More Sure-Fire Tips for Improving Your Remarketing Banners

This is part 2 of a 2-part series about remarketing banners.  You can find Part 1 here.

If you’re testing a remarketing program for the first time, make sure you test it at the best time of your year.   A lot of companies test remarketing programs on their off-seasons thinking that it’s a good time because they’re not busy or they won’t “possibly do worse” at any other time of the year.  Although that may sound like a good idea it doesn’t really give you a good idea of your maximum potential or what you should budget annually.  

Choose your properties carefully.  There is a big difference between running your technology banner on HotMail and putting it on a tech news site.  Additionally, a lot of times the networks “fill” their different packages with less desirable (read: garbage) properties.  You’ll want to know exactly what you’re getting and more important, what is and isn’t working for your brand.  You may be surprised at what will work for you so try not to put a lot of names on your holdback list just because you personally don’t like them.  Remember, your network partners want this program to work for you.

Make sure you know which properties are in the group.  If your remarketing partner won’t tell you, make sure you are clear about what’s acceptable to you.  If you don’t want your banner on sites with adult content, you need to be specific about it.  The truth is that it’s not usually the adult content that marketers find offensive, it’s often some of the niche properties.   For example, a plus size clothing company was “shocked and appalled” to find out that their best performing site was for “fat chicks only.”  Funny thing is that when they surveyed their users, the users weren’t at all offended and actually thought it was “cool” that the apparel site was supporting one of their “favorites.”

Try for CPA deals.  All the networks yap about CPA (cost per action) deals but most of them offer them anyway.   Decide what you can pay per order, lead, e-mail sign-up, etc. and offer them a set fee for each action delivered.    Warning: most networks make their CPC (cost per click) deals sound very sexy.  That’s because they are comparing them to their pathetic CPM (cost per thousand) deals.  Setting your price via CPO (cost per order) or CPL (cost per lead) will be far easier (and more profitable) for you to manage if you know your numbers.

Determine how low you can go.  The thing about remarketing programs is that you have a lot of choices.  You can market to everyone from plain site exits to cart abandoners.  Best practice: test cart abandoners first and then work backwards.  As long as it’s profitable, it’s probably worth doing but again, it’s critical that you know your numbers.  (Emphasis on YOUR numbers not those provided to you by the partners.)

Make sure you have an exclusions program.   Chances are not all your transactions will take place in the first visit.  To maximize the success of your remarketing program, you’ll want to suppress people who’ve ordered.   A lot of companies forget this important step.  Don’t be one of them.  It’s a waste of your money and it confuses the heck out of your users.

Set aside a control group that you do not send to your remarketing partner(s).  Most partners will try to talk you out of this citing all sorts of conspiracy theories about aliens and Mayan calendars.  Ignore them.  Keep a small sample out of their remarketing efforts (yes, you should do this on an ongoing basis.)  Doing so has lots of benefits but the biggest advantage is that you’ll be able to see at-a-glance how you’re doing without the remarketing banners.  This is especially important if you have active trigger e-mail programs or internal remarketing programs (catfishes for example.)

Test cookie lengths.  How long do you want users to see your ads?  1 day?  7 days?  15 days? 30 days?  Indefinitely?   A lot of partners (even the good ones) won’t talk to you about this because they want to be able to run your ads forever.  However, it’s important for you to test different intervals to determine where your ads stop working or often more importantly, when you need to swap out your creative.

Remember that advertising within the Google Display Network is often very different from using other  remarketing companies (Fetchback, for example.)  If you’ve tried one type and it hasn’t worked for you, don’t be afraid to try the other.   In the end, this is nothing but a numbers game.

Don’t benchmark your results versus overall industry results to gauge the success of your program.   Everyday there’s a new blog post (usually ghost-written by one of the partners) about some random company that has increased their results 1200% using so-and-so’s unique retargeting methods.    There’s no doubt that this sounds sexy but the reality is that your business may not compare with the kids niche clothing company who is offering 50% off all their apparel this week only.   Too many successful campaigns are cut because they don’t meet industry standards.  The only standard you should care about is yours.  You can either make this work or you can’t.

Update your privacy policy.  No, this tip won’t make you money but it may help you from losing it.  You need to tell your users what you’re doing and you should also include a link for them to opt out of it.  (Google and many of the other partners require you to do this.  If your partner doesn’t, do it anyway, just to be on the safe side.)

