Tips for Running a Search Re-Targeting Campaign

Search re-targeting became one of the fastest growing trends in 2012 and it is expected to surpass projections this year.

So what is search re-targeting?

Search-ReTargetingSearch re-targeting is a form of advertising that combines the precision of search marketing with display impressions based on the keywords a user enters into search engines.

In essence, this is a lot like Search Engine Marketing (SEM); only, banner ads are displayed to users browsing partner sites based on search terms they previously entered on search engines. Check this out: 67.45% of online shoppers abandon their shopping cart without completing a purchase. For a business, this can mean loss of potential revenue.

How does search re-targeting work?

Search re-targeting, the Google way, relies on keyword lists to determine target consumers. An SEM campaign is a good way to generate keywords. However, it is important to scale up beyond SEM targets to reach user interests. The first activity then would be to create a re-marketing list and install tracking codes on various pages.

Search re-targeting campaigns typically work with search engines by dropping cookies to track users and then target them when they find those users again on the display inventory they serve ads on.

Search re-targeting primarily works because of these two reasons:

  • Intent: Targets users who have already visited a business website and are interested in similar products or services
  • ROI: Conversion rates are higher, as ads are targeted to a focused user group

Case Study: Resolution Media returns on ad spend (ROAS) was 297% above the client’s goal

Here’s a five point checklist for successful re-targeting campaigns:

  1. Create an interest, topic based re-targeting list and add tracking codes to all pages that you want to be re-targeted. For example, a audience interest list can be created by determining where they are in the purchasing cycle or interest in specific products based on pages they visited in past.
  2. Start with a broad keywords set and work down. There is a learning curve for you here. It’s still more effective than to start with specific terms and struggle to scale up.
  3. Keyword-driven display can extend beyond the words (that are searched), to the content of the partner websites. When managed properly, you can generate impressions for a larger audience viewing content relevant to your business.
  4. Use features like auto optimization. Work with the algorithm to learn and improve campaign performance. Remember, there are third party platforms analyzing thousands of data points – leverage them to optimize your campaign. For example, Insightforums
  5. Choose the right target. Attribute by using messaging to sections within your website. For example, branding on the home page, discount on sales pages and so on.

Here is a tip: Use a combination of keyword tactics such as branded terms and competitors’ terms. Let the data tell you which phrases and words are performing the best.


Search re-targeting is a power tool in a search marketer’s armor. When used well this can pay rich dividends and increase campaign ROI. Marketers need to practice clean and accurate keyword-level re-targeting with precise messages to boost performance for direct response.

Contributed by Binny Kurian, Project Management Team

Binny Kurian

Binny helps businesses/marketing leaders develop their online marketing initiatives, extend their reach and measure results. A large part of this involves strategic consulting on search engine marketing and working with emerging digital technologies.

Away from work, Binny is interested in reading, traveling and food.