for brands of all sizes. Retargeting enables brands to focus their advertisements on everyone who has engaged with them online, whether through the Web, email, mobile devices, or social media. These people are served targeted advertisements following their interactions, which encourages repeat visits, increases brand visibility, and optimizes marketing dollars. Additionally, ReTargeter offers advanced retargeting solutions including search retargeting, which serves ads to people based on their search behavior, and CRM retargeting which allows brands to show ads to anyone with nothing but an email or a mailing address.

What is retargeting?

Retargeting is the practice of serving ads based on prior engagement. While there is more than one form of this technology, the most frequently used is site-based retargeting. (Other forms include search retargeting, email list retargeting, Facebook retargeting, and CRM retargeting.) Site-based retargeting is the practice of serving ads to people who visit your website after they leave. These ads appear on a variety of other sites around the Web, keeping your brand in front of your bounced site visitors in an attempt to bring them back.

Site-based retargeting uses cookies to stay in front of previous site visitors. When someone visits your website, a few lines of code provided by your retargeter will drop an anonymous browser cookie. This cookie is a small file that stores information. The cookie will store the site visit, but does not store any sensitive information, such as the site visitor’s name, address or any other piece of information that might personally identify the visitor.

When someone comes to your site, a cookie is dropped, and eventually, they leave and visit another site. The cookie lets your retargeting provider know when one of your bounced visitors appears on another site. If there is available ad space, your retargeting provider will bid on that space in real-time, aptly named real-time bidding (RTB), and if they are the highest bidder, will secure the ad space before the page loads.

This entire process is automated and occurs within a fraction of a second. By the time the page loads, the ad space will have been purchased and your ad will appear alongside the page content.

What are the benefits of retargeting?

Retargeting has a host of benefits for companies of all shapes and sizes.

  • Better branding – users can gain brand ubiquity and be top of mind when their targets are ready to buy.
  • Precision targeting – Many companies offer advanced targeting solutions that help users drive the right traffic to their sites and bring back past visitors.
  • Total reach – At ReTargeter, our customers get access to over 98% of ad inventory available across the Web, including sites like Yahoo!, the New York Times, and Facebook.
  • Rapid optimization – Users can improve campaign effectiveness, quickly and easily, using optimization tools.

All of this ads up to higher ROI – users can get more out of their budgets by focusing ads on the right audience, driving better conversion rates, and extracting the most out of their marketing budgets.

What are common retargeting mistakes to avoid?  And what are the keys to a successful retargeting campaign?

We call these the 7 deadly sins of retargeting – and within those are the best practices you should follow to ensure that your retargeting efforts pay off.  These include:

Deadly Sin #1: Showing too Many Impressions

One of the biggest concerns most brands have before starting a retargeting campaign is the fear of annoying, creeping out, or otherwise overwhelming their consumers.  The concern here is certainly a valid one, as consumer annoyance due to excessive retargeting ads is well-documented.  Luckily, it’s also easy to avoid.  To avoid this, set a frequency cap to limit the number of impression each of their users is served.

Deadly Sin #2: Not Showing Enough Impressions

While showing too many impressions can turn users against you, not showing enough can render your retargeting campaign just as ineffective. In our experience, the optimal number to keep your brand top of mind is approximately 17 to 20 impressions per user per month (roughly one impression every other day).  At this level, your users won’t be inundated with ads, but will see your brand with enough frequency to solidify brand recall.

Deadly Sin #3: Neglecting Your Creatives

The banner ads you use may do more to determine success than any other factor of your retargeting campaign, so it’s crucial to devote sufficient resources to making beautiful ads.  All of your banner ads should be well-branded and recognizable. For more suggestions, check out our banner ad best practices. Even if you launch your campaign with incredibly strong creatives, according to proprietary ReTargeter data, clickthrough rates decrease by almost 50% after five months of running the same set of ads. By rotating your ad creative every few months, you can easily avoid experiencing these dips in performance.

Deadly Sin #4: Retargeting Current Customers

If there’s anything that annoys people more than seeing 50 display ads per day from one company, it’s seeing the same ads after they’ve made a purchase or completed the desired action.  It’s incredibly easy to remove users from a retargeting campaign once they’ve converted.  For some brands, it may be a good idea to serve ads after conversion, but it never makes sense to serve the same ad creative.  If you do wish to continue serving ads to customers, use a different set of creatives with a new call to action such as a future discount for a referral, or upsell free users of a freemium product.

Deadly Sin #5: Using Multiple Providers at the Same Time 

Many brands that are new to retargeting want to test the waters with different providers.  While it may seem effective to run multiple campaigns simultaneously, running retargeting campaigns with multiple providers has a number of serious drawbacks. Retargeting works using RTB.  When your cookied users visit sites with available ad inventory, the retargeting provider will bid on that ad space in real-time, and the retargeted ad will appear as the page loads.  If you run with multiple providers, each provider will be bidding for the same spots on the same websites, driving up media costs and decreasing the chances each has to serve ads to your users.  You may also run into difficulties effectively implementing frequency caps, as each retargeting provider will be operating independently. If you’re merely running a test, your results will be skewed and inaccurate.  It is a good idea to do research, but it’s more effective to run tests in subsequent months using one provider at a time. You’ll have a better sense of which campaign actually performed better.

Deadly Sin #6: Failing to Measure Success

While your retargeting company should provide you with data on clickthrough rates and conversions, it’s important for you to track success on your end as well. One good way to gauge success is to use Google Analytics to determine how many visitors are returning to your site directly or through Google.  If you see an improvement in visitor loyalty corresponding to the launch of your retargeting campaign, you’ll know the campaign is working.

Deadly Sin #7: Failing to Segment

Failing to segment your retargeting campaign is still a sub-optimal practice.  Ideally, each page on your website and each landing page should have its own segment with its own set of creatives associated with it.  Users who have spent time looking at your product or services page are at a different stage than users who have simply been to your homepage.

The first step to any successful retargeting campaign is to understand how retargeting can work for your company. When it’s used correctly, retargeting serves a valuable component of any marketing mix.

For additional information on retargeting, check out these articles:

8 Best Practices for Running a Retargeting Campaigns

How Retargeting Can Turn Prospects into Leads

The Top 5 Retargeting Myths

5 Banner Ad Best Practices to Ignore