10 Proven Tips for Improving Your Retargeting Banners

Remarketing (sometimes called retargeting) banners put your message in front of users who leave your site and/or cart.  So, a customer goes to your site, looks around, puts stuff in her cart (or starts to fill out your lead form) and then exits for whatever reason.  A couple days later, she signs into her Yahoo mail account and sees your banner displayed at the top of her mailbox.  That afternoon, she sees your banner again on her favorite gossip site.  You are “following” her around.   (Usability shows us that this is what users often think.)

Are these type of retargeting banners effective?   Yes.  If you design your program correctly, they can be one of the strongest tools in your conversion arsenal.

Here are 10 proven tips to help you develop a successful retargeting program without breaking the bank.

Creative is key.  I can’t emphasize this enough. Banners are highly dependent on good copy and art.  You need to have solid visuals, a good branding element, a provocative line of copy and an aggressive action directive.   A lot of folks design banners that get attention but then they don’t ask the user to click.  If you want your program to work, you need to get the click.  Period.

How do you get people to click?  Use BIG action directives.   Click here now, buy now, return to cart now, whatever it takes to get the user back to the cart or lead form, if you’re not an ecommerce business.  Don’t be afraid to make your buttons bold and IN-YOUR-FACE smacky. 

Have lots of different ad sizes available.  A lot of companies, especially traditional direct marketers and mail order businesses, tend to offer their partners one ad size.  This often limits some of the smaller plays (especially blogs or Google Content Network properties) which may be the best performers for you.  Start your program out with 4-5 various sizes.

Test lots of different creative and sizes.  Most likely you’ll find that a banner that works great for one property bombs for the next.  Does that mean you need to have a new banner for each property?  Absolutely not.  With that said, you’ll probably want to design specific banners for your best performing properties in the same way you’d design special ads for your best performing magazines.

Don’t believe anything the networks tell you.   The numbers are inflated.  Period.  End of story.  What you need to know is the profitably of the program.  Does it work for you or not?  How profitable is it?  Are there better ways for you to spend this money?  The last question is important because if you have a really aggressive abandoned cart/lead trigger email/telemarketing/pop-up program, you may not need the banners.  Or, you may want to start them a little bit later (for example, after you’ve sent out your first five trigger e-mails.)

Test putting the picture of the product the user abandoned in the banner.   Yes, this is very Big Brother.  Yes, this can work like gangbusters if you position it properly.  Should you put the entire cart contents in the banner?  Probably not. Less than 5% (technically it’s about 3%) of companies can make featuring all the abandoned items work.  Why if you can make one picture of an abandoned item work can’t you make lots of items work?  Nobody really knows for sure but it’s likely because banners are very dependent on creative (see above) and lots of various and sundry items looks uglier than a dog’s breakfast.  If you want to test it, be sure that you can make one abandoned item per banner work first.

If you can’t put the abandoned items in the banner, at least choose your banner visuals wisely.  Imagine you’re an apparel company that sells both men’s and women’s clothing.  When a male abandons a tie on your site and then sees a banner for your company at his favorite news site with a bunch of women’s clothing, is he going to think of you?  Yeah.  Not. So. Much.

Test your offers.  One of the best things about retargeting banners is that they’re super easy to test.  Try different offers – free shipping versus a percentage off versus a discount versus no offer at all.

Make sure your logo (or primary site visual if that’s more important to your user) is prominent.   The connect from the banner to your site is important and not to be underestimated.

Work your landing pages.  Most companies forget about this and then blame their lack of remarketing success on the networks.  When the user clicks on your banner and lands on your site, you need to show them instantaneously that they’re in the right place.  How do you do that?  Take them right to the view page of the cart.  Offer a perpetual basket.  Show large checkout now buttons.  Place a recently viewed items box in the righthand column of your site.  Welcome them back with a personalized message.  Bring them to the page of the product they abandoned.   Do any/all of the items listed. 

Try several different networks.   Every network has different properties and/or relationships with their properties.  Test 3 or 4 at once to see which one(s) work best for you.  The companies who are most successful with their marketing often use several different networks.

