How We Dropped Our CPA 43% By Retargeting Someone Else’s Website

With Facebook hacking away at it’s targeting functionality by the day, getting the right ad in front of the right person is becoming increasingly difficult, leading to a lot of wasted impressions, and as a result, wasted ad spend.

Lookalikes and interest-based audiences work to an extent, but these are built on black-box algorithms that tend to be in the millions, which is good enough to market products that appeal to the masses, less-so if your product only appeals to a very specific group of people at a very specific time. For example, an ad-tech product like ours only appeals to savvy digital marketers, typically with direct response goals, that are currently running on Facebook Ads. Within Facebook’s UI, we can target people who have “expressed interest” in digital marketing (audience size: 79.36m), Google AdWords (audience size: 115.8m), and Facebook page admins (audience size: 262.39m), but we can’t target social media marketers actively in the market for tips & tools to improve their ROAS, which is what we’d need to make Facebook Ads perform.

To help close the gap, digital marketers have traditionally turned to retargeting, but that’s obviously limited in scale to the number of people who have already been to your website, and assuming you want to grow your business faster than recycling through your existing visitors, you’re going to have to branch out. We’ve experienced this first hand here at Repixel as our retargeting campaigns perform great, but with a steady frequency of 5+, there’s only so much we can do to scale them up. With that in mind, we took to our own product, Repixel, to find sites outside of ours that we might have success retargeting.

Real Quick on Repixel

Repixel is a marketplace that lets advertisers easily retarget someone else’s website. For example, if you own a line of workout supplements, you might have success retargeting:

  • A review website ranking the top 10 best workout supplements.
  • A workout-tracking app where weightlifters can monitor their progress.
  • A popular blog that produces content about the fastest way to recover after exercising.

Needless to say, the people visiting these types of sites are also clearly the working out type and would be a great audience to expand a retargeting program into. In fact, in some ways, targeting the recent visitors of a review website ranking the 10 best workout supplements might work even better than traditional retargeting because these people are without question actively vetting & in the market to purchase supplements.

Our Experiment

We started out by identifying three types of websites that we wanted to retarget: direct response ad agencies like DR Digital Advertising, technical marketing blogs like SEO Mofo, and tools typically used by social media marketers like TinyURL. Our rationale was that if someone has been to one of these three types of sites they’re either 1) actively trying to scale up their ad campaigns and have the money to do so, 2) are pretty scrappy when it comes to marketing and willing to try out shiny new tools like ours, or 3) relatively engaged in social media marketing either as an influencer or advertiser. All of these categories are in our target market and make for a worthwhile audience test so we found their listings, set our max bid and daily budget, and fired off the “repixel requests”.

Because we’re not competitive with any of these sites, our requests were approved relatively quickly. While we waited for our retargeting buckets to fill up, we spun up some ad creative. Because we knew a very specific piece of information about the people we were targeting, just like with any good retargeting campaign, we were able to make the ads super customized in a way that we knew would resonate. Here’s how they looked for our SEO blog & ad agency campaigns.

And with that, we were off to the races. We setup our custom audiences, built out the campaigns in Facebook, and eagerly monitored the performance.

The End Result?

In this particular campaign, traditional retargeting took the lead, but in terms of branching out past that, retargeting other sites was a clear second, far surpassing the performance of prospecting through lookalikes.

Of course, at some point during the analysis, you have to add in the fee that you’re paying the website owner in exchange for tagging their visitors (and Repixel’s 20% cut that’s baked in), but even with those added costs, we were pleased with the results:

One other thing to note is the scalability. When retargeting a high volume tool like TinyURL or a high trafficked blog like SEO Mofo, you’ll notice we were able to scale the campaigns, but when retargeting a smaller site like an ad agency, scale was more limited and CPM’s were a bit higher. It was still an incremental win, but not necessarily a needle mover.

Long term, we’ll likely end up with a combination of prospecting, retargeting, and repixeling depending on our level of ad spend, but for now, we’ve scrapped our lookalikes altogether and are on the lookout for expanding the program into more partners by subscribing to a couple of “saved searches” (via the left-hand side of the marketplace) like this one:

Your Turn

When retargeting someone else’s website, like anything else in digital advertising, it’s all about testing and learning. The above campaigns were a success, but getting it right requires the right audiences to be available, the right ad creative to match your target market, and continued optimization, so it’s always recommended to break out your audiences into separate campaigns and set up your customized ad creative accordingly. But when done correctly, when retargeting a small site, repixeling can be a nice incremental win, and when you find the right match on a highly trafficked website, it can a game-changer.

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