Our Good to Great Virtual Event was a huge success! Many thanks to all of our esteemed panelists for their hard work. Unfortunately, the 30 minutes per panel time slot was not enough time to answer all of your great questions. For today’s blog we welcome Ryan McDermott, Director of Business Development at AdRoll, as he answers some pressing questions brought up on his panel: “Online Ads are the Cheese to Your Campaign’s Macaroni”.

There are observers who say we’re in a social media bubble that is bursting, and point to Facebook, Groupon’s share dive, suggest LinkedIn is stalling, etc. How does that relate to online advertising through social media?

At AdRoll, we are excited about the marketing opportunities social networks are beginning to provide to advertisers, and we think there’s more great innovation to come. Rather than a bursting bubble, we see social media networks providing expanded opportunity for online marketers.

In particular, we were ecstatic to see Facebook start offering access to its inventory via the Facebook Exchange (FBX), and we hope this is the start of a trend in the social space. The opportunity that social-based exchanges like Facebook’s present to leverage intent data on networks that drive engagement and reach a massive user base is tremendously powerful. As one of the first companies to launch an FBX solution, we’ve run hundreds of retargeting campaigns on Facebook for our advertisers, and we’re seeing great performance numbers.

How do you decide where your buyers are online?

The great thing about AdRoll’s retargeting solution is that our system actually does all of this for you. Through our proprietary technology, we aggregate and analyze the behavior of visitors to your site. With our algorithmic scoring methods, we are able to determine which visitors to your site are likely to be most valuable. We derive this by taking into account numerous data points, including things like time on site, pages visited, products viewed and actions taken.

Once we’ve identify high value users, we leverage our exchange partnerships to serve those users ads as they navigate across the web to their favorite sites. Whether it’s the NY Times, or their favorite recipe blog, our RTB based exchange integrations allow an advertiser to engage these users wherever they go. That’s the great thing about retargeting, staying in front of the user is the important thing, so you don’t have to think about where your potential customers are going to be, the system does that for you.

What should we be focusing on when it comes to online ad conversion?

Clicks are an essential part of the attribution story and certainly a large number of conversions are preceded by a click – so in that sense, I don’t think we question the inherent value of a click. That said, they’re not the only part of that conversion process, and optimizing your marketing strategy toward clicks alone will leave you missing out on the larger picture.

In particular, when it comes to display advertising efforts, impressions are important too, and their impact shouldn’t be ignored. While a user may not click on your ad when they first see it, the brand or product awareness that an ad impression creates may induce them to visit your site directly and convert at a later date. If you’re not taking this into consideration in your attribution models, you’re missing out on some key performance data.

One of the great things about retargeting is that it is actually pretty straightforward to measure the impact of an ad view. Utilizing scientific A/B testing methodology, we can isolate the influence retargeted ad impressions have on conversion rates. We’re able to do this by comparing the performance of users that have seen retargeted ads, versus a holdout group that’s only served PSAs.

That said, ultimately, no attribution model is perfect, and each model will vary depending on the marketer’s goals. The important thing is to test these models, measure your marketing ROI, challenge your assumptions, and be aware that optimizing toward clicks alone can lead to myopic marketing strategies.