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Written by Caroline Cox on Jul 30 , 2021

Instead of window displays, we’ve got e-commerce ads.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to determine the best e-commerce ad platforms for your brand
  • Display ads vs. PPC ads for e-commerce
  • What elements make up a successful e-commerce ad
  • Pro tips to give you an edge over competitors

Remember the mall? We barely do too. 

Depending on what you’re in the market for, perusing through physical aisles and racks to make a purchase isn’t the hyper-common process it once was.

These days, the bulk of shopping happens online. In June 2020, global retail e-commerce traffic hit a record 22 billion monthly visits, “with demand being exceptionally high for everyday items such as groceries, clothing, but also retail tech items,” according to Statista.

If you’re an e-commerce brand looking to stay in the game, online ads are a great way to do it. Search, social, and display ads allow you to target your audience, boost your clickthrough rate (CTR), increase sales, and more. For best practices, agency tips, and expert advice when it comes to e-commerce ad platforms, keep reading. 

hawksem: e-commerce ad platforms

Before you go all in on one ad platform, you need a solid understanding of where your audience regularly shops. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Work with cohesive vendors

It’ll benefit you to work with vendors that can easily integrate with the other programs your company already uses, especially as your e-commerce business grows. When you’re launching digital ads, it’ll be a more streamlined process when you’re using hosting options (like Shopify or Nexcess) that integrate well with search engines and social media platforms.

If your e-commerce biz doesn’t use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like HubSpot or has a custom site, you may have to jump through a few hoops to make sure everything for your ads is synced and reporting properly. 

It’s also important to find a web hosting solution that makes mobile-first optimizations simple. It’s likely that most of your traffic will come from mobile, so mobile-first conversion rate optimization is key.

If you’re just starting out on the paid ads route, you can set yourself up for success by integrating with a CRM, keeping your site simple to navigate, and making sure you can easily integrate with search engines and social platforms where you’d potentially want to show your ads.

2. Understand paid search vs. display ads for e-commerce

Once you’ve decided to invest in digital ads, the next step is deciding which ad type to leverage. E-commerce brands can certainly find success with paid search or pay-per-click (PPC), particularly through dynamic search ads. 

These ads use content and keywords from your site to help better target your ads to the right people (all the more reason to have a strong e-commerce SEO strategy). Simply add a thought-out description, and let the search engine take care of the rest. 

paid search herbal dynamics beauty

An example of paid search e-commerce ads from Herbal Dynamics Beauty on the SERP.

If you want to opt for display ads, e-commerce brands can try their luck with dynamic remarketing (also called retargeting). These ads populate for people who have already visited one of your product pages vs. those who have clicked an ad. Just know that recent Apple iOS updates have made remarketing more challenging. Luckily, there’s plenty of opportunity to reach new potential audiences via display.

These ads are a good money-saving option — you don’t have to have any other forms of advertising for them to work. You can run these on platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon. Display ads don’t offer as much control over bidding as more traditional campaigns do, but they can be effective when paired with proper bidding strategies and as long as you’re using daily budgets.

Shopping ads can be a highly effective (and lucrative) channel for your e-commerce strategy with proper feed management. 

Pro tip: Google recently started serving shopping ads in organic search results, so if you’re already optimizing your ads and have a product feed set up through Google Merchant Center, you get additional opportunities to garner not only PPC traffic but even free traffic, too.

3. Determine where your audience is already shopping

Before you go all in on e-commerce ad platforms, you’ll want to have a solid understanding of where your audience regularly shops. The easier you make it for them to purchase your product or service, the higher ROI you’re likely to see.

Creating PPC ads for Google is a great place for an e-commerce brand to start. If more of your buyers are on Amazon or Instagram, then those could be good options as well. Just make sure you’re not competing against yourself. Running Amazon ads may cause you to outrank your own Google Shopping items, and you don’t want that. 

Knowing your audiences can guide you toward the right platforms. For example:

  • Bing could be more successful than Google with audiences 50 and older
  • Instagram is probably better than Facebook for audiences in their 20s and 30s
  • If they’re middle age, Facebook is likely better than Instagram
  • If your audience is mostly male, Reddit ads may be worth exploring

The Facebook algorithm works best the more time it has to optimize your ads with their audience pool. It typically needs about 50 conversions to “understand” who to best serve the ads to. 

