I was on the New York times website reading some article or another when I saw an ad for my friends small, Vancouver based charity. That was my first real exposure to retargeting ads or “remarketing”. Since then I’ve seen them popping up all over the place and experimented with retargeting for charity a few times myself. Recently, Ben Johnson at Frontier had a great post on it as well so I thought I would introduce the idea and basics here as it can be a very valuable and cost effective digital strategy.

What Is it?

In its simplest form, retargeting is contextual advertising to people who have visited your site. In more complex scenarios, it can be based on a particular action. For example, you can put some code on your website and create a general retargeting ad focused on visitors who did not take an action and your ad can ask them to sign up for a newsletter.

Brands use this when you look at shoes but don’t buy anything so then you’ll see shoe advertisements and think “hmmm… maybe I should buy those shoes…”. Ben uses the example of using retargeting ads to help convert newsletter subscribers to donors and one time donors to monthly donors. AdRoll, one of the most used retargeting platforms, explains it well in the graphic above and on their site if you want to learn more.

What Does It Mean For You?

Getting traffic to your site is tough and getting visitors to take an action is even harder. But if you can have something that is meaningful to them, or at the very least relevant, that can keep you top of mind and link back then when/if they click there is a greater chance of action. That’s pretty huge if you are focused at all on digital storytelling and fundraising.

What’s great about retargeting is that it can be used for almost any action a visitor would want to take (or you would want them to take). Volunteers, one time donations, monthly donations, child sponsorship, advocacy petition, etc. The ads are based on actual actions from users so stand a better chance at being more relevant to them.

So retargeting essentially lets you extend the visit to your website in a simple and relevant way for any number of actions, campaigns and strategies.

How Can You Get Started?

I highly recommend reading Ben’s full article as it goes into greater depth on how it can be used and some of the technical requirements needed. I’d also suggest that if you are interested in retargeting at all to try it out and if you don’t feel comfortable trying yourself then searching for a person or agency like Frontier or Jelly Marketing to run some tests and see if there’s some extra value for you there. Also, check out some retargeting platforms like AdRoll, Wishpond and Google itself to learn a bit more about pricing and support.

Good fundraising is about serving the donor and being relevant and meaningful for them. When it comes to advertising, retargeting is about as good as it gets in terms of the relevance.