Search Retargeting – My View

I recently read an article on ClickZ by Robin Neifield title Search Retargeting It’s ready. Beahviroal Targeting networks currently selling search retargeting include, BlueLithium, and Revenue Science.

Basic concept behind Search Retargeting is to target Visitors who come to your site via search and then leave without converting. The idea is to reintroduce them with relevant message on the network once they leave your site.
For example a Visitor searches for cellphone arrives at your site (that cells cellphone and other electronics) but than leaves without buying one. Sometime in future (next day or whenever) visitor arrives to a news site (which does not cell phone), the visitor is shown a targeted message from your company trying to bring the visitor back to your site so that visitor can purchase the cellphone.

In a nutshell what these networks selling Search Retargeting are implying is that the fact that visitor searched something on a search engine and then clicked on paid or organic listing to arrive at a site is a strong indication that a visitor is interested in a particular products/service. I agree that such a behavior (searching for a keyword) indicates strong interest.

But isn’t the fact that visitor who arrived to the site (no matter how) and looked at product pages (cell phone in above example) indicates the visitors strong interest? Isn’t the whole idea of behavioral targeting based on determining visitor intent via their behavior on site or on the network? So why only target those visitors who arrived via search? Is search stronger indication than on-site behavior? Maybe it is, I don’t think Behavioral Targeting companies will agree with that. By just focusing on retargeting the user who arrived via search only you will be missing out an opportunity to fully utilize Behavioral Targeting. So why do I think so?

Let’s look at a scenario of a visitor:

A visitor searches “cell phone” on a search engines and lands on your site. As soon as visitor arrives on your site you should make an attempt to engage the visitor by having a well designed and optimized landing page. If the landing page is generic then you should use the tactic I described in my article title “Follow the search”. Granted not everybody buys in the first session and so you need to target them with right message based on their behavior (intent to purchase cell phone in this case) even after they leave your site, this is behavioral targeting.

Now there are two scenarios after the visitor arrives on your site.
1.Visitor looks further into the site – Great you landing page probably has done its work. Which leads into the following two scenarios
a.Visitor converts
b.Visitor does not convert
2. Visitor leaves the site without looking further than landing page – Your landing page or the offers are not enticing enough for this visitor.

Let’s analyze each of these scenarios one at a time

1a. If Visitor looks around and converts then no more targeting need. Mission accomplished.

1b. Visitor looks deeper into the site and then leaves without converting– In this case you need to target them. But the question is – How is this visitor different from those visitors who did not come via search and then browsed you site for cellphones? Didn’t their behavior showed that they were interested in cellphones and need to be retargeted?

So my point is that weather a visitor comes from search or some other way, if they have looked around on your site for a particular category or product and their behavior (on site usage) show they are in market or aremost likely to buy a product then they should be retargeting (if you are going to invest time an money in retargeting). How does it make a difference how they arrived to the site? Search is one more element of the behavior but on site behavior (BT Company’s core strength) is suggesting the same thing. By Offering Search Retargeting are BT companies indicating that search is better indicator than on-site behavior so we should only target those visitors who came via search? Does not make sense to me because this goes against their core offering which was based on the premise that onsite behavior is a better indicator of visitors interest.

2b. If a visitor leaves the site without going any further then you have a bigger problem which won’t be solved by search retargeting. It won’t matter how user arrived at your site. It requires landing page optimization and over all product/or service that your company offers. No matter how much you retarget if your landing page sucks or you don’t have the products or services that Visitors want then you are not going to convert.

If BT networks are going to place their bets on search retargeting (by showing that search is a better indicator than onsite behavior) than they better watch out because Google, Yahoo or MSN will have a more understanding and control of Search than them. For example, Google knows a lot more about visitor’s search behavior (I am not talking about Google and Behavioral Targeting that I talked about last month). Google knows not only which keyword drove visitor to your site but also which other sites the visitor clicked on before and after. Google also know what kind of keywords and keyword combinations (e.g. cellphone battery or buy a cellphone) Visitor searched before or after she searched “cellphone” to reach to you site, this is far better information for retargeting than just knowing “cellphone” keyword drove them to your site. Google can easily target the Visitor with their “Personalized Search” or Adsense network.

What do you think? I would like comments from BT providers as well as those who have tried search retargeting.

One Reply to “Search Retargeting – My View”

  1. Thanks for pointing out this information. These companies seem to be utilizing the current “search obsessed” world to offer a product that already exists. SEO and SEM are a huge thing right now, and these companies seem to be trying to reposition their product as being a part of SEM campaigns. When in fact, this product already exists and is widely used in a broader sense, like you are suggesting. offers retargeting to lost prospects no matter how a customer gets to the landing page. Then, if they do not convert, they will be shown relevant ads and these ads can be customized to what their actions were on the site.

    I’m curious as to why these companies already offering retargeting would want to limit its use to just search!

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