And because it uses a 7-day attribution window, you can’t really get a full picture of ad performance until the 7-day window is up. Best practice: Facebook ads should run a minimum of 5 days, but 7 is optimal to properly understand how it performs.

The same can be said for certain types of Google ads. There are bidding strategies that won’t perform well if the campaigns aren’t driving a minimum of 50 conversions per month, so understanding the nuances of the bid strategies is important for success there as well.

person online shopping with credit card

Social ads are a particularly great option when you’re working with a limited budget but want a decent-size reach. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Know what makes an e-commerce ad successful

When it comes to what e-commerce ads resonate best, feel free to be your own test subject! Search for a common item like “blue t-shirt” on Google or Amazon, then check out the results. Which images and ad copy blurbs stand out most to you?

The elements of a successful e-commerce ad will vary by product, industry, and audience. But there are few good rules of thumb that are likely to benefit brands across categories. 

Clear, high-quality images without cluttered backgrounds are a good place to start. From there, be sure your products are easy to view on smartphones as mobile commerce or m-commerce continues to rise in popularity.

An example of a promoted tweet for monthly wine club Bright Cellars on Twitter.

An example of a promoted tweet for monthly wine club Bright Cellars on Twitter.

Social ads are a particularly great option when you’re working with a limited budget but want a decent-size reach. For these e-commerce ad platforms, think about how you can make your ad seamlessly fit in with organic posts on that specific platform. 

Depending on which site your ad will appear on, consider elements like emoji, GIFs or videos, hashtags, and platform-relevant verbiage like “retweet” on Twitter. And, of course, don’t forget about that strong call to action (CTA).

Pro tip: Got a brick-and-mortar location? Make sure your Google My Business (GMB) page is set up correctly with tags in place and the most up-to-date info. 

5. Don’t forget about seller ratings

Especially for highly competitive markets, having seller ratings on your ads can be a game-changer for your CTR. As we’ve mentioned, peer recommendations, research, and product reviews are some of the most influential factors that affect purchasing decisions. 

If you’ve ever compared an item with 3 out of 5 stars to one with 5 out of 5 (these ratings can be integrated with shopping ads), then gone with the latter, you know what we mean.

As with any ad, think about what sets you apart from your competitors. Something like free shipping may not be as appealing if most of the brands similar to yours are offering that as well. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Is your product the softest, fastest, the first of its kind, or something else? Use that angle in your copy to help the item shine. 

6. Perform tests to keep ads optimized

Predicting is one thing — analyzing the data is, of course, another. Once you decide which e-commerce ad platforms you want to experiment with, keep in mind that continued A/B testing will be one of the most effective ways to understand your target audience and what resonates with them. 

Eliminate variables and change one thing at a time to properly measure. Do they prefer free two-day shipping or a coupon code? Do they click more on white backgrounds or real-life images? Consistent testing and measuring will help you answer these questions.

hawksem: e-commerce ad platforms

With so much shopping taking place online these days, having ads for your e-commerce brand just makes sense. (Image via Unsplash)

Pro tip: Before beginning, determine the goals of your paid ad strategy. Especially if you’re working with an agency, it’s crucial that everyone is aligned on budget, KPIs, and what success looks like. Even if you’re just starting out, look at your spend and product costs to determine what numbers would mean a campaign was successful.

7. Plan for seasonality

Of course, shopping seasons ebb and flow depending on things like holidays and the time of year. That’s why it’s important to plan budgets and ad spend according to the way your brand historically drives sales throughout the year. 

For example, an e-commerce brand probably shouldn’t plan on spending the same amount of money on ads during June that they might spend over Black Friday or Cyber Monday, unless there’s a reason they drive huge sales during that time. 

If there are other reasons certain seasons impact their sales (i.e. if you sell winter boots or swimsuits), it’s a good idea to allocate greater portions of your budget to support greater sales during those impactful times of the year. During the slow months, pull back a bit to support your annual return on ad spend (ROAS) and overall profitability.

The takeaway

With so much shopping taking place online these days, having ads for your e-commerce brand just makes sense. It’s a great way to expand your reach, boost your sales, and beat out your competition.

By following best practices — like having goals in mind, determining where your audience likes to shop, and making sure you’re putting your business’s best face forward online — you can leverage e-commerce ad platforms and be on the right path to getting the ROI you seek.

