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Ever notice that the ads you see online remind you of websites that you have recently visited or searched out? How did the originators of these ads know you were interested in that specific product or service? You have probably noticed this more and more often. This is due to a not-so-new (but recently becoming more common) process called re-targeting.

We were told about this practice by one of our new office-space tenants who was curious why he was seeing ads for a competing office business centre every time he did a Google search – even for unrelated items! It seems that before deciding to take an office with Telsec, he had visited other websites promoting other office business centres in Toronto, but did not contact them through their site. He did, however, call that other business centre and had a tour. Then after visiting Telsec and seeing the offices and boardrooms, he decided he wanted an office at Telsec’s One Yonge Street location in the landmark Toronto Star Building.

The client discovered that he had been re-targeted with ads that focused on traffic that did not convert. These ads represent the best hopes of some firms to reach reach previous visitors before those potential customers went beyond the point of no return.

The idea behind re-targeting ads is not to get new visitors to your website, but to bring back visitors who went to your site because of other marketing efforts (such as search engine optimization or offline advertising), but they left your site without making any final decision. Whatever drove them to your site may not draw the back, but a re-targeting ad may be just enough to make them want to go back and get more.

If only 1% to 3% of your website visitors have made a conversion or a purchase, what about the other 97% to 99% who left your site without converting? You should consider re-targeting those visitors for less than what it cost you to reach them in the first place. Once you choose to spend money on advertising, consider your current first-time visitor traffic and decide if you need more visitors or more conversions. One thing you have to consider is changing your website to allow more calls to action from your visitors – because even re-targeting will not convert those visitors unless you ask your visitors to take specific action.

According to firm that specializes in this practice, “Re-targeting, also known as re-marketing, is a form of online advertising that can help you keep your brand in front of bounced traffic after they leave your website.” Retargeting focuses on that high percentage of visitors who left your website for reasons unknown. By sending them reminder ads, you are attempting to keep your brand top-of-mind when considering similar products and services. So how does re-targeting work?

For our purposes here, let’s just talk about Google Re-marketing ads. On the advertiser’s side, it is as easy as putting a small piece of code on the website that sets a unique code in the visitor’s browser cookies. When that visitor visits other websites or searches ads by Google, the visitor sees some ads from sites they may have previously visited. Even if the past visitor is searching something else that is unrelated to your product or service, your ad could appear on their results. From an advertiser’s point of view, only visitors who have been to its site will see these types of ads – and advertising dollars will not be spent on those who have not previously visited their site.

Don’t forget, re-targeting/re-marketing is done anonymously. Visitors realize that a site visitor seeing an ad does not mean that the advertiser is getting any of their personal data. Savvy visitors understand why they are seeing that ad and that the advertiser simply wants the visitor to be reminded to come back and do something.

Here are some best practices to consider for re-targeting and re-marketing:

(1) Begin with clear goals. Make sure you know what your goal is before you start your campaign. Know if your goal is to increase sales, raise brand awareness or to get registrations for your newsletter – or even get visitors to sign up and follow you on your social media channels. Be sure to have a call to action on the landing page your ad delivers them to.

(2) Be clear in your calls to action. Let the visitor know why you want them to return to your site and what you want them to do once there. State you intentions in your re-targeting ad, then let them know what they missed or why they should come back to your site.

(3) Tread lightly. You do not want to overload your visitor with a ton of ads that will eventually lose his or her attention. By limiting the number of ad impressions and number of days to display ads to previous visitors, you will not risk alienating them. They may have contacted you by telephone and this did not register to them as actually taking action.

(4) Don’t re-target customers or current leads. Be sure to have proper measurements of conversions to ensure you are not re-targeting existing leads. You want to make sure that if your target was to get that visitor to contact you (and they do), then you do not want to be continuing to send them re-targeted ads. This may scare them away from the final deal.

(5) Educate your visitors. Have a statement or something on the landing page or the site that tells the visitor why you have re-marketed them. Remind them that you do not collect their personal data and that the reason they saw the ad was because they left your site without reason.

We hope this blog helps you understand what re-marketing is – and how it can help your small business to get the most out of the traffic your site already gets. Be sure to read some of our other small business advice blogs, especially our small business tips series such as our Virtual Office Tips blog for your chance to win one of three Android Tablets in a special draw.