7 Ways to Improve Your Retargeting Ad Campaigns
Looking for tips to help you monitor and manage your retargeting campaigns more effectively?
In this article, you’ll discover seven ways to organize, analyze, and optimize your retargeting campaigns.
#1: Run Separate Campaigns to New and Retargeting Audiences
When you target both retargeting and new audiences at the same time, it’s almost impossible to gauge the real impact of your ad. If you generate a sale, did it come from a brand-new prospect or someone deep in your funnel? There’s no way to know.
Suppose your goal is to pay no more than $10 for each new customer acquired. You have an ad group that targets both a retargeting audience and an audience of new prospects. You receive nine conversions from your retargeting audience at $1 each and one conversion from a new prospect at $71, making your average conversion $8. But that’s obviously not an accurate picture.
To see what’s really going on, you need to separate these audiences into their own campaigns (or ad groups). If you do that in this example, you’re left with one campaign that can turn your retargeting audience into customers for just $1, and another campaign that can turn a new prospect into a customer for $71, which is well over your $10 target cost per acquisition (CPA).
In this case, you’d want to leave your retargeting campaign untouched and try to aggressively optimize your campaign for new prospects. Or you could start over with a fresh campaign targeting new prospects.
#2: Use Descriptive Naming Conventions to Better Sort Campaign Results
Adopting a standard naming convention for your ad groups will help you know at a glance what you’re looking at. You can then use filters to sort the data to easily see aggregated results for different campaign or audience types.
Set Up a Naming Convention
Put some thought into your naming convention ahead of time and try to think of the important comparisons you might want to make. For instance, if you have two products, include the names of those products in your naming convention so you can see your CPA for different products:
The image below shows what this naming scheme might look like in practice. The products promoted in these campaigns are Pinterest and Instagram scheduling tools.
At the ad set level, use a naming convention that specifies the type of audience you’re targeting. For example, suppose you want to be able to quickly compare retargeting audiences and audiences of strangers. The following ad set convention would make it easy to see your CPA for each of those two core groups:
Here’s an example of ad set names using this naming convention:
At the ad level, call out variants of the visual and the copy in your naming scheme, as in this example:
Use Filters to Sort Campaign Results
Once you’ve settled on a naming convention that works for you, use filters in Facebook Ads Manager (or the search bar in Twitter and Pinterest ads managers) to quickly see your aggregated results for different campaign or audience types.
To create a new filter in Facebook Ads Manager, select Create New Filter from the Filters drop-down menu.
To determine the average CPA (or average of any other metric) for just your retargeting audiences in the Ads Manager, visit the Ad Sets tab with the retargeting filter enabled. This filter shows only ad sets with the word “retargeting” in their name.
Twitter and Pinterest currently allow you to filter campaigns only by campaign name, not by the names of ad groups. If you want to do this kind of quick comparison on those networks, you need to include the pertinent information in your campaign names and structure them accordingly.
Jon Loomer’s in-depth guide to Facebook ad naming conventions is well worth a look. My advice is to make your naming convention as simple as you can, considering what you’re going to need to filter by in the future.
#3: Create Separate Ad Groups for Each Retargeting Audience
The naming convention described above identifies the specific type of retargeting audience. These audiences range from near the top of the funnel (website) down to the bottom (customer).
Once your naming convention is in place, you can use filters in Facebook Ads Manager to track your CPA for different retargeting audiences. For instance, if you want to calculate the average CPA when retargeting to your website traffic, go to the Ad Sets tab, use the website filter, and look at the total across all of the ad sets.
You can then use the email filter to compare that cost with the average CPA when retargeting to your email list. Over time, you should see that you’re paying less for purchases when targeting people further down your funnel.
#4: Cease Delivery to Underperforming Audiences
Once you’ve separated your audiences into different ad groups and let some time pass, you can determine a benchmark CPA for each of your retargeting audiences (or stages in your funnel).
Returning to the earlier example of a $10 CPA target, suppose it costs you an average of $1 to move website traffic to purchase via retargeting, $3 to move blog traffic to purchase, and $9 to move your email list to purchase.
You’ll probably want to make some adjustments to your email retargeting. For example, you might stop retargeting your email audience altogether, optimize that ad group by trying new creative, or tweak ad placement or targeting until the CPA seems more reasonable.
Email lists are a good example of an audience that seems perfect for retargeting but may not prove to be so. Perhaps the email addresses in your list are old, the leads are cold, or the subscribers are mostly customers already.
#5: Optimize for Click-Through Conversions Instead of View-Through Conversions
For a conservative estimate of the value of the conversions from your ads, you need to be able to see not only your CPA for all conversions, but also your CPA for click-through conversions only.