This post has been updated and was originally published in March 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 28 , 2021

Digital marketing can get you in front of potential customers — the right strategy can get them to convert.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How search results affect customer acquisition
  • Organic ways to acquire new leads
  • Effective paid marketing strategies
  • How to set your website up for optimal acquisition

Marketing pros who aren’t new to the game likely know all about the customer journey. It comprises the stages we base our content, campaigns, and plans on: awareness, consideration, and decision. (With delight as the bonus step.) And the customer journey is a crucial element when it comes to acquisition.

Customer acquisition is the process of converting a generated lead into a customer. It’s basically the whole funnel (or journey) combined. At the end of the day, marketing is about attracting new customers, and keeping customer acquisition top of mind is how marketers can make that happen.

While there’s no one way to pinpoint and acquire qualified leads that are sure to become customers, there are a handful of digital marketing strategies you can implement with customer acquisition in mind. Here, we’ve mapped out six of our favorites.

line of people outside from aerial view

Companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Paid search

Also known as pay per click (PPC), paid search is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies when it comes to customer acquisition. That’s because it allows companies to target their specific audience with the right keywords at the right time.

Paid search ads appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) on sites like Google and Bing. If someone’s searching for “women’s black cycling shoes,” for example, and you’re an e-commerce brand selling cycling products (including women’s black cycling shoes), you want your targeted ad to be the one they see. The same goes for brands selling other products and services.

The companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad, though. Rather, it’s crucial to pair eye-catching, appealing ad copy with an optimized landing page that boasts consistent verbiage, clean design, and a clear call to action (CTA).

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Along with a paid search strategy, having a solid SEO strategy helps search engines more easily recognize your website. This helps improve your rankings and, ideally, grow your reach for better customer acquisition.

Proper SEO on your site means having elements including:

  • Unique title tags on your pages
  • High-quality content 
  • Internal links and external links (to authoritative sites)
  • A sitemap
  • Meta descriptions
  • Images with alt tags

Ensuring your site is optimized for search engines won’t guarantee that you’ll get in the first position (or even on the first page) of the SERPs. The search algorithm that determines the best content for each search query is constantly changing, and the details about how search engines determine the best content to show searchers isn’t always clear.

However, by keeping your site up to date, easy to navigate, and educational for prospects and clients, you can position your brand as a thought leader and your site as a valuable source of information.

3. Social media

When it comes to social media, you’ve got the option to leverage both organic and paid avenues. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that each path can be leveraged in the same way or achieve the same results.

Let’s start with organic social media. The practice of regularly creating social media posts can help spread the word about new business offerings or updates, increase your exposure, and even help you go viral (in a good way, ideally).

While organic social posts likely won’t directly result in customer acquisition, they can aid in brand awareness, content sharing, and allow you to highlight the fun side of your brand.

Paid social, on the other hand, can be a powerful tool if wielded properly. When choosing which platforms to advertise on, you should first consider your target audience and the platforms they use most.

From there, you can take advantage of the audience targeting tools most of these platforms have in place to get your content delivered straight to those who need to see it most. 

group of millennials on their laptops laughing

When done right, remarketing one of the best and most cost-effective ways to get past visitors back to your site. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Remarketing

As we’ve touched on before, remarketing can benefit your business in numerous ways. Not only does it keep you top of mind when someone takes an action like visiting your site, or requesting a consultation or demo, but it allows you to hyper-focus your ads and ups your chances of turning a lead into a conversion.

Remarketing (also called retargeting) works by leveraging display ads to connect your business with people who have already visited your site or mobile app. When done right, it’s one of the best and most cost-effective ways to get past visitors back to your site. 

Of course, the most successful retargeting campaigns aren’t one size fits all. A brand-new site visitor shouldn’t be remarketed the same way as a returning visitor. 

Data transparency changes and the eventual demise of third-party cookies are going to force some changes in digital marketing, particularly for remarketing ads. But there’s no need to panic: Marketers have adapted to massive changes for decades. And while more solutions will become apparent as the process unfolds, focusing on attracting new prospects is one way to keep your lead pipeline flowing.

Looking for more ways to increase your customer acquisition? Let’s talk.

5. Content marketing

When people hear the phrase “content marketing,” they may automatically think of blogs. And while blogging is a great medium for businesses when it comes to customer acquisition, content can encompass much more.

Examples of valuable content include:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos and webinars
  • Guides and e-books
  • Infographics
  • Checklists
  • Downloadable templates
  • Product descriptions
  • Case studies

No matter the content you create, you want to make sure it’s accurate, helpful, and targeted. The more deliverables you create, the more industry topics you can cover, and the more likely you are to be found in organic search results by those seeking what you have to offer.

