How Retargeting Ruined Christmas: 2017 Edition

Carnegie Higher Ed Dec 11, 2017 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

This time two years ago I wrote a blog about how Retargeting almost ruined Christmas. Fast-forward to 2017 Retargeting has made so many incredible advancements that while it may have spoiled Christmas again, it’s the gift that keeps on giving to higher ed marketers!

The technology of Retargeting has advanced so much that it is increasingly more difficult to shop online without your family members catching wind of what you are browsing for, all because of cross-device and cross-platform targeting. But what may spoil shopping surprises for retail is a great win for recruitment and enrollment marketers. Cross-device and cross-platform targeting is a phenomenal strategy to stay in front of your prospects and their influencers no matter the device or platform they are on.

As multiple device use has increased exponentially over the last few years, so has the adoption of cross-device technology. Looking back at Retargeting in 2015, it was a cookie-based technology that only allowed for ads to show up on the same device the website was viewed. In 2017, advancements were made and platforms like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, etc. are now able to use data to make a match across devices (generally an e-mail address used to log on to multiple devices). So when users log in to these sites from their phone, tablet, or computer, a “match” can be made, allowing for cross-device targeting.

This explains in part why you may see the same ads across all your devices, but you might still be wondering why your spouse or kids are also seeing your ads on theirs. The most-likely culprit is your home Wi-Fi and IP address. When multiple devices log on from the same home IP address over a period of time, these devices get associated and are subject to receiving these Retargeting ads. Thus, Christmas was spoiled when a series of Apple Watch Band ads appeared on my Facebook feed (something I never searched for on any of my devices)—but my son did from his iPad as a gift for my husband.

In addition to cross-device targeting, there are now cross-platform Retargeting options, which have greatly proliferated how and where Retargeting ads are displayed. 2015 Retargeting was limited to showing your display ads simply across the Google Display Network or to a DSP’s network of sites. Now social media has skin in the Retargeting game, allowing you to stay in front of your prospective students on virtually all the social media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and SnapChat. This allows you to reach prospective students who have visited your .edu website later with targeted ads when they hop on to social media.

Take it a step further and you can also layer in Audience Networks on Facebook or LinkedIn, giving your Retargeting campaign even more scale. The Audience Network lets you extend your ad campaigns beyond Facebook or LinkedIn to reach your audiences on a network of affiliated websites and apps. It uses the same targeting, measurement, and delivery to make sure each ad on the Audience Network helps you reach your campaign goals.

Google’s Paid Search Marketing has also advanced with Retargeting with RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads). RLSA is a feature that lets you customize your paid search ad for people who have previously visited your site and tailor your bids and ad copy to be more specific to these past visitors when they’re searching on Google again afterward. So, practically speaking, this means if a student is searching for an MS in Bioinformatics, initially they might see an ad like this with broader messaging and site links about getting more general info.

But an RLSA ad could serve different copy, call to actions, and further down the funnel site links like you see below:

The ad copy and site links can change because Google knows and recognizes if you’ve been to that site before inviting you to take the next step to apply.

So while Retargeting continues to plague my Christmas surprises, it still is one of the best digital workhorse strategies you can rely on for your enrollment and marketing goals. Retargeting allows you to keep your institution front and center of prospects who have shown interest and helps drive conversion activity like Request Information, Schedule a Visit, and Apply! And now with all the cross-device and cross-platform capabilities, you can be sure you are reaching your prospects and their influencers online wherever they are spending their time and no matter what device they are using. That is Christmas for higher ed marketers all year long!

You can follow me on Twitter @adpoulin.

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