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What is search retargeting?


Marketers have been using retargeting as a way to reach and engage audiences for years, since the inception of online advertising, really. With retargeting, marketers are “remarketing” to anyone who has expressed an interest in their brand. This could be defined as someone who clicked-thru a particular link, visited a website, spent a certain amount of time on a site, or met some other established criteria. Once that initial interest has been shown, marketers are able to segment that audience and present to them a focused message that follows up on the previous action.

Search Retargeting

Search retargeting follows this same methodology but focuses more on the coveted search engine audience. With search retargeting, audiences (potential customers) are identified as those people who 1) visit a website via a search engine, or 2) enter a search inquiry for a particular key phrase. A marketer or advertiser can then create a message tailored to that groups’ particular interest, knowing that their audience has already expressed interest in their type of product or service. *Note: In search retargeting, this retargeted message will appear to your audience as display advertising.

Image source: Marketing Food

Here’s a practical example of how search retargeting might work. Let’s say you own a pizzeria in Fort Worth, Texas. You want to be able to identify anyone who searches for “pizza delivery fort worth.” Within Google Adwords you would identify this as an Audience group, and create a display ad that will get shown only to that audience. When someone enters “pizza delivery fort worth” Google places a cookie on their machine, and that user will then get placed in your Google Adwords Audience group and will see your specific display ad.

Yahoo offers a similar advertising solution.

Does it work?

In a word, yes. You can find numerous case studies and advertising success stories, like this one on, all over the Internet. The simple truth is that Internet users are impulsive, fickle, and easily distracted. By using retargeting or search retargeting to continually repeat and refine your message, you’re significantly solidifying your brand identity with that user and creating a level of awareness that leads to a consumer/ad interaction.

Best practices

Any business that is actively using search engine marketing or search engine optimization as part of their overall marketing mix should consider using search retargeting as well, just know what you’re getting into before you do it.

  • Identify your audience. Make sure you have a large even audience to make search retargeting worth your time and effort. You need to have a big enough pool of potential prospects to feel confident in how the campaign is running.
  • Define a funnel. Know the exact steps you’re hoping your audience takes as they are confronted with the retargeted message. Knowing where you lose potential customers is just as important as knowing what attracted them in the first place.
  • Create conversions and goals. This will make tracking the funnel easier to share and pull insights.
  • Monitor and optimize. As with any digital marketing campaign, ongoing monitoring, analysis and refinement is the key factor in the campaign’s success. Before you beging a retargeting or search retargeting campaign, be sure you have the resources available to properly manage and monitor the campaign from beginning to end.

What do you think? Have you tried search retargeting? How did it work for you?


CannedBanners and Clickz.

Written on August 29, 2011, by