Pro tip: You can take things a step further by partnering with another brand (with a similar audience but not a competitor) on something like an infographic, webinar, or guest blog. This expands your reach, helps build your professional network, and boosts your brand’s credibility.

two people meeting at a coffeeshop

Include social share links as well as forwarding options in your email newsletter to make sharing a breeze. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Email newsletters

Email newsletters can be a powerful acquisition channel if you follow a few key strategies. As Campaign Monitor reports, you’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. 

The most successful newsletters:

  • Include one main CTA
  • Offer a tactical takeaway (like a pro tip, discount, or statistic)
  • Feature an attention-grabbing subject line
  • Have an easy-to-read template
  • Are optimized for mobile

When you’re looking to build your non-client subscriber list, get creative! You can add exit-intent pop-ups to your site, or include a subscription box in your site’s footer. Offline, you can give people the option to sign up if your brand is posted up in a booth at an industry conference or networking event — a particularly effective strategy if it’s part of a giveaway or contest.

Pro tip: Let your readers help you spread the word! Include social share links as well as forwarding options in your email newsletter to make sharing a breeze. Due to the psychology of social proof, peer-recommended content is more likely to be trusted.

The takeaway

Customers are the bread and butter of any business, and digital marketing is one of the most direct ways to connect with your desired prospects.

By knowing your audience, meeting them where they are, and analyzing the data behind your campaigns, you’ll have the tools you need to not only attract more customers, but keep them loyal and happy as well.

This post has been updated and was originally published in December 2019.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Mar 10 , 2021

PPC marketing is a proven way to get fast results. But just like any other strategy, it needs regular tweaking, updating, and optimizing.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why Google Ads isn’t the only pay-per-click (PPC) player in town
  • Why manual bidding is worth your attention
  • Expert tips on PPC optimization in 2021
  • What Core Web Vitals are and why they matter

We like to say that digital marketing is part art, part science. Sure, there are guidelines, processes, and steps — but without a heavy dose of creativity, your program isn’t likely to beat out the competition. 

Well-versed paid search marketers know this. They also know that experimentation, analysis, and optimization are key components to creating a PPC strategy that isn’t just successful, but lasting too. 

Behaviors, competitors, and algorithms change fast. To stay on top of your game, you have to catch on before someone else does. Let these PPC optimization strategies guide your paid search efforts for the rest of 2021 and beyond.

1. Switch to manual bidding

No matter how stellar your PPC ads are, they won’t achieve proper results without the right bidding strategy. The tactic you choose for your bids depends on your campaign goals.

If you want to achieve the largest number of clicks according to the set budget, you can use the traditional automatic cost-per-click (CPC) bidding system.

However, allowing Google to do the job for you comes with a couple of downsides. One of them is lack of an easy way to adjust your campaign if it’s not performing properly. Manual bidding can fix this problem. This hands-on, more customized bidding approach:

  • Increases ad visibility
  • Lowers your cost per action (CPA)
  • Allows you to prioritize keywords that convert better

Switching from automatic to manual bidding is an advanced strategy. Often, it requires paying close attention to tactics such as:

  • Focusing on one campaign at a time, since the process can be time-consuming
  • Lowering your bids for keywords that receive solid impressions but don’t generate sales
  • Increasing bids for keywords that convert to increase the position of ads containing them and generate more conversions
  • Choosing the default bid, which is close to the average CPC in your automatic campaigns

When you leverage manual bidding, it’s a good idea to run the manual campaign for a couple of weeks to see if it achieves the goal of lowering CPC and generating sales. 

Pro tip: Manual bidding is great when you need more control over bids. But this strategy also means more time often goes into making sure you’re bidding the right amount at the right time. You can streamline this by setting up automated rules to do things like pause poor performing keywords, raise bids to top of page or first page, raise or lower bids during certain times of day, and more. 

hawksem: ppc optimization blog

Creating an ad group that consists of people who have already visited your landing pages can be the key to improving your conversion rate. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Take advantage of remarketing

Research shows that only about 2% of potential customers convert on their first visit. Does that mean you’re wasting your money on PPC ads? Of course not. You just have to boost their success by pairing them with remarketing (or retargeting) campaigns.

