Content marketing is, by definition, an indirect approach to revenue generation. In fact, so the theory goes, the more indirect the better.
But although it’s true that content created to delight and inform, not to sell and promote is usually more effective at engaging audiences, the inescapable question is: when and how does that translate into bookings and revenue?
There are various approaches to converting casual audiences into paying customers, but perhaps the most direct and measurable is via retargeting ads, a subset of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising that allows you to show ads tailored to people who have previously visited pages on your site and engaged with your content.
This is especially useful in a content marketing context: great content is effective at creating initial touch points with the target audience, but they’re usually top-funnel clicks from consumers who aren’t always ready to make a purchase.
Retargeting is an easy way of keeping the brand in front of these people as they move along the customer journey, bringing them back to the site at just the right moment for a booking or other conversion:
The mechanics are fairly simple: using either tracking cookies or your email database you can build audience lists defined by specific visitor behaviours, for example people who viewed your blog or other content assets but not your sales pages, people that abandoned the site at the booking form, etc.
You can then create ads tailored to these audience lists on a number of different retargeting platforms:
The Google Display Network has long-established retargeting capabilities (Google calls it remarketing), which lets you place banner ads on sites across the web. For even better precision you can also combine your retargeting lists with the network’s other targeting capabilities, such as location, interest, placement, and more. Display ads are often seen as the runt of the PPC litter but combined with retargeting they can come into their own as a powerful lead generator – particularly if the original content left a lasting impression on the user:
Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) allow you to target Google search ads to people who have previously engaged with your content and are therefore significantly more likely to convert. Search ads are already the king of the lead-gen channels, adding retargeting can make paid search even more powerful:
Retargeting for search ads is especially attractive since paying for Adwords clicks can be a major drain on marketing budgets. RLSA offers two powerful refinements to regular Adwords PPC strategy:
- You could choose to bid on keywords you don’t usually target just for people who have viewed content on your site. For instance you might reserve keywords with very high CPC for people who are already familiar with your brand and content.
- Alternatively you could simply choose to increase the bids on your regular ads for people who have previously visited your site, to increase your chance that these extra qualified prospects will see and click your ads.
Finally, Facebook Custom Audiences offers a similar solution for showing News Feed ads to people who have visited your site, specific pages, or downloaded your content.
There are various other platforms that may be of use for certain campaigns, such as video retargeting lists for YouTube audiences, retargeting ads for Twitter, and services like Adroll for managing high volume programmatic campaigns across multiple networks.
These are powerful solutions (sometimes a little too powerful), and there is some risk that needs to be managed. Aggressive retargeting can lead to ad fatigue among your audience, which will hit campaign performance while negatively impacting your brand.
There’s also the risk of seeming creepy – we’ve all noticed these ads ourselves while online: that weird sense that you’re being followed by some cruise operator ever since you read an article on winter sun destinations three weeks ago.
When a consumer gets to this point you’ve gone too far and you start doing more harm than good. It’s important to balance your campaign and keep it appropriate for the audience.
Stay unobtrusive: Cap the number of impressions and put a reasonable time limit on your ads. If they’re not clicking or converting after a week or so, chances are they’re not going to – know when to let people go.
Target placements: Google Display Network allows you to determine specific sites for your ads. Use this to exclude low quality categories (gambling & adult sites, mobile apps, etc) and your knowledge of the audience to target the sites they’re most active on, especially when in “purchase mode” for your product.
Custom Vs automated audiences: Both Facebook and Google offer “lookalike” tools to expand your audience to other users not in your actual retargeting list but based on similar affinity/interests. Tread carefully and be sure not to expand your audience list too wide – the wider it is, the less targeted it becomes and you start to lose all the benefits of retargeting.
This also defeats the object of using retargeting to reconnect with existing prospects and people who have engaged with your content.
Test, optimise and test again: Don’t just press play and sit back. Monitor and optimise your ad groups, the creatives, your messaging, your bids, the landing pages you’re sending traffic to, everything. Every saving you make can be reinvested into the campaign to produce more leads.
Continuity: Aim for coherence across your campaign. You want people to know they’re dealing with the same brand in each interaction from initial contact with your content, to clicking on your ads, to arriving at a landing page. This is important for conversion rates but it’s also critical for long term brand building and recognition.
Tread very carefully with mobile display partners: Both Facebook and Google will offer to show your ads on their various networks of 3rd party sites, including mobile sites and apps. Think carefully about spending money on low quality mobile clicks as your ads will appear in some very unusual (and not always useful) places and you can very easily burn through your budget on useless clicks.
How have your experiences been with these retargeting tools? Give us a shout for more information or advice.