What needs to be compared is conversion rate with/without retargeting (i.e. retarget only a portion of the same traffic at the same time), and whether the added conversions, if there are any, bring in more revenue than it cost to do the additional advertising. That's something you can measure rather than guess or speculate based on anecdotal feedback.
Not to say that retargeting isn't probably working out for you. I use it as well (also with Perfect Audience, they're great). But I have also wasted enough money on ads that felt like they were working but really weren't that I take the time to measure results now. For example, I don't retarget every visitor to the site. Only hitting people that viewed the pricing or signup pages works just as well.
If anyone on HN wants to get started, go ahead and ping us at email@example.com with the subject line: "Hello from HN" and we can hook you up with some extra trial credits.
A view through conversion occurs when a user sees your ad, returns to your site through another channel and then converts.
How often do you see an ad banner, don't click on it, then go back to the site because of the banner? View through conversions are a bullshit metric.
View through conversions are a metric. They are not a bullshit metric. We know this because we work with thousands of companies and have run lots of "lift tests" to determine incrementality.
Some folks see a big lift, others see a smaller lift.
It depends on your product, funnel, and a host of other factors outside our control as an ad company.
The other annoying thing about the "view through conversions are bullshit" meme is that it implies that all advertising throughout the history of civilization is bullshit. A trip down 101, where several companies with very smart marketers are running billboards shows the fallacy of that. People still buy print ads. Bus ads. Any business that comes from those would also qualify as "view through conversions".
At Perfect Audience we record all the conversions, click and view, and then give you tools to assign a "multiplier" to them based on how much weight you want to give them.
We're rather give you lots of data and easy ways to organize it than offer a black box experience like most of our competitors.
I have a phone call with almost every new customer and the data from those calls supports VTC as a metric...nearly all new customers saw Baremetrics everywhere before they ultimately converted.
Lots of reasons why that's the case for our business (goes back to the value proposition I mentioned in the article).
Obviously this isn't the case for everyone, but I'm confident in that metric for us.
Keep cookie-ing people but don't show half of them any ads. Then compare the conversion rate to the people shown ads and come up with VTR attribution coefficient.
Incidentally, would the reports from Conversion Explorer be more granular than the conversion reports at Adroll? (with Adroll, it's not possible to see the "who" part, but when and where, yes)
Leaving a site is a signal of disinterest, which is completely ignored. So, it would be interesting to take retargeting to the next level, by understanding why someone left the website and build up a bunch of triggers that would exclude some visitors.
E. g.: Person visits our blog, but leaves after that. Person reappears on another site of the same ad network that has keywords like "free", "open source" etc. in it -> strong signal that he doesn't want to pay -> remove from retargeting.
It will be interesting to see, if there is a "ad blindness" effect kicking in after a few months. I would love to read a report in 3-6 months.
BTW: Your style of writing is great :-)
First of all, it is extremely inexpensive and highly qualified. Compare to LinkedIn or Twitter where the CPM is 5x to 10x greater and, in my experience, less qualified than people who have already come to our site.
The dollar amount is quite low. In the last 30 days, 176,333 impressions were served for a total of $377.68 That's a lot of eyeballs for less than $400 a month.
To me, even if no one ever converted, that is worth it simply as an investment in brand building.
We have also done a special offer only available as a retargeted ad, that is converting very well (17 in the past month directly from the ad / special).
One thing that comes up with our customers is they say they'd like to see more click conversions, but it turns out, the landing page they're sending traffic to is bad or over optimized.
Meanwhile, people simply SEEING the ads are going to their main home page and signing up normally.
So we've found it helpful to recommend folks compare post-click conversion rates to their other channels to see if that makes sense.
Now I click on their ads whenever I see them, just to cost them $1 (or whatever they're paying per click).