This process involves using ads to follow potential clients who have clicked your ads or visited your site. Placing your ad in front of them serves as a tasteful reminder of the action they may have wanted to take on your website.

Google Ads allows you to segment your remarketing lists to show ads to visitors based on their needs and the landing page the initial PPC ad brought them to. Creating an ad group that consists of people who have already visited your landing pages can be the key to improving your conversion rate.

Pro tip: The minimum audience size for remarketing is 1,000 individual users, which helps Google protect users’ privacy while still allowing you to market to them.

3. Explore Microsoft Ads

Google Ads is an unmistakable leader in the PPC marketing realm. But that doesn’t mean others in the space aren’t worth exploring. For some companies, using Microsoft Advertising can be just the solution they’ve been waiting for. 

What’s more, you could potentially see more success with Microsoft Ads. Depending on your industry, there’s often less competition on these platforms, which means lower CPCs. But simply importing a campaign over from Google Ads and forgetting about it means missing highly useful tools other ad platforms have to offer. 

For example, Microsoft advertising has:  

  • Action extensions – add call-to-action (CTA) buttons near your ad that link to the landing page of your choice
  • Review extensions – feature reviews from third-party sites below your ad
  • LinkedIn targeting – view the reactions of the LinkedIn audience to your ads for further adjustments
  • Competition insight – see how your visibility compares to your competition, which shows up for the same search queries

4. Pay attention to Amazon Ads

Amazon Advertising presents another PPC optimization opportunity. While the audience covered by the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Facebook Ads is huge, those who see your ad on those platforms aren’t necessarily in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey.

Amazon audiences, on the other hand, are generally closer to the bottom of the sales funnel. People who visit this shopping giant are likely ready to buy, which increases your chances of conversion tremendously.

These are the types of sponsored Amazon ads potentially at your disposal:

  • Products – keyword-targeted ads that allow you to promote a certain product
  • Brands – help promote your overall brand while including up to three products in the ad (users are directed to the Stores page or a custom Amazon landing page)
  • Display ads – send those who click to Amazon product detail pages, a custom landing page on Amazon, or an external website

Pro tip: You don’t need to sell your products on Amazon to take advantage of this advertising option. 

hawksem blog: ppc optimization

Core Web Vitals show how good of user experience you should aim to offer your visitors. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Take advantage of responsive search ads

After first appearing in 2019, Responsive Search Ads quickly grew in popularity. That’s partly because these ads allow you to create 15 headlines and 4 different descriptions for your ad. Google then tests various combinations of these elements and selects those that perform best depending on factors like:

  • Keywords searched for
  • Devices used
  • Browsing behavior

Responsive ads save time and money on A/B testing while allowing you to reach your target audience faster.

Need more help optimizing your PPC campaigns in 2021? Let’s talk.

6. Optimize your website

Your PPC campaign results can fall far below expectations if you don’t optimize your website to welcome your target audience once they arrive there. As of this year, Google has said they will consider Core Web Vitals when determining the ranking of your pages. These vitals include:

  • Loading performance – The page should load in under 2.5 seconds.
  • Visual stability – Page elements shouldn’t move when the user is reading the text (it usually happens when a piece of media loads), forcing the visitor to search for their lost place.
  • Interactivity – The time between the visitor taking action (like clicking a button or tab) and the website responding should be under 100 milliseconds.

Core Web Vitals show how good of user experience you should aim to offer your visitors. Improving them won’t just improve search engine optimization efforts, but it’ll also help your PPC ad clickers actually convert.

Pro tip: While you’re working on your website, make sure you’re prioritizing landing page optimization, too. When your landing page has content similar to keywords you’re using, it strengthens the relevancy, which Google may reward with a higher Quality Score.

7. Revisit your keywords

When’s the last time you took a long, hard look at your keywords? Now is a great time to consider things like expanding your current keyword lists, updating your negative keywords, and getting rid of those that are underperforming.

A few keyword tweaks could bring big benefits. Even actions as minor as adding an adverb, removing a term with low search volume, or seeing which terms your competition is ranking for could bring you that much closer to more clicks and higher ROI.

Pro tip: Consult your user search term reports to find new keywords to add that aren’t already in your account, then use Google Keyword Planner for additional research and new campaigns.

8. Check in on your conversion tracking

We highly recommend using Google Tag Manager (GTM) and Google Analytics (GA) for conversion tracking. Why? Let’s say you want to drive form fills. You can configure your tags in GTM, build those goals in GA, and import your GA goals to Google Ads. 

