Alongside all of the coverage of the iPad, Apple and Google's growing war, and iPhones being left on bar stools, Google's launch in March of a retargeting capability from search into the content network felt comparatively ignored.
This is one of the important trends for search and display marketers of 2010. Many may not be using retargeting now (sorry, remarketing as Google calls it), but we'll look back on 2010 as the year this became a mainstream tactic. This should be the year most paid search and ad serving tool providers rushed to support retargeting, if they didn't offer it already.
Why? Three reasons: the recession, Google and the growing maturity of digital.
Tear Down the Digital Wall!
We all know display budgets have suffered from recessionary pressure over the last few years as brands cut budgets, looked for efficiencies, and in many cases stopped any activity that didn't generate a return in terms of direct acquisition.
Retargeting helps close the loop between search and display and knocks down some of the walls that have developed in the industry. Consumers don't perceive display and search silos – they go about their business on the Web, reading content, using Facebook, seeing ads, and then search when they're ready to start their journey to a purchase. They don't care about how we structure agency teams or brands allocate their budgets across channels or attribute sales.
Retargeting allows display and search budgets to work in a more complementary manner; not passively when post-campaign analysis is carried out and trends are spotted, but actively, with conscious decisions taken to retarget consumers based on search clicks during their research phase.
A Boost for the Google Content Network – and Paid Search Generics
Google entering this space is an obvious move for the company. Their revenues from the content network will increase if this works, and many advertisers have, despite Google's insistence to the opposite, found that the content network just doesn't work for them.
This could bring them back into the content fold. Once Google backs a marketing technique, agencies and many brands start questioning if it's something they should make a pillar of their strategy (to the frustration and relief of display and search people who have been shouting into the dark that this was the way to integrate disciplines for years).
Potentially, retargeting will also further underline the need to invest in generics term in paid search or as part of a natural search strategy. While often expensive and competitive, these terms many receive a boost as brands deliberately re-engage consumers "lost" after visiting a site via a generic term.
If a retargeted ad causes them to revisit the site and buy, when previously they may have not done so, future investment in a generic term can been justified and the cash involved made to work harder. This approach drives increased volumes and becomes a positive feedback loop feeding into the bottom line if managed efficiently.
Next time, we'll look at how digital is getting wiser, some third-party tools, and display's new best friend.