Thanks to the success of AdWords and AdSense, many digital marketers assume self-serve is always the right way to go when advertising online. However, the answer is rarely so simple, particularly when the advertising technology is more complicated.
Googles remarketing service put self-serve retargeting on the map. More recently, marketing platform Bizo has launched its own self-service retargeting platform, claiming [a]ny marketing organization to quickly tap the power of display ad retargeting for as little as $5 per day.
Retargeting has become a go-to for many digital marketers, and at this point it is by no means an uncommon practice. Still, retargeting campaigns involve many moving parts and there are countless ways a campaign can go awry.
If youre looking to get started with retargeting and are considering a self-serve provider, you need to weigh the options and ask yourself: is a self-serve provider right for you?
Whats the Difference Between Self-Service and Full-Service?
With a self-serve provider, you manage your campaign in its entirety. You are responsible for creating your banner ads, choosing the appropriate spend, and optimizing that spend across the various networks your ads may appear on.
Creating a successful campaign using the self-serve model is certainly a manageable feat, but it requires a significant investment from the advertiser. If you are managing your own campaign, you must devote sufficient time and energy to monitoring, learning and optimizing.
Running a successful retargeting campaign also requires knowledge. More than simply putting in the time, you also have to know what youre doing. And that takes time too. Advertisers new to retargeting may initially find themselves wasting a significant amount of their budget while they learn from early mistakes.
A recent piece in Retargeting News opined that robust reporting and analytics are necessary to make a self-service provider a reliable option. While its certainly true that reporting and analytics are key, reports are quite useless if you dont know what to do with them.
Your success with a self-serve platform will depend on how much you know when you get started, and how much time youre able to dedicate to your campaign. If your expertise and your schedule are limited, you should not expect to have a very high-performing campaign.
While a full-service provider will require a higher minimum, it isnt for naught. A truly full-service provider will manage your account for you and will provide you with access to reports and analytics. You should be able to trust that youre receiving the optimal return on your spend.
ReTargeter, for one, has both a self-serve dashboard and an account management responsible for monitoring and optimizing all accounts.
For an objective roundup of services offered by the bigger retargeting providers (ReTargeter included), check out Joanna Lords comparison of the top four retargeting companies on SEOMoz, or Linda Bustoss guide to choosing a retargeter on Get Elastic.
When to Choose Self-Serve
If you are one of the few marketers with the bandwidth, the digital expertise and the desire to devote hours to optimizing your retargeting campaign, then a self-serve provider is truly the best option for you.
For advertisers with smaller budgets, a self-serve provider may be your only option. The larger full-service retargeting platforms (ourselves include) do require a monthly minimum spend. If the minimum lies outside your budget, then a self-service provider is your retargeting option.
For advertisers with low site traffic, a self-serve provider may also be a good option as paying the minimums required by a full-service provider may not make sense. (ReTargeter, for example, usually does not launch campaigns for sites with fewer than 10,000 unique visitors). Another option is to request a retargeting pixel from the provider of your choice, and tag your site visitors while your site traffic grows. That way, when you reach the traffic threshold, your campaign is ready to launch.
If you do go with a self-serve retargeter, you can be successful, but it may not be easy. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you will have to make an investment to reap results.