If you have the same goal for multiple channels (e.g. paid social and paid search, or SEO and paid search), it streamlines the conversion setup. You can also configure Google Ads conversion tags in GTM (bypassing GA, but it means that you’re only recording Google Ads conversions). 

As a bonus, once you link your GA and Google Ads accounts — which you need to do before importing goals — you can also create remarketing audiences in GA and import those into your Google Ads.

The takeaway

PPC optimization is an ongoing process. And with multiple new options and updates happening every year, it’s nearly impossible to thrive without analyzing regularly so you can keep enhancing your strategies.

At the end of the day, the best PPC ads are clear, consistent, targeted to the right audience, and follow through on what they offer.

This article has been updated and was originally published in July 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jan 8 , 2021

With the ability to track almost everything online these days, effective retargeting ads are a great marketing tool that can help grow your ROI.

Here you’ll find:

  • The slight difference between retargeting and remarketing
  • Steps to create a successful retargeting campaign 
  • Key elements for an effective retargeting ad
  • The benefits of running these ad types

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone who stumbled upon your ads or website for the first time was primed to buy? A marketer’s dream!

But the reality is that, for about 96% of visitors, it’s just not true. That’s why retargeting can be such a powerful tool.

As a highly effective way to turn window shoppers into eventual leads, retargeting ads that speak to the right people can be a game-changer for your business. These are ads that populate around the web for those who have visited or otherwise taken interest in your business, but haven’t yet become customers.

The difference between retargeting and remarketing

In recent years, the fine line between retargeting and remarketing has become blurry. This has led to many using the two terms interchangeably. While retargeting and remarketing are both tactics to re-engage consumers, there are a few slight differences between the two.

Remarketing focuses on one platform — such as email — to re-engage site visitors and, often, previous customers. On the other hand, retargeting uses ads through paid media, such as paid search or paid social ads, to re-engage consumers who showed an interest in your brand. 

Retargeting ads are shown to consumers who have recently taken certain actions on or off your site, but didn’t follow through with a sale.

Ever clicked on a product like a pair of shoes or headphones while scrolling on a website, then moved on without adding to cart? If you log onto another site like Facebook and see an ad pop up for that exact product, you’ve experienced retargeting. 

Retargeting is a proven way to increase visitors’ chances of following through with a purchase than first-time visitors. In fact, Search Engine Land states that retargeted website visitors are 43% more likely to convert. 

Now that we’ve cleared up the difference between retargeting and remarketing, let’s dive into the four steps for creating an effective retargeting ad.

retargeting ads blog

Retargeting an email list is another one of the best ways to connect with those already familiar with your brand, so you can continue building a lasting relationship. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Determine advertising platforms

As with any marketing strategy, you want to ensure your message resonates with your target audience. You also want it to show up where they spend their time online. The same concept is true for your retargeting ads. You should choose the advertising platforms that’ll be most effective for reaching the people you want to retarget.

Popular advertising platforms include Google, Microsoft, and social media platforms. Take a closer look at your audience’s demographics and habits to determine the most effective platform for running retargeting ads.

Understanding your targeted audience will ensure you’re reaching the right people in the right places with the right messaging. This way, you won’t have to worry that you’re blowing your advertising budget on ineffective ads. 

2. Collect data for retargeting campaigns

Retargeting ads are prompted when a user takes a specific action. So, how do you ensure these are the people who see your ads? Collecting data for your specified actions is essential to creating an effective retargeting campaign. 

Two common methods for collecting this data are through using pixels and creating manually gathered lists. Installing a tracking pixel may require a bit of technical knowledge. If necessary, sync up with your go-to tech or dev pros, or the marketing agency you partner with, to make sure this is set up properly. 

Retargeting an email list is another one of the best ways to connect with those already familiar with your brand, so you can continue building a lasting relationship.

Using a retargeting pixel

A pixel is a piece of code embedded into the HTML on your website, landing pages, online ads, or emails. Once added, it begins tracking different data about visitors through their browser and passes on the information to the preferred advertising platform. 

If a visitor leaves without completing the desired action, your chosen advertising platforms will be alerted that they should be served relevant retargeting ads. This method is an instant, ultimately hands-free option for ensuring the right people see your ads. 

