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PPC and Retargeting: Cross-Channel Marketing That Gets Results

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Paid search, or pay-per-click (PPC), is a staple of many digital marketers, and though effective, it is more significantly more powerful when coupled with other marketing strategies, particularly those that are less focused on direct-response objectives. That's because audiences are more likely to respond to marketing messages if they see the same message across multiple channels.

Although many marketing strategies can work well together, this article will focus on how paid search can work in conjunction with retargeting to drive conversions. Using both as part of a coordinated strategy will boost marketing performance overall while amplifying the effectiveness of each tactic.

Paid Search

Nothing beats paid search as a pure direct response tool. It is one of the best ways to get in-market consumers to your website; and when paired with a strong search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, it can be a powerful tool for generating brand awareness and initial demand. Together, they can very effectively drive new, highly relevant traffic to your site.

However, paid search should not be the end-all be-all of a digital marketing strategy. Driving traffic is crucial, but it isn't the end of the story. Unless your conversion rate is 100%, you have room for improvement: On average, only around 5% of website visitors convert on their first visit.


And that's where retargeting comes in.

Paid Search Plus Retargeting

Retargeting involves serving display ads to people who have already interacted with your business online. At its core, retargeting allows you to serve ads to people who have visited your website.

Using retargeting, you can stay in touch with people who have left your site without converting, which, as already noted, constitutes the lion share of a typical site's traffic.

Your site traffic did not materialize on its own. In many cases, it was bought and paid for, and it probably wasn't cheap. Failing to reach out with a second touch is akin to wasting valuable marketing dollars spent on tactics like paid search.

Bounced traffic consists of people who have raised a hand to express interest in what you do. They probably will not convert right away, but they may eventually, and so they should definitely not be ignored.

Consistency Across Channels

Savvy search marketers will send different search campaigns to dedicated landing pages that correspond well to those campaigns. Those landing pages can tag users with unique retargeting pixels, which will allow you to segment your retargeting campaign to correspond to your PPC campaigns.

For example, let's say you're a retailer who sells both golf and tennis equipment. You have two separate PPC campaigns, one for golf-related keywords and one for tennis-related keywords. Those campaigns lead to two different landing pages, one focused on golf and the other on tennis. You can place two retargeting pixels on your respective landing pages and launch two display campaigns, with ad creative that corresponds to your landing pages. Users who reach the golf landing page will see golf-related retargeted creative and users who land on the tennis page will see tennis-focused retargeted creative.

This relatively simple example demonstrates how search campaigns and retargeting can work together to keep the most relevant message in front of the most appropriate audience, but product differentiation is certainly not the only use case for PPC and retargeting hybrid strategies.

For B2B companies that need to stay in front of potential customers during a long purchase cycle, retargeting ads can feature the same product features or benefits reflected in landing pages, and campaigns can be structured to serve different marketing messages as users progress down the funnel.

Putting Together the Pieces

Retargeted campaigns can bring users directly back to your site via clicks on ads, direct input into their browser, or via a search engine. The more likely case is direct return or branded search.

According to one study from Stanford University (PDF), untargeted display campaigns increased organic searches for relevant keywords 5% -25%. A targeted ad campaign can be expected to increase search behavior even more dramatically. In this instance, your SEO and paid search proficiency become crucial yet again for bringing users back to your site.

Working in tandem, paid search and retargeting can be an incredibly valuable toolset that can help you get the right people to their site, and bring them back after they've left.


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Caroline Watts is on the marketing team at ReTargeter, a full-service display advertiser specializing in retargeting. Reach her via Twitter and Google+.

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