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What is it and how does it work?

When I speak with clients and I explain Remarketing I find that most people have seen remarketing at work. They say something like, "oh the online ads that follow you around the internet". To see Remarketing in action visit The Google Ads are most likely from a site that you have visited in the last 540 days. - That's remarketing at work.

Here's an screen shot of our Remarketing ad showing up as a banner on the Nasdaq website, April 10th, 2012.

Remarketing will only display your ad to clients who have visited your site in the past. 

Remarketing is Powerful

A customer comes to your site, looks around, but doesn't purchase. Instead of leaving a return visit to chance, bring that customer back to your site with remarketing.


By showing your ads to customers who have already visited your site, you can drive more sales and boost ROI. No matter your marketing goals, you can create specific ads to remind customers that you have exactly what they're looking for.

Remarketing gives you an opportunity to re-engage site visitors with targeted messages and offers that appear when site visitors surf other sites around the Web.


How it Works


Remarketing is part of the Google AdWords program. It is he advanced strategy to target customers who have been to your site. I would even go as far to say that Remarketing can have the lowest cost per conversion of any of your online ad spend. When implemented properly you can target customers with relevant campaigns at the appropriate time and place.

Your Audiences


Retargeting relies on tags and cookies (a bit of code placed on your website). We create a tag for the various customer segments or “audiences” based on where in your site the abandonment occurs, what content was viewed or actions were taken, and place them on the appropriate pages on your site.

For example, let's say that you have a website with a "Get a Quote" form. We tag the page the form is on and form and the "thank you" page. We then know who has seen the form, who has filled it out and who has not filled it out.

We could then run a Remarketing campaign to those visitors who did NOT fill out the form.

Campaign Duration


Campaigns can be set so they expire after a short window (such as with checkout abandonment) or longer, up to 540 days. Long time formats are helpful for products that may have new releases or upgrades such as software, or require replenishment after a period, like consumable office supplies.

For example, let's say that you have an online store that sells a consumable product like printer supplies. You can tag the products and tag the "thank you" page. Now we know who has bought printer supplies from you. We can then set the remarketing campaign to display adds 5 months after their purchase requesting the customer to buy more printer supplies.

Here’s the catch – each remarketing list requires 500 cookied visitors before ads can be displayed. This is important, as timing is a big factor with remarketing. Lists can grow stale before the first ad is triggered. Abandoned carts should be retargeted relatively quickly. If it takes 30 days to build a list of 500 abandoned carts, your campaign will already by moldy. You may find your traffic only supports more general behaviors such as site or category visits.

Getting Started


314 Marketing Help has a straightforward guide for getting started, so I won’t reinvent the wheel by outlining the technical steps. But before you even think about setting up your campaign, you need to work out your strategy.


Remarketing Strategy


Begin with "who you want to target", after what actions are taken on your site. Jot down a few scenarios. Here’s a sample format:

    SCENARIO A (General Campaign)

    Objective: Keep brand top-of-mind for visitors who abandon the site
    Site pages (to tag): All
    Audience (Positive List): General site visitors
    Exclude (Negative List): Visitors who viewed Affiliates or Careers pages
    Cookie duration: 180 days (maximum allowed)
    Maximum exposures: 11

    Landing page: TBD, A/B test

    Notes: (If any)

    SCENARIO B (Flagship Product Campaign)

    Objective: Retarget visitors who view our flagship product
    Site pages: Product 1.0 product page, “product 1.0” search results
    Audience: Visitors to these pages
    Exclude: Completed purchasers
    Cookie duration: 14 days
    Maximum exposures: 11

    Landing page: TBD

    Notes: (If any)

A good understanding of your own industry and customer behavior is valuable. What is the average days to purchase (or average visits to purchase) for your entire site? For product categories? Do you have many competitors and is comparison shopping common? Are your customers motivated by discounts or value-added features and services? Do your customers shop for merchandise across departments? The answers to these questions will shape your scenarios so you’re not mis-targeting customers with the wrong strategies.

keep in mind:

  1. You need enough traffic to get your campaign off the ground, so don’t get too granular. Use your analytics and start with your highest traffic areas.
  2. Certain leads “go cold” as time passes. Plan shorter windows for actions like abandoned carts.
  3. Don’t be too desperate. Targeting offers immediately after site abandonment may cannibalize your margin for customers who were going to come back to pay full price. Consider A/B testing offers against non-offers, or staggering your creative to kick in offers after X days or X exposures.
  4. Consider excluding geographies that typically convert less or that you can’t ship your full product line to.

Remarketing Creative

There are many styles of display ads that can work for you, for example:
  1. Branding
  2. Last category viewed
  3. Last product viewed
  4. Abandoned cart reminder
  5. Sale and promotional messaging (general)
  6. New product awareness
  7. Post-purchase events (replenish consumables, submit review for chance to win gift card, etc)
As with all online advertising, it’s important that “scent” is maintained. This means your ad creative matches the behavior that triggered the ad, and the landing page delivers on the promise made in the ad. And as with email, make sure your creative has a clear call to action, even if it’s just for “branding” purposes.

You’ve heard of “banner blindness” but are you familiar with “banner burnout”? After a certain threshold of exposures, seeing your ad everywhere may be more annoying than admired, so you should consider mixing up your creative (showing a different design after X days or X impressions), or use frequency caps in your campaign set up. Experts believe 7-11 exposures is ideal before burnout kicks in.

Remember also to design for various ad formats for maximum placement (skyscraper, sidebar, etc).
Examples: Up high, Along the side

Campaign Management Tips


Once you’ve nailed your strategy and designed your ads, it’s time to set ‘em up. Here are some tips to remember:
  1. Start fresh. It is recommended to create display advertising Ad Groups in brand new Campaigns. You’re building Ad Groups around customer segments, rather than keywords, which requires a different structure.
  2. Block wisely. You may choose not to initially block domains from the Content Network that you find convert poorly with your other text and display ads. Because retargeted ads are more relevant, they may perform much better on these domains. If they prove to still convert poorly, remove them after you’ve collected enough data.
  3. Be negative. Leverage “negative audiences” to ensure your ads don’t appear when they shouldn’t. For example, visitors who convert should be placed in a list that is added as a negative to your other targeted campaigns. You may also wish to exclude visitors referred by other ad networks like Bing ads or affiliate campaigns.
  4. Bid smart. Naturally, some visitors will be tagged multiple times. For example, a cart abandoner likely has a “general visitor” tag. Bid higher for behaviors further down the conversion trail to ensure they override the other Ad Groups you may have running.
  5. Rotate evenly. Like with text ads, you can test a few versions of your creative (great idea, by the way). AdWords has a tendency to default your ad rotation to optimize for clicks (show your winning ad more often). But as you know, for good A/B split testing, your creative should be shown evenly. I recommend you change it to “show ads more evenly.”

If retargeting looks enticing to you, tag your pages as soon as possible to build your audience memberships before you work on strategy, creative and account set up. This makes it much quicker to reach the 500 member mark.