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Like all business owners, we are always looking at ways to convert more of the visitors that come to our website into leads and hopefully sales. In this post I will share with you our results from testing a form of online advertising called “retargeting” and break down what we learned from a creative and cost-per-click point-of-view.

So what is “Retargeting”?

Whenever you visit a website, the site drops what’s called a “cookie” into your web browser. That cookie usually tracks what you do on the site and it also lets the website know that you have been before if you come back another time. That’s why when you go back to sites you visit often (like Facebook) you usually go straight in without having to login each time. It’s the cookie from Facebook that sits in your web browser that lets them know who you are.

How do you add a “Retargeting” cookie to your website?

If you decide to add retargeting to your online marketing arsenal, whichever platform you use will give you a little piece of code which when added to your site will drop a retargeting cookie onto your visitor’s web browser that enables you to display advertisements to them when they visit other websites.

For example, by visiting our website today, your browser now has our retargeting cookie stored in it. When you login into Facebook, there’s a good chance you’ll see ads from us because that cookie is now bidding on Facebook ads while you are logged in there.

Basically our retargeting cookie will bid on ad space on sites you are visiting in real time, enabling our advertisements to appear no matter where you go.

A real example of me being retargeted…

Although it sounds a little creepy, tracking what we do and where we go online has been happening for a long time. It’s only recently though that platforms have appeared that enable marketers to send ads to people who visit their websites after they leave.

Here’s a real example of me being retargeted…

We are about to move into a new office here in Los Angeles. As part of that move I need pendant lights, so I was surfing around looking for lighting companies. One of those companies (AllModern.com) uses retargeting. Here’s a screen shot from my Facebook page where I am being “retargeted” by them right now.

Facebook Retargeting Image

Why it’s a great idea…

The power of retargeting is that you are only advertising to people who have already visited your website. From a marketing perspective, there is probably no better audience available anywhere. What’s really great is that with the right platform (I’ll get to our choice in a moment), you can set all kinds of parameters such as:

  • Only retarget people who have visited a particular page. For example, you might only want to retarget people who have looked at a particular product or service page on your website, and not someone who has just visited the home page.
  • Tailor your ad creative to each particular page they visited. In the example above, they are showing me the exact pendant lamp I was looking at on their website, and not some generic ad creative for their entire website.
  • Only retarget people for a certain time period after they visit. So only 7 days or 30 days. It’s totally up to you.

It is controls like this that differentiate one retargeting platform from the other. In our case, we chose Perfect Audience as our retargeting platform and we’ve been really happy so far.

Sample Facebook ads…

These are real ads that were tested in our current Facebook retargeting campaigns. Some of these worked great while others had terrible click-through-rates. I will get to the details soon, but the importance of testing different images and different headlines cannot be understated.

Facebook Ad Creative

Sample banner ads (300 x 250 pixels)…

These are three of the banners we tested. Basically these are being fed into sites that our website visitors go to after they leave our site. For example, they might be reading an article on CNN and then our banner ad appears.

Can you guess which of these three banners crushed it and which one was a dismal failure?

Banner Ad Creative

The results…

If you’re anything like me, you *think* you know what looks good and what will convert. Well, the data is in and I suck. For example, of the three banners above, which one do you think worked the best?

Personally, I really hated the one on the far right. I think it looks kitsch and tacky. My favourite is the one in the middle. So here’s the numbers.

  • The one of the far right has a click-through-rate (CTR) of 1.351%. This means it gets clicked 1.3 times in every 100 times gets displayed.
  • The one in the middle has a CTR of 0.247%.
  • The one on the far left has a 0% CTR.

In summary, the one I disliked the most has a CTR that is 500% higher than the one I thought would win. Then there’s one design that is a total bomb.

In every case the headline and copy is the same. The only thing that changed is the design. Imagine the variations when you change headlines and ad copy as well? This is what many online marketers refer to as “A/B testing” and it demonstrates why it is critically important to do before you ramp up spending on any one particular ad.

How much does it cost compared to Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Google advertising or similar?

The first thing to realize is that you are only going to be retargeting people who have actually visited your website (or just a particular page of your website). In most cases we are talking about a very small group of people relative to general search marketing.

Let’s say you have 2,000 people a month coming to your website and every single one of them got served your banner ad once via your retargeting in the 30 days after they came to you. Even if your CTR is 2% (very high), that’s only 40 clicks. So for most small site owners, retargeting is never going to cost you much overall.

Without giving away our own secret sauce of what we buy clicks for through Google PPC , I will say that we are buying clicks from our banner retargeting campaigns at about 20c per click and Facebook retargeting at about 40c per click. This is considerably lower than we pay for PPC clicks via Google and we know that these people want we have because they’ve already come to see us once and are still interested enough to come back.

One of the keys though (which I will go into more in my next post), is making sure that you are taking them back to compelling content they haven’t seen before. In our case, we setup a special page that contains a 60 second video which reveals cold-hard-data as to why they should be buying a video from us.

In my next post…

What many people who deal in lead generation fail to tell entrepreneurs is that lead quality is far more important to most businesses than lead quantity. In my next blog post I will talk about how to make sure that any online marketing you do (retargeting included), is optimized to ensure maximum return on your ad dollars.

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