Search Retargeting vs Site Retargeting

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3 min read

Retargeting has become a mainstay in digital advertising, and for many a blanket term to refer to all digital display advertising. The premise of retargeting is simple: take a prospect who has engaged in a qualifying activity, and “retarget” them with advertisements as they browse the internet. Most commonly, retargeting is associated with website visitors. In this scenario, a visitor comes to your site, browses around, and when they leave, they’re followed by your advertisements to bring them back. But what about the people shopping your competitors? That’s where Search Retargeting comes in.

Search Retargeting is a distinct and crucial medium for reaching the customers who haven’t made it to your website yet and may be shopping your competitors. According to a Salesforce study, as of 2018, 87% of shoppers now start their product search online when considering a new purchase. That’s nearly 9 out of 10 purchase interactions starting out with a simple search. Unlike Site Retargeting, Search Retargeting taps into that research phase and draws people in the various stages of the purchase funnel into your website without them ever having to visit it before.

Search Retargeting works based on a variety of targeting strategies in Google Ads. What started as keyword or topic-based targeting has expanded to fully automated AI audience building and targeting. In the most recent updates, Google has fleshed out their Custom Affinity and Custom Intent Audience segments to home in on what prospective buyers are in the market for and allow advertisers to target buyers sooner and more effectively.

Both Custom Intent and Custom Affinity audiences play a crucial role in a Search Retargeting strategy and are applicable for different types of campaigns.

Custom Intent audiences focus on people who are moving to make a purchase soon. These prospective customers are actively researching a major purchase and are getting ready to commit. An example of a customer falling into a Custom Intent audience would be someone searching “Chevy Tahoe Lease”, reading Chevy Tahoe vs Ford Expedition comparisons, watching YouTube test drives and reviews of Tahoes, or calculating the cost of ownership for a Tahoe. If you’re a Chevy dealer, serving them advertisements for your latest Tahoe special is a great way to steer them towards your dealership when the moment of purchase arrives. Conversely, if you’re a Ford dealer, showing them advertisements comparing the new Expedition to the Tahoe could help draw them towards a Ford as their next vehicle, and away from Chevy.

Custom Affinity audiences don’t necessarily point to immediate future purchases but tap into the audience’s likes and interests to capture a glimpse of their personality. This could include people participating in forums for a specific vehicle they already own, searching and reading information about different hobbies they have, sports teams they follow, researching life changing events such as weddings or children, and so on. This can be tapped into by dealers and advertisers of all industries to tailor their ad content to specific demographics. For example, if someone is restoring an old Chevelle, you’d want to create a Custom Affinity audience based on vintage Chevy forums and car restoration to serve them ads for original parts to complete their project. If someone is into hiking, nature, environmentally conscious and participates in outdoor activities, an ad for your Subaru dealership touting Subaru’s off-road capabilities and environmentally friendly PZEV vehicles.

In addition to pulling in fresh prospects based on their search history and interests, Search Retargeting can also be used as a low-cost supplement to an SEM campaign. This is especially true for SEM campaigns with high costs associate with them. In a modern automotive marketplace, especially one around a major metropolitan area, desirable keywords are getting more expensive by the day. While it can’t completely replace an SEM campaign, Search Retargeting is an economical way to reach the same people searching for those desirable keywords, often for less than $1 per click.

Though they often get lumped together under “Retargeting”, Search Retargeting and Site Retargeting are two distinct facets to any well-rounded display advertising strategy and automotive digital marketing campaign. When analyzing Google Analytics goals, we see a high volume of on-site conversions for these campaigns. So, if you think display is strictly branding, think again! If you’d like to learn more about Search Retargeting and how it can bolster your advertising portfolio, reach out to us and set up a free consultative meeting with our digital experts.

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