Using retargeting lists

List-based targeting is a way to re-engage the customers or website visitors whose emails you’ve already collected, possibly via a sign-up or free-trial offer. A customer relationship management (CRM) tool is one of the most efficient ways to create an organized list of contacts to use for retargeting. 

Even for those who prefer the old-school way of collecting emails via in-person sign-ups, a CRM will help keep those emails organized. With your list of contacts in hand (or saved on your device), upload it to your advertising platform. Once added, this targeted audience should begin seeing your retargeting ads as they scroll online. 

3. Set your retargeting goal

As with any marketing strategy, you need to set goals before starting a retargeting campaign. Two common goals we see are increasing brand or product awareness and converting previous visitors.

An awareness campaign is beneficial for educating audiences about new product offerings or special announcements. This goal will usually have a larger audience of people who haven’t recently engaged with your business. This makes it ideal for running before a conversion campaign. 

With conversion campaigns, visitors have engaged with your company or products but haven’t made the commitment leap. These retargeting ads are created with the goal of convincing previous visitors to follow through with their purchase.

With your retargeting goal established, you can then segment your audience for a successful campaign. Some segment examples include:

  • Behavior
  • Time on page duration
  • Frequency of site visits
  • Existing customers 

Segmenting your targeted audience will ensure you’re speaking to the right people that will help you achieve your retargeting goals.

Pro tip: Forbes suggests that once a campaign is established, a business should try to allocate at least 20%-30% of their total ad spend on retargeting. 

retargeting ads - facebook ad

An example of a retargeting ad on the Facebook platform. (Image via Facebook)

4. Optimize your retargeting ads

You may know we’re not fans of the “set it and forget it” mindset. That’s because we know ensuring your ads are optimized is the key to a successful campaign, no matter which type.

An effective retargeting ad will have a combination of elements such as compelling photos, videos, and text relevant to the featured product or service that grabs the viewer’s attention. 

To optimize your retargeting ads for a lasting impression, keep these factors in mind:

  • Attention-grabbing headline – Ask yourself: Is the headline engaging? Does it relate to the action taken on your website? 
  • Eye-catching media – Whether you opt for a photograph, animation, or video, it’s essential to keep it relevant to the ad copy. 
  • Straightforward copy – Speaking of copy, you want to keep it short and sweet. If people can’t determine the incentive or reason for seeing your ad quickly, they’ll likely move on with their day and leave your ad clickless. 
  • Click-worthy call to action (CTA) – Ensure your audience can identify their next step with an action-oriented CTA button.

The takeaway

The benefits of retargeting ads are many. When done effectively, running retargeting campaigns is a way to grow your ROI with an audience that has already shown an interest in your brand or product. 

While users seeing retargeting ads can feel like they’re being followed when browsing online, it’s often the reminder needed to make the leap to your brand and become a loyal customer. 

Ready to implement retargeting ads in your marketing strategy but not sure where to begin? Connect with us to learn how we can help!

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Sep 25 , 2020

When done correctly, remarketing lets you tastefully follow your audience and create valuable touchpoints to turn leads into customers.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What remarketing is
  • How to leverage this ad strategy the right way
  • Ways remarketing benefits your business
  • How it can save you money

Picture this: you’re walking around a shopping mall (OK, so maybe think a few years — or decades — back). In a window, you see a nice sweater that catches your eye. You check out the price tag, feel the fabric, but you’re not sure you’re ready to lay your credit card down.

You decide to keep walking around. As you’re heading towards the exit, you pass by the sweater again. You’ve had some time to think about it, and you decide to buy. 

That’s essentially how remarketing works — except online.

What is remarketing?

Remarketing (often used interchangeably with “retargeting”) is a method for connecting your product or service with people who have already visited your site or mobile app. 

While the terms can be used interchangeably, they have slightly different meanings. As Search Engine Journal explains, remarketing is more often about re-engaging customers via emails, while retargeting generally refers to third-party online ads that target users who have interacted with your site without purchasing.

Put another way, remarketing is typically based on email lists and CRM data. Retargeting, on the other hand, is based on pixel data (most often from unknown potential customers).

Remarketing can be done using many platforms, from Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising to Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Google and Microsoft also offer remarketing lists for search ads, or RLSAs. These vary from traditional remarketing, since they require users to be actively searching Google with the campaign keywords you’re bidding on.

