Are You Creeping Out Your Customers With Remarketing?

I was recently talking to a group of consumers (not search marketers) who had some very negative perceptions about a handful of brands.


In some cases, they used to be a fan of the brand, or at a minimum would continue buying from that brand. In other cases, they had never purchased from the brand before.

These negative feelings did not derive from product usage, social media or even word of mouth.

These negative feelings had arisen because they felt the companies were haunting them. No matter where they went, no matter what they did, the ads followed them around.

If you can’t control your ads, you may no longer be reaching your customers — you might be driving them away.

I did an experiment today. I went to eight sites I suspected of not controlling their ads well. Then I wandered around the Web for an hour. Six of the eight sites showed me more than 100 ads in less than an hour.

The biggest culprit is remarketing ads. While remarketing ads are fantastic when used correctly, they can be harmful to your brand if not controlled. In today’s column, we will examine a few ways of controlling your display ads.

Frequency Capping

The easiest way to control your ad display is by capping the frequency with which you show your ads. Frequency is the number of times the same person can see one of your ads in a time frame.

By default, Google does not place frequency caps on ads. This is very simple to do: Navigate to your campaign settings. Under advanced settings, you can set a frequency cap.

If you are buying CPM from someone besides Google, make sure to set frequency cap. If you don’t, you could buy 1,000 impressions and reach a total of one person.

Use Multiple Ad Themes Or Offers

Most companies are pretty good about using multiple sizes within an ad group. However, those sizes are often for the same offer or theme, just resized to fit all of the ad format sizes.

If someone has seen the offer 50 times, the 51st impression is not going to be magical. Create a few offers, using completely different themes (look and feel of the ads) and place them in the same ad group.

Now, when you show your ad to the same person a few times (and showing someone an ad multiple times is fine; just control yourself), at least you are rotating the ad’s themes and offers. If offer one does not convert them, then maybe offer two will.

Use Topics Targeting To Refine Your Ad Displays

It is common to see someone research a cruise on the weekends while sitting with the spouse and thinking about their next vacation. Later in the day, that same person realizes their computer is getting old and they start to research computers. In another week or two, that same person might go back to researching cruises, but that could be an entire week.

While they are researching computers, they often don’t see computer ads, they are seeing vacation ads. The vacation ad impressions are completely wasted at this point in time.

These silos of research are common and sometimes are referred to search sessions. It’s common to start with one session, find an answer or postpone the search and switch to a completely different train of thought for a while.

With remarketing, you are reaching the person regardless of their current intent unless you filter your ads by topic (in this case travel) and your remarketing ads at the same time.

You can easily use topic targeting to refine your remarketing lists so you are only showing ads when they are researching similar products or services to what you offer.

Use Negative Audience Lists

In my previous remarketing article, I detailed a way to reach back to customers a month or two after they bought from you with remarketing.

However, after someone buys from you, they probably don’t want to see your ad another 20 times in the next two days. Use negative lists to stop your ad from showing to customers for a while.

It is OK to reach out to them with new ads in the future, but do not annoy them in the meantime. If your company does not have repeat buyers, then use your negative lists to make sure you are not putting your ads in front of someone who will never be a customer again.

Control Your Ads

Displaying ads is easy. It takes just a couple of minutes to add another ad to an ad group (or buy CPM from another company) and start showing ads across the Web.

Getting clicks to your site is a bit more  difficult as your ad needs a compelling offer, and needs to be shown at the correct time and place to the consumer. Getting customers from ads is even more difficult as your landing page needs to convince them to take an action.

Advertising is easy. Getting customer is not — assuming that you have a chance of even converting the customer.

If you do not control your ads, you might annoy potential customers so much that they buy from your competitors because you drove them away with your incessant advertising.

Taking control of your advertising is a necessary step so you are not just advertising; but you are acquiring new customers with your marketing efforts.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column


About The Author: is the Founder of Certified Knowledge, a company dedicated to PPC education & training; fficial Google AdWords Seminar Leader, and author of Advanced Google AdWords.

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  • Martin Pezet

    A very useful article and the section on frequency capping really made me think and review my campaigns to try and minimise the “annoyance” factor from excesses impressions. I’m also guilty of not freshening up my ads as often as I should!

    I disagree though with this point you made:

    “While they are researching computers, they often don’t see computer ads, they are seeing vacation ads. The vacation ad impressions are completely wasted at this point in time.”

    I don’t think people operate in quite such a linear fashion, and just because someone is in “research computer mode” doesn’t mean that they won’t, consciously or sub-consciously, notice and ad about cruises and make a mental note to check out the site at the weekend when they are back to planning their dream holiday. I’ve also had a lot of trouble trying to target by “Topic” in Google, when the data starts to filter through and I can see some of the sites Google feels are related to a particular topic I am sometimes really worried about the appropriateness and quality of some of the sites my ads appear on, even with appropriate keyword targeting along side.

  • david pavlicko

    This post is so ‘on-the-money’. I’m in the process of being stalked by an ad after doing a search outside of my state for ‘houston dentist’. These ads haunt me – embedded in youtube videos, appearing on my iphone, on news sites, everywhere. It’s been well over 3 months, and I still see them 5-7 x a week. I’ve attempted to opt-out of just those ads, but that’s a lost cause. If I knew the agency running the campaign, I’d call them – I’m pretty tempted to just call the dentist directly.

    I completely agree when you say switch out the themes or offers occasionally – once you despise an ad, it only continues to burn that hatred in your mind every time you see it.

  • Amanda Shearer

    have to agree with david 100%. i use yahoo as my ‘junk’ mail account and it is really aggressively bad at retargeting- if Google ever starts to show huge retargeted ads next to my inbox like that i will be searching for yet another mail account…


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