Site Retargeting: Real Life Tricks & Tips


Over the last two years, Software Advice has experimented extensively with site retargeting – a display advertising method that shows your display ads to visitors who previously visited your website, but left without converting, as they visit other sites. When we first got into retargeting, we were familiar with pay per click and had gotten quite efficient at setting up campaigns with decent margins.

But in utilizing retargeting, however, we had to learn a lot of new tricks to familiarize ourselves with the unique aspects of running a retargeting campaign. I’d like to share four lessons that we learned through trial and error over our two years of experimentation.

1. Check Your Campaign Settings

While it’s a logical first step to focus on your campaign settings, there are several defaults that many retargeting vendors use which can lead you to incorrectly target visitors. Here are a few tips on dialing in campaign settings.

  • Audience Geography – Most vendors will default to displaying your ads internationally. If you don’t operate internationally, you’ll want to set some country-specific parameters. A good demand side platform should include the ability to target by:
    • Country
    • State
    • City/DMA
  • Target Demographically – Increase the precision of retargeting campaigns through demographic targeting. Including targeting based on: gender, age, ethnicity, income, education, and location. A good demand side platform utilizes demographic targeting parameters called geo blocks – far more accurate than zip code targeting.  For example, n the New York City Metro Code there are 137 zip codes. Utilizing demographic targeting technology a marketer can view that same geography as 9,000 “geo blocks” or neighborhoods.

2. Dynamic Creative

Display ads featuring dynamic creative personalize your display ad to users in real time, by creating an ad template that is customized based on items viewed on your site. For example, if someone visits your website and views a pair of sunglasses, your dynamic display ad would feature a picture of the pair of sunglasses they viewed and might be paired with a free shipping offer to draw them back to your site. Another user may have placed a wallet in their shopping cart and left your site – the display ad they would see a display ad featuring the wallet they placed in their cart and messaging to draw them back to your site. The product offering is highly personalized in dynamic creative as it shows an item that user expressed interest in, and paired with a discount or deal it offers an extra punch.

Dynamic is typically associated with site retargeting such that ads are customized based on last product viewed and/or product recommendations.

Personalized ads offer a personalized experience, which is better performing for a number of reasons:

  • Products, deals, pricing and offers are up to date and should lead back to the relevant landing page leading to higher conversion rates
  • Viewers are only shown ads relevant to their interests
  • The content is modified easily and quickly

3. The “Right” Segment is No Segment

Stated differently, a world where ever piece of data used to identify and target a prospect is its own individual segment is a world where insights mean something to your campaign.  Unstructured data powers actionable insights. The true takeaway from findings and data is to turn that data into action – to turn it into something that works to alter and change your campaign for the better. A campaign shouldn’t be static; it should be ever changing with the ability to dial up or down any element on the fly. A piece of data powers something significant – it powers a decision – which leads to an action.

Seeing the performance of any element, what data triggered the impression, allows granular insights that lead to better performance. Performance beyond that of segments – non-transparent audience segments create surface insights based on fixed grouping – groups whose foundations are not deep enough to be meaningful. Gathering data on impression or element level gives you insight and allows for the adjustments necessary; the actions, the changes that power the campaign.

4. Test Your Ads in a Disciplined Way

Once you’ve developed a custom audience, it’s time to start tweaking and testing your ads. There are many aspects of an ad that you can change, but a few of them are:

  • Ad headline
  • Ad copy
  • Background color
  • Images
  • Ad size
  • Call to action
  • Landing pages

Most of Software Advice’s focus had been on adjusting the ad copy, ad headline and image in ads. Below, you can see how dramatic of an impact making small adjustments to your ads can have on your click through rate (CTR) and conversion rates.

Site retargetingIn order to know which ads are working, however, it’s important to allow your ads to run long enough to achieve statistical significance. To do this, test the ad in your most active market and get at least 500-1,000 clicks before you decided to pull and analyze your data. As you’re conducting these tests, be sure to also utilize ad rotation, as you don’t want to oversaturate visitors.

5. Understand that Attribution Can be Difficult

While you’re testing, you need to keep in mind that attribution can be difficult with site retargeting. For instance, how do you attribute a conversion from a visitor who originally found your website via a PPC campaign, bounced, and then later converted from a retargeting ad?

We give 100 percent attribution to our retargeting campaign if the conversion resulted from a click on our retargeting pixel. You will have to set your own rules for how you attribute campaign effectiveness, but we’ve found that this is the simplest way to get around the issue.

There you have our best tips that we’ve come up with after two years of working with site retargeting. What tips can you share? Leave a comment below to help other Webmasters and Internet advertisers.