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As a relatively new technology, site retargeting–the practice of serving targeted display ads to people who have previously visited your site—is often misunderstood and misused.

At first, the misconceptions are usually positive. Unlike content or social media marketing, where initial results can be underwhelming, the early results from site retargeting often look quite incredible and far outpace other display techniques on the media plan. This makes sense: you have all these users who have visited your site and indicated intent to buy things, and you’re finally serving them display ads that compel them to return.

But beware. If you don’t have a complete understanding of site retargeting, the early results can paint a false picture of what’s happening and mislead you into making errors that waste time and money. Remembering these 5 things will help you get retargeting right:

You’ve got to know which ads to credit for conversion results

Imagine a scenario. A user gets served a display ad for your site, which compels him to visit your site. He browses around, but leaves without buying anything. Later, he gets retargeted and converts.

This is a productive conversion cycle, but if you use an ad server (like DoubleClick or Atlas), you won’t understand what happened correctly.

DoubleClick or Atlas will misguidedly give the Site Retargeting ad all the credit for the customer acquisition, ignoring the display ad that generated the customer’s interest in the first place. (Site Retargeting, by definition, isn’t a customer acquisition tool, since the users have already visited the given site.)

As a result, you’ll think that your site retargeting ads are killing it while your other ads are failing, and you’ll invest your marketing budget in the wrong places.

Using multiple site retargeting vendors wastes money

There are many different vendors that offer site retargeting solutions, and it can be tempting to use multiple vendors to achieve scale, as you would with more traditional display techniques.

That’s not a good idea, however. If you hire multiple vendors, they’ll end up competing with each other to serve retargeted ads to the same users who visited your site. This competition will drive up the cost of serving the ad impression and waste media dollars. Stick with one vendor.

Stalking your readers is suicidal

Consumers are savvy, and they notice when brands are relentlessly stalking them with display ads across the Web for weeks. Not only can this damage their perception of the brand, but it’s also a waste of money.

Start by examining the buying cycle of your product or service—the amount of time it takes them to make a purchase after first being engaged with an ad—and then set a maximum length of time for retargeting. When in doubt, remember that retargeting a user for more than 7 days is rarely justified.

In addition, set a cap for the number of ads that can be served to a user each day. These measures will ensure that your brand doesn’t go from “cool” to “creepy.”

Only retarget visitors to relevant sections of your site

It’s only worth tagging sections of a site for retargeting that demonstrate a user’s intent to convert: shopping cart, product pages, download pages, and so on. If you retarget visitors of every page on your site, you’re going to end up wasting media dollars targeting users who are unlikely to convert, such as those who only visited the careers page or those who have already converted.

The biggest name doesn’t mean the biggest reach

Brands, understandably, want a big media reach, but that doesn’t necessarily mean going with a big name. For instance, Google Display Network (GDN) is extensive, but a search retargeting company will have access to all the GDN inventory, plus additional inventory equal to or greater than the size of GDN.

Why is a bigger reach important? The more opportunities you have to retarget a user with an impression, the less you have to bid in ad exchanges to ensure that you serve that impression. A bigger media reach means bigger returns.

Bryan Bartlett is the Online Marketing Manager for Chango Inc. Advertising for the real-time world.

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