How To Do Search-Based Retargeting Cheaply and Build Branded Search Demand

At SMX West, one of the most interesting things I learned was that an advertiser who spent $30,000 on banners saw a 20% lift in branded search. When you consider how well-branded search converts, that’s good news, especially if that demand lasts (for the caveats on measuring true branded search ROI see “What Every SEO Needs to Know About Branded Search“). This post is going to explain how you can use the link graph to get similar lifts in your branded search, through the use of what I call ‘poor man’s retargeting’ (incidentally, retargeting is aka re messaging).

Retargeting is an advanced advertising technique where some of your ads are only shown to people that have already visited your site (based on cookies, afaik). So ad publisher A’s server checks to see if a visitor has a cookie on their computer that marks them as having previously been to company X’s site. If it finds the cookie, then company X can ‘retarget’ the browser with another ad on publisher A’s site.

Visiting a site is one behavior to base a campaign on, but you might also succeed by retargeting ads based on other actions, like having seen another one of your ads elsewhere.

The problem for the small to medium advertiser is that retargeting campaigns through bigshot display advertising companies cost 5 figures a month and up. So good luck trying to run a retargeting campaign when your annual marketing budget is five figures if that. So how’s a small guy supposed to build up his brand?

Take advantage of the link graph to do “poor man’s retargeting.”

What’s the link graph? That’s basically just fancy talk for the network of links that connect sites together. So the link graph shows SEO ROI as being connected to Slightly Shady SEOSEO SmartySEO 2.0Dosh Dosh Internet MarketingWiep’s Link BuildingBrand Curve, etc. “THE” link graph refers to the graph for the whole web, but you can have “a” link graph of a smaller subsection of the web.

So the way to pull off retargeting on the cheap is to do research on what sites link to each other, preferably within topical communities for added relevance. The more frequent and prominent the linking, the better. Additionally, working with the potential ad publishers and asking them for data on out clicks (i.e. what links their visitors are actually clicking) would be helpful to make better decisions on where to run your ads.

For example, supposing yours truly accepted ads and so did all the other sites mentioned above, you would check through my posts (or have a script do it, more likely) and see which I link to most. If we got serious or were doing moderate volume/price you might see my analytics too and get a look at where my visitors go. That way, you could increase your “frequency” – the metric used in branding to identify how often a given person saw your ad.

So the steps for poor man’s retargeting are like this:

  1. Find sites you’d consider advertising on.
  2. Look at who they link to most.
  3. Advertise on the sites that share the most common links/traffic.

Some notes on retargeting based on the link graph:

  • Obviously, this works better with advertising on blogs.
  • You may need to pay just for access to analytics. Depending on the scale of your campaign, it can be worth it.
  • Not all analytics track out clicks, nor do it consistently or for all visitors.
  • You can’t do behavioral targeting, which is a huge advantage of true retargeting. For example, you can’t show a loyalty message to a recent purchaser off your site and show a customer acquisition ad to a non-purchaser, the way you could with a real retargeting campaign.
  • This can be done both with PPC and CPM ads, not just display ads, which is an advantage over most real behavioral targeting networks.
  • Advertising your blog can help you become a thought leader in any given space. Consider running these ads on the established thought leader sites like my friends listed above (no, they didn’t ask for that plug).
  • I’m no expert on behavioral targeting or retargeting, so if I’ve made mistakes in any of the above, please share constructive criticism in the comments.

Some additional resources:

Related post: How To Build Your Company’s Brand Online

Mediapost on Remessaging

Consult Pivotal on Frequency in Advertising

For those who want to do search retargeting in the sense of retargeting visitors that came from search traffic (i.e. not just based on search in the sense of SEO and the link graph), you can look for other sites ranking in the top 100 that feature Adsense, Chitika or other ad networks.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this retargeting/re messaging technique, and I’d also love to see any tools/scripts you use to chart the link graph visually, like what Touchgraph does for personal networksSmart comments get dofollow links in post updates. If you liked this post, do subscribe to my RSS feed.

Author: sroiadmin