Click-through conversions are those that were triggered after someone clicked your ad and later converted. View-through conversions are those that were triggered after someone saw your ad, didn’t click on it, but then came to your site and converted.
This doesn’t mean that clicks are inherently better than impressions, but when retargeting, view-through conversions can be misleading. By showing your ads to a large number of people in your funnel, you’ll inevitably generate a lot of view-through conversions. In fact, you might expect to generate conversions at whatever your typical conversion rate is at that stage in the funnel, whether you paid to show your audience an ad or not.
These are called slightly different things on different social networks. On Pinterest, they’re “click conversions.” On Twitter, the closest you can get is “post engagement” by checking that box under Customize Metrics.
On Facebook, they’re determined by your attribution window. Your options are “view” and “click.” If you want to edit them, select Customize Columns from the Columns drop-down menu to open the Customize Columns window.
The default conversion attribution window on Facebook is 1 day for view-through conversions and 28 days for click-through conversions, as shown below. For most businesses, that’s reasonable.
It’s worth checking how many of your conversions are “click” and how many are “view” to get a clearer picture of the likelihood your retargeting ads were actually effective at driving purchases.
To see your view and click conversions in the Ads Manager, click Edit under Attribution Window.
You want to see more click conversions than view conversions, depending on how likely it is that someone might convert having only seen, and not clicked on, your ad.
#6: Monitor and Adjust Your Retargeting Spend Over Time
When you know your current CPA for different audiences on one ad platform, you can start optimizing your campaigns and creating new campaigns to try to drive that cost down. You’ve established a baseline and now you can work to beat it!
Charting your progress in the aggregate over time can help you stay focused on increasing the number of conversions you’re driving, while maintaining (or even better, lowering) your CPA.
To track the success of your social ad campaigns, create a chart that shows the volume of conversions and the CPA over time. Ideally, you’ll maintain a chart like this for both your retargeting and new prospect ad spend, for each of your core products, and possibly for different market segments.
Lowering the CPA of your retargeting ads doesn’t guarantee that they’re worth the investment, but it makes it substantially more likely they will be over time.
#7: Adjust New Prospect Acquisition and Retargeting Spend to Find the Optimal Ad Budget
One overlooked aspect of optimizing your retargeting ad spend is not to overspend. When you’re trying to drive more conversions at a lower cost, there’s a huge temptation to put money into the activity with the highest likelihood of registering conversions and the lowest CPA. Doing so feels like optimization, but is it?
At a marketing conference recently, I asked a Facebook ads expert how he allocates his ad budget between acquiring new customers and retargeting. His answer was telling. He insists clients allow him to spend 10% of their Facebook ad budget on acquiring new customers, leaving 90% for retargeting. To him, 10% seemed to be a generous amount to put toward non-retargeting activities.
This ad budget distribution is common among Facebook advertisers, especially in the agency world (where the incentive to attach an impression to every impending conversion in the funnel is at its highest).
In my experience, it’s more challenging to generate conversions from new prospects than it is from a retargeting audience. It’s harder to come up with the right targeting and generate the creative to initially attract them. It also takes longer to woo them, so your efforts appear more wasteful in the short-term. But that doesn’t let businesses off the hook for finding new customers, which is a big part of what you’re after.
If you’re spending too much of your money in retargeting, your CPA will be higher than it should be. If you move money from retargeting into new customer acquisition, you may be able to lower the frequency at which you’re serving retargeting ads to the same tired audiences, and at the same time, increase the pool of new prospects in your funnel to whom you can then retarget.
In short, one way to optimize your retargeting ad spend may be to move money out of retargeting campaigns and into new prospect campaigns. You’ll know it’s time to put more money back into your retargeting campaigns when additional money spent there generates appropriately priced conversions.
Retargeting ads are delivered to people who already have some relationship with your business. Perhaps they visited your website in the past, are on your email list, or have previously bought something from you. These ads let you keep the conversation going, educate them on your product, and stay top of mind.
Retargeting ads appear to be a bargain because they almost always cost less per click and per conversion than other types of ads. Cheap clicks and conversions sound great until you consider that many of the people you’re retargeting would likely have bought from you whether they saw your retargeting ad or not.
The fact is that you should be paying substantially less per conversion when retargeting. The real question is, how much less?
By following these tips, you can turn retargeting from a potential financial liability into a proven driver of purchases and revenue. You can clear away the misleading data that may be pushing more of your budget than is optimal into retargeting, and free up money and attention for new customer acquisition.
In short, you can see your retargeting ad campaigns with more clarity and optimize them more effectively.
What do you think? Which tactics will you try to improve your retargeting campaigns? What tips can you offer? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.