What is Search Retargeting & How Does It Work?5 min read

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When a user is on Google and searches for “athletic shoes,” companies like Nike and Skechers probably want their ads to continuously show up for those users online because they’re currently in the market for a product they sell.

But how could they do that when the user isn’t searching for them and perhaps doesn’t even know that their company sells athletic shoes?

That’s where search retargeting comes in. With this behavioral targeting, companies can have their ads show up on search engine results pages (SERPs) and social media sites after a user types in certain keywords.

This is a popular strategy among marketers. In fact, 68% of marketing agencies and 49% of brands have a dedicated budget for retargeting. Additionally, it’s also popular among online users — 25% of online viewers enjoy seeing retargeted ads.

In this post, let’s discuss what search retargeting is, how it works, and how you can use it to reach new audiences.

Continuing the example above, if a user searched for “athletic shoes,” they might go on Facebook a few days later and see an ad for Nike or Skechers. This would mean that the company has set up a digital campaign to retarget users who are searching for athletic shoes in search engines.

Now you might be wondering, “How does this work?” Let’s dive in below.

How does search retargeting work?

Essentially, search retargeting works through automation. Once a user searches for a keyword, certain display ads will begin to appear on their SERPs, social media, and other pages they visit online.

This works by creating a custom audience for your display ads. To do this, you’ll create a list of keywords that are relevant to your business. You can choose to retarget people who use broad, exact, or phrase-matched keywords.

Then, you’ll go to your search engine ads (whether on Google, Yahoo, or Bing) or any software you use to set up your display advertising and use their ecosystem to set up your campaign. The search engine or software will then use their data to retarget those users and display your ads to them online.

The idea is that a user will be searching for a product, see your company’s ad, and then hopefully either visit your site then or consider coming back to your site when they’re ready to make a purchase.

Before we dive too deep into search retargeting, right now you’re probably thinking about site retargeting and asking yourself, “Isn’t this the same thing?” The answer is no, but let’s expand below.

The great thing about search retargeting is that the user doesn’t even have to be aware your company exists. They’ll see your ads because they’re looking for a certain product or service, whether they know of your brand or not.

While site retargeting helps those in the consideration/decision phase of the purchasing process, search retargeting is for those who are in the awareness phase. The main difference is the type of consumer that is being targeted.

Benefits of Search Retargeting

1. Improve brand awareness.

Search retargeting is especially effective at improving brand awareness. So much so, that 70% of marketers turn to search retargeting primarily to increase brand awareness. This is because the audience you’re targeting doesn’t have to know who you are to see your ad. The more people who see your ad that hasn’t heard of your company, the greater your brand awareness.

2. Increase visitors to your site.

Of course, a huge benefit of doing search retargeting is increasing visitors to your site. You’ll be able to attract new visitors to your site that haven’t heard of your company and wouldn’t have otherwise shown up on your site through search retargeting. This is because you’re capturing visitors through the intent of their searches.

3. Convert more consumers.

At the end of the day, you run digital campaigns to increase your ROI (return on investment) and drive revenue. Search retargeting can help with that. In fact, retargeted search ads have higher conversion rates than regular display ads. And it ends up being more cost-effective.

Google Search Retargeting

While you might use a marketing automation tool to set up your search retargeting ads, those will most likely only use data collected from Yahoo and Bing. Google prefers to keep its data in-house, so you can use Google Ads to conduct your search retargeting campaigns on this search engine.

Within Google, this process is called keyword contextual targeting. You’ll use Google’s keyword tool to select your keywords, and you can even use negative keywords to make sure your ads don’t show up on irrelevant searches.

Reach New Audiences with Search Retargeting

Search retargeting is a great way to increase brand awareness and bring more engagement and visitors to your site. Not only does it work, but consumers prefer this type of advertising to other display ads.

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