How does search retargeting work?


By Stephen Peters, Senior Email Marketing Strategist, Content Marketing

Back in November, the B2B Tactics Playbook outlined just what exactly search retargeting was, in addition to site retargeting and how your marketing is missing without it. While knowing what search retargeting is from a definition standpoint is all well and good, it’s even better to know exactly how it works.

Search retargeting was a new marketing tool brought to the mainstream in 2012 and has been a strong asset for marketers since.  For a quick refresher, though, site and search retargeting vary slightly, mainly in the audience they pursue. Site retargeting is a method aimed at customers who have already visited a website.

“OK, great…but how does search retargeting work?”

Good question: Before a potential client or customer is presented with any display advertising, it’s paramount for your business to have a defined, yet broad list of keywords to use that will be implemented in your search retargeting strategy – cast a wide net with these search terms.

After that is set up, then is when the fun begins. Differing from site retargeting, search retargeting goes after a user who may not have actually visited the organization’s website previously. Instead, it captures data of potential customers who have conducted an online search that may tie into something your business does.

In laymen’s terms, search retargeting allows you to show banner ads and Facebook ads to people who have recently searched for keywords that are relevant for your business.

For instance, let’s say your business offers industrial baking ovens for pizza chains, bakeries, etc. and someone uses the search term “oven” or a combination of “industrial” and “pizza.” If those terms are pre-established in your list for search retargeting, the next time they visit another web page where your ads are allowed to be displayed, your banner will show, offering your services.

According to GE Capital Retail Bank’s second annual Major Purchase Shopper Study in 2013, it was estimated that more than 80 percent of users do online research before buying, and they prefer search engines and keywords. This makes search a powerful intent indicator.

Search retargeting goes beyond the traditional search engine marketing techniques and leverages low-cost display advertising inventory. Since it uses display inventory and search signals for targeting, search retargeting is a very efficient way to reach potential new customers for your business.

The key thing to remember is that search retargeting allows your business to reach highly relevant, potential new customers that may not have known about your business previously. It doesn’t put its hopes in that a random user will find your page by mistake on a Google result page.

stephenStephen is a communications graduate from the University of Texas at Arlington, with a focus on journalism. Stephen has worked for the Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, ESPN Radio and freelanced for a number of other entities, which include newspaper, magazines and marketing. You can find Stephen on Twitter – @iamspeters or LinkedIn –

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