Have a retargeting tip or a question you’d like to ask?  Add it to the comments below or send me an email:

7 Things Marketers Need To Know About Google +1

Recently Google announced +1 (yes, Plus One, a name even more unfortunate than iPad), their version of the Facebook “like” button.   Google says +1 is shorthand for “this is pretty cool or “you should check this out” and that it’s designed to help you “share recommendations with the world – right in Google’s search results.”   For expert SEO’s, this is Google’s new version of PageRank.  For spammers, this is a dream come true.  For users, it’s a shiny button to keep them busy/involved/occupied/distracted.  For marketers, it’s yet another To Do to add to your never-ending list.

Here are 7 important things you should know about Google #1:

As it stands today, you need to be logged into your Google account to be able to +1 something.  (If you don’t see +1’s yet, sign up for Google’s experimental search site.)  When a user clicks the +1 button, their recommendation shows up in their Google public profile.   One of the biggest challenges of +1 is that a lot of users don’t even know they have a profile.  (If you have any kind of Google account, you have a profile.  You can see yours here: 

+1 will be enabled on all PPC ads.  Again, the user needs to be logged in their Google account to see and/or click the #1 button.  If someone in your network has clicked the #1 button their recommendation will show up at the bottom of the ad.  If nobody in your network has clicked on the +1 but a lot of people in general have, Google will show you that the page is popular.  (As with all things Google, this is subject to change.)   +1’s will not change PPC rankings.  As an advertiser, you will be able to opt out of the +1 program if you’d prefer not to participate.  Clicks on the +1 button do not count as paid clicks.  Allegedly, there will be reporting on your ads that are getting the most +1 clicks.

+1 will have an impact on your organic search rankings and it could be significant.  (Read: at least until the spammers  have their way with it.)  Google is not being shy about saying that getting folks to #1 your site is going to influence your organics in a positive way.  How much will it impact your particular site?   It will likely depend on your category and how social your users are.  It’s important to remember that even though customers have Twitter and Facebook accounts, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are active with them.  Plus, not everyone is a sharer.  Nor do all your customers search on their home computers with a logged in Google account.  In fact, if you’re at work, chances are good that you’re not logged into your personal Google account.  

Google says that in the future, you will be able to add #1 buttons on your site.  (They say this will be months, not weeks.)  This will undoubtedly be one of the biggest (and best) uses of the +1 program.  Unfortunately, it also adds another element for you to work into your already crowded website.  

Very few people are talking about this but of all the possible places for folks to +1, your product pages will likely be the most important.  You should keep track of which products/services that people are +1’ing.  Why?  Well, you may be able to do something with that information. Depending on how your customer is using +1, it may indicate a propensity to buy/use your products/services.  So, if the person clicks the +1 button and you’re tracking it on your end and you have their email address, you could send them a triggered email.   (EBOSI’s – Emails Based on Selected Interest are some of the most successful – and most underused – emails available to you.) 

Most people are thinking about the benefits of +1 for their Google rankings but if you’re really on top of things, there are lots of ways you can use +1 to your advantage on your own site as well.  For example, you can use your +1 results for merchandising (enhance the content, including videos, for the items with the most +1s); to solicit reviews on particular items; determine which other products and/or services you should recommend to a site visitor; customize a personalized landing page (just think, all my +1’s in one place); promote in PPC; worker harder to improve the organics; and feature more on Twitter and Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook and Twitter, be sure to look at all the other icons (your Tweet This and Facebook Like buttons, for example) you use on your site and figure out which order you want your icons to be listed in.  Remember, the first one will get the most attention so prioritize them accordingly.

The bigger the brand, the better the chance they will benefit from Google +1.   Why?  Simple.  The more traffic you have, the more +1’s you are going to get.   If you are a little guy and want to make +1 work for you, you are going to need to work at.  (Like with orders, if you don’t ask for the click, you’re not going to get it.)

With +1 Google is going head-to-head with Facebook over ad dollars.  In the end, the company with the most data will win.  Right now, Google is highly dependent on gathering their browsing data through cookies.  With +1, Google will be able to find out more information about you, your likes and dislikes, your habits and so on. Depending on how successful the program is, this may or may not be important to you.  Google has committed to reporting on the +1 program (at least in the beginning) so use that to your advantage.  Look at if/how it’s impacting your organics.  Determine if/how it’s changing the way users click on your PPC ads.  Figure out how you can use it to your advantage on your web pages so you’re ready when it comes around.