Remarketing can be a highly effective tool for multiple industries and verticals — not just e-commerce. It’s a way to remind people about you, which is especially crucial since studies report that as much as 98% of consumers don’t make a purchase during their initial visit to a brand website, and more than 76% of people abandon online shopping carts. 

As Mailchimp explains, that’s because your audience needs to feel like they know you first. With that in mind, here are just a few ways remarketing can benefit your business.

HawkSEM blog: 5 Ways Remarketing Can Benefit Your Business

Through remarketing, you can increase your chances of turning that warm lead into a closed deal. (Image via Unsplash)

1. It keeps you top of mind

There are plenty of reasons why people navigate to your website without converting. Maybe they had to jump on a work call, were just casually browsing their options, or wanted to take their time before making a decision.

CMO by Adobe reports that 30% of consumers react positively or very positively to retargeted ads (vs. just 11% who react negatively — you can’t win ‘em all!). With the magic of remarketing, you can remind people about their past interest through these targeted ads — particularly if they’re searching for similar offerings again.

2. It ups your chances of converting a lead

If someone found their way to your site or app and was exposed to your brand, you’ve already overcome the big business hurdle of connecting with your audience. Through remarketing, you can increase your chances of turning that warm lead into a closed deal. It offers that nudge they need to further pursue what they were looking for from you in the first place.

Consumer-packaged goods company Kimberly-Clark saw 50-60% conversion rates for consumers who were served retargeting ads, according to Digiday.

Not only do these ad types remind users about you, but they can be programmed to take the user directly back to the page they bounced from. If they last visited your pricing page, for example, then the remarketing ad can route them back there once they click. The result: a seamless experience that tees them up to convert.

3. It allows you to hyper-focus your ads

One big benefit of remarketing ads is how they directly target those who have taken various actions to express interest in your product or service. According to Google, you can create various remarketing lists that apply to specific cases, such as those who added something to their cart but didn’t check out.

After all, who doesn’t love scoring a good old-fashioned deal? You can create remarketing ads that offer a special discount to a segment of users who have completed certain interactions with you. This way, the prospect has even more incentive to return to your site.

HawkSEM blog: 5 Ways Remarketing Can Benefit Your Business

You can combine remarketing with contextual targeting to ensure you’re getting in front of relevant prospects at the right time. (Image via Unsplash)

4. It lets you leverage mobile and video

Another thing that sets remarketing apart: its reach. With these ads types, you’re not just limited to the web. You can reach people browsing more than 2 million websites and apps via multiple devices. 

Consider targeting past website visitors on YouTube (or people who have watched your videos on YouTube) with video or display ads as they watch other videos. You can also use things like text and images in your remarketing ads themselves on the Google Display Network.

5. It saves you money

Cha-ching! That’s the sound of saving money with remarketing ads. These ads are some of the most cost-effective options out there. By targeting people who have already shown interest in what you have to offer (making them more qualified), you spend less than you would if you were starting from scratch and casting a wider net.

Though the total cost will depend on your overall marketing strategy, there are other ways to save as well. You can combine remarketing with contextual targeting, for example, to ensure you’re getting in front of relevant prospects at the right time.

Get started with remarketing

Now that you know all the advantages to using remarketing, you can start making this digital marketing tactic work for you. To remarket on Google, you first need to choose a support campaign type: display or search. 

For display remarketing, you need to choose a marketing objective or goal (if you have one), then create an ad group. Expand the “Audiences” areas of “People: who you want to reach,” then select the remarketing lists you want to target under the “Remarketing” audience.  

For search campaigns, the process is similar. You manage the audience of your ad by selecting your campaign, then adding your remarketing audience list to the ad groups you choose. From there, you can choose your audience targeting setting for the selected ad groups. 

Pro tip: If you don’t have a remarketing list created, you can use the ones Google Ads automatically creates for you.

For paid search remarketing on Microsoft Advertising’s Bing search engine, you start by placing a Universal Event Tracking (UET) tag across your site. You can then create remarketing lists, based on user activity and visited pages. Similarly to Google, you associate your remarketing lists to ads groups, then optimize to fit your Bing audience accordingly.

The takeaway

People understand that ads are just part of the package when it comes to being online, whether they’re shopping, reading, or being entertained. 

By meeting interested users where they are, you can turn that reminder into a click. That can lead to a conversion, which will, ideally, become a happy customer and brand evangelist down the line.

We’re no strangers to remarketing at HawkSEM. See how we can put this service to work for your company by requesting a consultation.

This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2019.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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