What Is Ad Retargeting?

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on July 31, 2013
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Have you ever felt like an advertiser was stalking you online? You clicked on a website, and for weeks afterward you were served display ads from that company encouraging you to buy its products.

Those ads, which can show up anywhere, are the result of an advertising technique called “ad retargeting.” And, although it may seem creepy, if you run an e-commerce business, ad retargeting could be an effective way for you to increase your sales.

How It Works

In ad retargeting, you use JavaScript tags to place cookies in your website visitors’ browser histories. These cookies can track when they visit your site, search for your brand on Google or other search engines, or open your email newsletters. You pay for retargeted ads through a retargeting platform (see below), which uses these cookies to identify users who’ve interacted with your brand and sets automatic bids to display your ads to them anywhere else online that has unsold ad inventory available for you to purchase.

Retargeting is often most successful when you carefully segment your prospects based on the pages they’ve clicked on. For instance, Zappos.com frequently retargets its site visitors by serving ads for products that a customer has considered but has not yet purchased. This encourages them to return to the site to complete the transaction.

Why Retarget?

So why consider retargeting? It’s proven to be a highly effective strategy for regaining lost leads: A comScore study [PDF] shows that retargeting ads to prospects who’ve visited your site within four weeks of their visit results in a 726 percent increase in overall website visits.

When it comes to ecommerce shopping, 72 percent of customers don’t complete the checkout process after adding an item to a cart and, under normal circumstances, just 8 percent return to complete the purchase. By retargeting those shoppers, that number jumps to 26 percent.

How Much Does It Cost?

Because you’re targeting a very specific group of prospects, retargeting can cost more than standard display advertising. For one platform, ReTargeter, pricing starts at $500 per month, but increases to $2,500 if you have at least 50,000 site visitors per month. Prices may be considerably higher, based on your traffic levels.

When choosing a retargeting platform, there are a number of options to consider. Take a look at the Moz Blog’s guide for cost and feature comparisons among four of the most popular platforms.

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