Multi-Stage Retargeting Campaigns Based On Landing Page Interactions

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In a previous article I covered landing page improvements that all higher education institutions can make today to get better results. In this article, I’m covering the next piece of the puzzle: retargeting stages and audiences. A major idea behind these recommendations is to “meet visitors where they are” in their decision-making process based on depth of on-page interactions. This system is also designed to adapt your digital advertising in a world where third-party cookies are going away.

The categories of visitor behavior I suggested include:

  1. Not Interested At All
  2. Starting To Think About It
  3. In The Market, But Not Ready to Commit

There are many different ways to slice and dice your visitor segments depending on your page content and structure. These are only a starting point, and #2-#4 represent the traditional Awareness, Consideration, and Decision phases.

Why Use Multiple Retargeting Stages?

multiple stage retargeting ad campaigns deliver the right path for each audience.

Retargeting ads are not taken advantage of often enough as part of lead nurturing efforts. Even in 2022, most organizations I see using these ads are taking them back to the original landing page and hoping they convert on a second visit. This is a highly antiquated process that excludes most visitors.

In instances where my clients have invested in multi-stage retargeting ads and content, they see excellent results. One IT Services firm I worked with years ago started with a qualified lead (MQL) rate lower than 1% and was able to raise it over 5% with this method.

Think about it from the user perspective. If you visit a landing page and aren’t ready to fill out a lead form, would you rather see more ads taking you back to the lead form, or useful content that helps you make your decision process easier?

Developing First-Stage Retargeting Audiences

Retargeting audiences are built heading up from least engaged to most engaged.
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Our first step here is to divide up initial retargeting audiences based on the four categories above.

Stage 1 “Not Interested At All”

The “not interested at all” audience is one that we see often especially in Google Display campaigns. A decent percentage of these clicks come from random Android app ads that are nearly impossible to eliminate from your placements. The on-page behaviors that would put a visitor into this group are:

  • A visit lasting less than X seconds, with no page scroll activity

And that’s essentially it. I normally do zero retargeting for this group because it’s a waste of resources.

Stage 1 “Starting To Think About It” (Awareness)

It’s easiest to think of this group as one that might buy, but not anytime soon. An example of on-page behaviors that can put someone in this group are:

  • A visit lasting X seconds, with scrolling to 50% of the page
  • Minimal interactions with any on-page elements

The approach I use for this audience is to run long-term retargeting ads (180 days or more) that include value proposition points and branding. We want to stay top of mind, without a hard sell approach.

Destinations for ads targeting this group could include:

  1. An article with emotional appeal that tells a story related to your product or service
  2. A short video explaining key benefits
  3. An infographic download illustrating function and need

Stage 1 “In The Market, But Not Ready To Commit” (Consideration)

This audience is heavily engaged with page content but does not fill out the lead form. Their on-page behavior includes:

  • Significant time on page
  • Scrolling to 75% or more of the page
  • Interaction with elements such as file downloads, on-page calculators, accordions to reveal additional content, etc.

Retargeting ad ideas for this group:

  1. Discounts, coupon codes, deadlines to create urgency
  2. Value prop messaging vs. the competition, especially focused on outcomes

Stage 1 “CALL MEEE” (Decision)

This is the group that filled out the landing page form right away (because we’re hoping to go from MQL to SQL here).

It does not mean there’s no need to retarget this audience though!

Often the form fill is only the start of your lead nurturing process. If yo u aren’t using retargeting ads as part of this mix with calls, emails, texts and whatever else, you should.

Your retargeting destinations at this step should mirror and add value to what you’re doing with other lead nurturing. With products that have a long buying cycle or are complex, I recommend content that provides reassurance and confirmation, especially from third-party sources. This can include things like:

  1. Excerpts of a review from a respected source
  2. Reinforcement of return on investment
  3. Success stories from similar size organizations or people in similar life stages
  4. Data on the “opportunity cost of doing nothing
  5. Direct comparisons for top competitors (with detail, not a checklist)

Developing Additional (2+) Retargeting Stages

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A great thing about being more thoughtful with your retargeting ads and destination content means when you think about additional stages to send visitors to much of what you built can be reused.

Items from the lists above in each stage can be mixed and matched to give your visitors a full nurturing track based on their most recent page interactions or CRM attributes (using lists primarily). You’ll want to adjust your retargeting days time range for each group to line up better with longer term lead nurturing.

Don’t Forget About First-Party Cookies

Just because third-party cookies are dying off doesn’t mean you can’t use first-party cookies to store values on your site if needed. Cookies can still be a useful way to store visitor states between visits. One example: when I built tracking for the Campaign For A Tobacco Free California, I stored a cookie value for engaged visitors so it would be persistent and count one of several CTAs on the site as an “educated visitor” over the course of a year.

Download Our Reference Infographic

Reference chart for multi-stage retargeting campaigns.

Right click / tap to save the image above for a handy reference chart illustrating multiple retargeting stages and their relation to on-page user interactions.

Have Questions on Multi-Stage Retargeting?

Feel free to contact me. I am glad to talk through potential applications of this concept that can help your organization’s lead generation efforts.

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