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Search Retargeting: 4 Tips To Use Recency To Drive Performance

In life, timing can be everything. But in marketing, it can make the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. That’s why the topic of recency is so important to marketers. Fortunately, search retargeting can help marketers capitalize on recency to drive performance.

Understanding Recency & The Window Of Opportunity

The concept of recency has been a key element in marketing for decades. It speaks to customer engagement in relation to time. For example, a consumer who interacted with your brand two days ago is more engaged and has a better recency score than someone who did the same a year ago.

In short, recency informs marketers about the window of opportunity to reach a consumer. I think industry legend Erwin Ephron said it best:

“… there is a window of opportunity for the ad message preceding each purchase. Advertising’s job is to influence the purchase. Media’s job is to put the message in the window.”

The Problem With Search & The Window

For today’s marketers, putting the message in the window is about using digital media to reach prospective customers at the optimum moment, when intent is expressed and they are in the proper mindset to receive your message and purchase your product.

While this is exactly what search does, it only addresses a small fraction of the effective recency window.


First, while search engines offer consumers immediate results to their queries, some conversations — depending on the vertical — require more detail or time to resonate with consumers.

In other words, to properly hit the window, advertising may need to be both now and later.

Second, only some initial offers get through — fewer than 5% of search results are actually ever clicked.

What Search Retargeting Can Do for Your Window of Opportunity

Search retargeting extends the brand conversation with a consumer beyond the initial point of exposure or expression of intent. Because of that, it gives marketers a better chance of hitting their window of opportunity.

In fact, some search retargeting solutions enable marketers to retarget consumers with granular recency settings that span from instant all the way to a full month out. Capitalizing on recency within search retargeting allows marketers to fine tune their efforts in regard to both timing as well as messaging. Doing exactly that will help them boost campaign performance.

Marketers can also improve performance in search retargeting by understanding how recency (the time between the search event and when an impression is served) impacts their success metrics, whether those metrics are CTR, CPC, ROAS, or something else.

The impact of recency will vary with different verticals, as well as with different campaigns within the same vertical. Once data is collected on the impact of recency on a particular campaign, it can be used to fine-tune campaigns.

Whether you use manual optimization efforts or automated multi-variate optimization algorithms, your recency data will help inform you, so you can raise bids for impressions within the valuable recency windows and lower bids for impressions outside of these windows.

The Impact of Recency On Search Retargeting Campaigns

In a recent study, Simpli.fi analyzed aggregate performance data for search retargeting campaigns over a 30-day period. We examined click-thru rates segmented by recency: delivery of impressions from Instant (on the page after the search results), all the way to 30-days post initial search.

The results indicate that the highest impression loads were delivered between one day and one week of identified intent, while the highest CTR performance was clustered within earlier stages of exposure, 30 minutes or less. And while such aggregate data is interesting, the more powerful data speaks to how recency impacts individual campaigns.

For example, the study shows that the tech vertical tends to favor a shorter recency window than the clothing vertical, but within those verticals different types of keywords (eg, upper funnel vs lower funnel) can perform differently.

How To Make Recency Work for Your Retargeting Campaigns

Below are four tips to help you best capitalize on recency in your search retargeting campaigns, whether these adjustments are made manually or “automagically” by optimization algorithms:

1.  Start with long windows, refine to shorter windows

Start campaigns with the longest recency window possible, e.g. 30 days, and then refine your recency window from there. Seek to identify the sweet spot for your brand – 1 month, 2 weeks, 1 week, 1 day, 1hour, 5 minutes, instant, etc.

2.  Analyze recency by vertical and campaign

As optimization and refinement via recency continue, performance differences will likely surface between specific verticals (travel, finance, etc.) as well as specific campaigns within verticals.

3.  Analyze recency by keyword type

As your use of recency evolves over time, consider switching out keywords based on funnel position (upper vs. lower), brands, competitive, and both broad and long tail terms.

4.  Adjust based on your goals

When making changes, make sure to identify recency parameters based on your optimum mix of performance versus delivery (reach). Be mindful that too much refinement may limit user exposure to your campaign.

Overall, by leveraging recency with search retargeting, marketers have a better shot at hitting their window of opportunity and boosting their campaigns’ performance. Smart marketers will be sure to tap into recency with their search retargeting efforts.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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