Display Search Retargeting Wish List, Part 2

This article originally ran on ClickZ.com on June 5, 2009.

Behavioral targeting offerings, particularly those from search engines, leave a lot of room for improvement. Last time, I started a wish list for the search engines. It continues here.

  • Run your high-end retargeting engine through your ad exchange. I want to bid for retargeted impressions in a manner similar to bidding on search clicks. If I like a particular segment as defined in your ad exchange, I may want to bid significantly more for that segment. Forcing me to bid one price across all keywords and segments isn’t optimal in display retargeting, just as it isn’t in a paid-placement keyword auction. With an exchange, as a search marketer I can take advantage of the data I’ve accumulated to bid aggressively when an impression is valuable to me.
  • Allow for the creation of retargeting-only campaigns. Some marketers will have different keyword lists, different budgets, or even a different agency handling their search retargeting.
  • Provide an API and a GUI. APIs and GUIs should roll out in tandem.
  • When requesting retargeting on an advertiser account, allow for segments to be created at the campaign and perhaps even at the ad group level. I may not want to retarget every searcher that I bid for. Keyword segment control should be as granular as I want it.
  • Let me set recency. I may not be interested in older profiles and segments. Certain product and service categories have a very long sales cycle, while others have a very short one. I’d prefer to be able to set bid boosts by recency. For example, if my base bid on a dynamic CPM basis for a retargeted segment is $10 and I can control bid boosts by recency (days old), I might choose to run at 100 percent of bid for three days, lower the bid to 90 percent for another week, then to 50 percent for the remainder of a month, then to 20 percent. By controlling bid price, I get a fine level of control.
  • Allow me to specify opt in and bid boost by other targeting variables common in display ad environments. For example, geo-targeting or even site category (display ads are commonly targetable based on the category of the site). There may be a multiplicative effect when the context and behavior match. For example, if I’m retargeting real estate searchers and I can do this on real estate sites at the same time, I might be willing to create a campaign and bid more. The concept of dayparting becomes even more interesting because one might want to daypart the searcher based on the time she searched, then either also daypart one’s display or run the retargeted display ads on a non-dayparted basis.
  • Let agencies and clients use their preferred ad server. Search retargeting is being used in conjunction with other media. Be liberal in your acceptance of ad servers, particularly if a test shows a high reconciliation rate on impressions served.
  • Pass me the actual and/or the bidded search term. Because of match types, the bidded and the actual search term for an impression might not match and my segment (ad-group or campaign level) may be too broad to serve the best ad without this info. Some ad servers can accommodate real-time parameter transfers in the ad call. The industry should come up with a standard for passing targeting parameters into an ad call so that we can select vendors that support that standard for ad serving.
  • Let me bid on trademarked search terms. Unlike with a SERP, when using a trademark to trigger a profile segment and serving an ad based on an earlier inquiry, there’s a separation in time that should allow engines to be open to this type of trademark bidding. There’s no chance of consumer confusion. The consumer who searched for information about a BMW 335i on Monday may very well be interested in seeing an ad for Audi or Lexus on Tuesday. To use the example of a staunch trademark rights protector, a consumer searching for Geico on Friday won’t be confused if she sees a Progressive insurance ad a week later. That’s not to say we won’t see litigation relating to trademark-based retargeting, but fair use is an easier case for the lawyers to make, in my opinion. For example, when I buy groceries, the receipt I get often has coupons for competing products. My shopping behavior has long been used to trigger competing advertising.
  • Preserve the power of behavioral targeting for the industry. Finally, the engines should get together (perhaps with other Web publishers) and determine a way to add an industry-standard high-visibility ad overlay or ad frame (that consumers see when a behavioral or retargeted ad of any kind is shown) that links through to a page that explains retargeting and provides the consumers some options on how profile data is used. Emphasis should be on the fact that the data is used anonymously and that no personally identifiable information (PII) is shared with advertisers. The FTC and other international and domestic government agencies and regulatory bodies are itching to address the fact that hardly any consumers read privacy policies and understand how anonymous profiles are used to improve the ads they see. The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s and the Network Advertising Initiative’s measures relating to disclosure are insufficient to ward off government intervention.

I’ve probably forgotten important features and elements that would make behavioral search retargeting products from the search engines even more powerful. But if the engines keep the lines of communication open with industry leaders on the agency, technology, and client side, they’ll get the suggestions they need. However, it’s important to realize that the technology’s power users will have a different preference as to the level of targeting and complexity than low-sophistication marketers. Yahoo made this mistake years ago when it changed its match types to “standard” and “advanced” because some larger dumb agencies and big-spending advertisers asked for reduced complexity. I hope all advertising product managers can learn from that mistake.

I anticipate we’ll see some significant advancements in behavioral targeting on the search marketing front in the next year or two. If you are a marketer, one way you can get your feet wet now is to start retargeting your current search visitors.