Retargeted Ads: You’re Being Watched

Say what?  Yes, there is yet another way to advertise online.  Not entirely new, you may have heard this advertising technology referred to as retargeting or remarketing (Google’s name for it).  The bottom line is that if the technology works correctly, you should see online advertisements for websites you’ve previously visited while you’re on other websites.

Kinda reminds you of that early 80’s song “Somebody’s Watching Me”, no?

How Do They Know?

OK so it doesn’t exactly watch you (which would be way too weird), but let’s say you’re in the market for a purple widget and you visit a site that is advertising with retargeting.  When you land on the Purple Widgets ‘R Us website, a cookie (small piece of code) is automatically downloaded to your browser.  If you then visit one (or more) of the million ad-supported websites that are out there, the cookie registers and you will see ads for Purple Widgets ‘R Us.

Cool or Creepy?

Would you be more apt to click on an ad for a website you’ve previously visited? The idea behind this strategy stems from the fact that many web visitors don’t convert on their first visit to a website (or at all).  If you can get in front of those visitors again with an ad coupled with a sale or other offer while they are on a different website, they may be likely to click on it.  This will bring them back to your website where they will hopefully make a purchase (or whatever the conversion may be).

Retargeted ads are definitely working for the travel clothing company Scottevest out of Ketchum, Idaho.  In just three months, owner Scott Jordan attributed $38,000 in sales to the $12,000 he spent on retargeted ads – you do the math.  Another benefit of this type of advertising has been the fact that the company seems “larger” than it is, due to the fact that site visitors see their ads on multiple websites.  This can be a positive perception for some would-be buyers.

Of course, I can’t talk about retargeting without bringing up the issue of privacy which has been getting a lot of attention lately.  Some surfers feel as though it’s too invasive, however there are ways to opt out of being shown retargeted ads by either setting your internet browser to block cookies or opting out with the ad company serving up the ads.  Deleting your browser’s cookies will also have the same effect, but you’d have to do that each time you visit a site that participates in retargeting.

Most folks don’t bother configuring their browsers to block cookies or even know that it’s an option.

If Google’s Doing It…

There are quite a few companies out there offering retargeting services: FetchBack, ReTargeter, AdRoll, and mediaFORGE to name a few.  Google has also recently started offering the service for their content network, which may bring retargeting more mainstream as companies decide to include it in their internet marketing strategies.

With a well-rounded online campaign including SEO, PPC, and a solid website, retargeting could be a welcome addition in a conversion-driven world.  How do you feel about this kind of advertising – cool or creepy?  Let me know what you think.