(This article is a 4.3 minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE
1. An explanation of how ad retargeting works
2. How you can use it on your dental practice website
3. What you have to be wary of when retargeting ads
There are a few spooky things technology allows you to do nowadays that we could never do in the past. And one of the spookiest is ad retargeting. Whether you want to use this to attract patients to your dental practice is an interesting and tricky question.
Have you ever looked at a property on Domain or realestate.com.au, or looked at cars or TVs online, then seen ads for those same things appear in your Facebook feed? Or on other websites? It's not a coincidence. It's ad retargeting.
Broadcast TV or newspapers have no idea who their individual readers are. But websites you visit can tell exactly which individual unique computer is visiting them. They don't necessarily know that it's you using the computer. Or to put it another way, they don't know who you are. Yet.
But when you visit the advertiser’s website, they drop a cookie on your browser. A cookie is a small piece of data stored by your browser. Lots of websites use them. Google, for example, uses them for Google ads. So when you visit another, completely unrelated websites which carries a space for a Google ad, it will read the cookie on your browser. It will then serve up an ad from that advertiser who is retargeting you.
Ad retargeting for dentists
This technology is available to anyone who wants to advertise online. And it's pretty simple to set up. Google, Facebook and several big companies like Adroll allow you to create an ad which will allow retargeting. And it's a pretty seductive idea.
Imagine if you didn't have any way of capturing data on who has visited your website. You know more people probably visit it than book appointments. Using retargeting, you could get your website to keep visiting those people.
Where cookies may work for you
A situation retargeting would work for dentists is if someone came to your site intending to book an appointment, then got distracted at the last minute and surfed off to look up funny cat videos or recipes for ice cream. But whichever site they visited for their funny cat videos, there's an ad for your surgery, beckoning them back!
The problem with retargeting is it can't distinguish between those people, and people who had come to your site to find your contact details. Then rung you. And booked an appointment.
Retargeted ads then become annoying, rather than useful. I was looking for a rental house six months ago, and I found one (yay!), but I still get fed ads from Domain telling me about other houses for rent. I only needed one!
Ditto for cars. I once looked online for a photo of a car a colleague had purchased. I never wanted to buy one myself. I just wanted to see what one looked like. But the subsequent onslaught of ads for that particular make and model all over the web and social media annoyed the hell out of me. And did not predispose me towards buying one. Ever.
The dangers of too much advertising
The reason digital ad sellers can sell retargeting despite its creepiness is it gives you as an advertiser a sense of control. But it's a false sense.
You can use technology to interrupt people while they're trying to do other stuff. But unless they are ready to buy what you have to sell, you will just be annoying them.
Annoy someone too much, and they learn how to tune you out.
The truth is, it's hard to tell why someone is visiting your site from a single visit. They might be searching for information that will eventually lead to them becoming a patient. But if you chase them around the web with a retargeted ad, you could easily chase them off.
A better strategy is to give them good reasons to come back, by producing lots of interesting useful content.