How to Drive Results With Ad Retargeting

By Ian Heinig / 7 February 2018

Only 2-5% of web visitors convert. Learn how to drive results with ad retargeting campaigns that convert at 10x those of regular display ads.

Are you being haunted by an insurance company on Facebook?

Are the Nikes you left in the Zappos cart stalking you around Google?

Yes, sounds like the trailer for a lame Halloween movie.

But it’s the spooky reality of ad retargeting.

For businesses, scarier still is the fact that only 2-5% of website visitors convert on their first visit. When nearly all your web traffic goes to waste, you’re eager for a new approach.

What if I told you that you can use cookies to retarget your customers and drive conversions?

While regular display ads convert at only 0.07%, retargeting ads convert at 0.7%. That’s 10x the impact on an already interested audience.

And what’s a cookie?

It’s a small piece of code that’s saved in your visitor’s browser. This makes their history, preferences, and other information available to the retargeting platform.

Here’s a quick visual to clarify how retargeting works:

flow chart image of how ad retargeting works
Source: SunFrog Blog

A recent survey shows that 90% of consumers are influenced by ads, which only confirms the compounding effects of this ad medium.

You can serve visitors retargeting ads to secure a download for gated content, clinch a conversion, or reduce cart abandonment.

These are the steps:

  1. Segment Visitors
  2. Apply Frequency Caps
  3. Adjust Campaign Duration
  4. Leverage Burn Pixels
  5. Check View-Through Conversions
  6. Rotate Creatives
  7. Conduct A/B Tests

It’s time to learn the 7 ways to achieve optimal conversion with ad retargeting.

Step 1: Segment Website Visitors by Marketing Funnel Stage

Retargeting works best when you sort visitors by their specific site behaviors.

example of different website visitor intentions such as "discovering great deals"
Source: CloudCart

The person who reads your blog is in a very different stage of the marketing funnel than someone who spends considerable time on your sales page. You might serve the first person your ebook offer but target the second with a free product demo.

It’s all about what your visitors need when they land on your website.

Segmenting lets you tailor ads to specific page behaviors, highlighting only the most relevant products or services. It also facilitates an intuitive ad experience that prompts a response.

Step 2: Apply Ad Frequency Caps

Use advertising frequency caps to limit ad exposure.

One site visit doesn’t translate to wanting to see a barrage of branded ads.

At the same time, over-serving ads will decrease campaign performance, even if the customer shows a strong interest in your product or service. This is called ad fatigue.

Ad frequency caps will curb how many times each ad appears to a tagged user.

In general, the optimal frequency is between 7-12 times per month, according to Moz.

example of capping ad frequency in an ad dashboard
Source: WebpageFX

Ads achieve greater impact if served strategically to suit the target’s position in the marketing funnel.

To resonate, ads must first be relevant.

To be relevant, ads must speak to the prospect’s specific needs at that time. The more meaningful and timely your ads are, the greater their impact.

Step 3: Adjust Ad Campaign Duration

While ad frequency caps regulate the number of viewer impressions available in a given period, ad campaign duration addresses the lifespan of a cookie.

If you set the campaign duration for 30 days, the visitor will no longer see ads after that point because the cookie has expired.

This helps conserve your retargeting budget by halting spending on one-time visitors who were only browsing.

Brands align the duration of their ads with the length of their sales cycle, but you can experiment to find what works best.

A 3-day campaign may work to drive conversions, while 90 days may be ideal for capitalizing on interested though sluggish prospects.

Step 4: Use Burn Pixels

If you successfully convert a customer with retargeting, why keep serving them ads?

A burn pixel is a line of code that’s placed on your post-transaction page. When visitors arrive here, they’re tagged to stop seeing ads.

This reserves your retargeting budget for potential customers and ensures that you don’t annoy your new customers.

According to the book "Managing for Quality and Performance Excellence," 65% of a company’s profits come from its existing customers.

Since buyers are likely to generate recurring revenue, it’s best to start your customer experience without a bother.

Step 5: Check View-Through Conversions

You can gauge the impact of retargeting ads in two ways:

  • Click-through conversions happen as a direct result of someone clicking a retargeting ad.
  • View-through conversions happen as an indirect result of being served a retargeting ad. They are attributed to another channel, but the person once was served a retargeting ad.

example of view through conversions in an ad dashboard
Source: PPC Hero

View-through conversions acknowledge that not every impression triggers an immediate purchase. They allow you to assess your ad’s impact on final purchasing behavior.

One study by American media measurement and analytics company comScore finds that retargeted ads lead to a 1046% increase in brand search. This shows retargeted ads’ power to elevate brand awareness and recall, despite widespread banner ad blindness.

Examine your view-through conversions for a given period to assess the stickiness and best placements of your ads, as well as your audience's shopping habits. As a benchmark, Adroll saw that 97% of click-through conversions happen within 7 days of viewing an ad.

Step 6: Rotate Ads for Fresh Content

Like a favorite song that eventually gets old, new and creative ads are the best way to pique the curiosity of both your new and existing customers.

visual of data: merely 14% of internet users remember the last ad they saw
Source: Neil Patel Blog

ReTargeter found that click-through rates fell by 50% after running the same ad set for five months. New ads are needed to cut through the clutter and reach customers.

This combats the dreaded banner blindness, plus provides an opportunity to test new ad copy.

Step 7: Conduct A/B Tests for Your Ads

The best ad campaigns arrive via A/B testing. Likewise, great ads aren’t one-off masterpieces but are remolded until perfected.

Hone in on key creative elements of your ads, such as:

  • Size
  • Color
  • CTA
  • Image
  • Design style
  • Value proposition
  • Content offer
  • Word density

visual of a/b testing different advertisements
Source: Kameleoon

Organizing tests allows you to avoid speculation and run data-driven campaigns that achieve results.

For example, Seattle-based digital marketing agency Add3 found that offering an ebook instead of a white paper increased lead generation by 325%.

This is how you find the perfect arrangement for ads that enable you to maximize conversions.

Create Results With Retargeting

Like the best boomerang, retargeting ads loop back to close the gap with users you’d otherwise lose forever. The only spooky thing about them is how well they work.

For best results, experiment with your ads and campaign duration to ensure you’re reaching and impacting your customers effectively.

Employ frequency caps and burn pixels, or you might suffer diminishing returns on your ads. And always begin with segmented lists so that you serve the most relevant offer.

Interested in how ad retargeting fits into your overall digital advertising strategy? Read our guide, "How to Craft a Digital Advertising Strategy."

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