Digital Byte: #TBT Retargeting Then and Now

Carnegie Higher Ed Apr 16, 2015 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

For Throw Back Thursday, I thought I’d look back on one my personal digital marketing favorites: Retargeting!

Retargeting allows marketers to serve ads to visitors of a specific website after they leave the site. Carnegie Communications is proud to have introduced Retargeting to the higher ed space in 2010—and the technology and results have just gotten better and better each year!

Relevance is expected

Five years ago, Retargeting was mysterious to most, with inner workings relatively unknown to the end user. Besides, the idea of ads following you around the Web based on your browsing history was an overwhelming concept and, well, just plain annoying and creepy for some. (Pixels and cookies and Big Brother, oh my!) However, when done right—with audience segmentation, impression caps, and good creative, CTAs, and tracking—Retargeting campaigns go from unnerving to relevant very quickly. These days, people have come to expect that relevance in their ads when online—and they respond more readily to ads that fit their interests and behavior.

The verdict is in: Retargeting works

A Noel Levitz study reports that four-year private colleges and universities rated Retargeting the highest for “very effective” marketing methods, above any other tactic, including broadcast, print, outdoor, and other digital programs. However, only 37% of institutions were actually using Retargeting, which was lower than any other advertising method! This tells us one of the most effective marketing strategies is also one of the most underused.


We aren’t surprised by this study. We see Retargeting work for our clients every day, often yielding the highest number of conversions for the least amount of money. Why? Because it’s the workhorse of all your other marketing campaigns, leveraging the website traffic your traditional outreach, e-mail, PPC, and display ads have worked so hard to push there. But we also know many institutions still aren’t using Retargeting, often because of unfamiliarity, uncooperative partners, or simply lack of bandwidth.

Segmentation is easier than ever before

With time comes new technology . . . and the advent and ease of the container tag.

A few years ago, Retargeting pixel technology was limited and took a lot of manual integration. Now, with the universal container tag, you can capture visitors to all areas of your website with just one piece of code! This is great news for your Web team and great news for you, because it allows for easier audience segmentation and conversion tracking. The marketers get to set the rules that determine which pages to capture or track conversions to. This streamlines the back and forth with the Web team and makes it easier to add in new rules as new Web pages get added, or website URLs and goals change.

More smartphone and tablet delivery is available

Back then many mobile devices couldn’t hold cookies, so Retargeting was a computer function primarily. Now, Retargeting happens on most smartphones, tablets, and computers with few limitations. Mobile use is ever-growing among college-bound teens and adults, and so is the power of those impressions and clicks. We see some of the highest click-through rates on smartphones, making mobile Retargeting a growing strategy for recruitment.

Improved technology coupled with years of data tell us that Retargeting is hardly a thing of past. In fact, it’s an increasingly powerful tool for higher ed recruitment, especially now that the college search is more often taking place on smartphones. If you’re not already using Retargeting to reengage your audience, we highly suggest you get started right away!

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