It’s ok to be a Stalker – Google Remarketing Really Rocks

August 4th, 2010

stalker adsJust this past March, Google launched remarketing (also known as retargeting) in Google Adwords. I like to call them “stalker ads” when trying to explain it to other folks. Prior to Google launching, retargeting has been around for a few years, but mostly available on enterprise-like ad serving platforms used by larger agencies with gigantic budgets.

So what is retargeting? My 140 character description

Serving particular ads on external sites to audiences who have visited certain pages on your site with certain actions (ie. conversions)

How it works

  • Site visitors come to your site via organic search, pay-per-click, banners ads via search or the content network.
  • A cookie tracks what pages they visited on your site and if the site visitor acted on anything (ie. download, purchase, form filled out etc.)
  • The tracking code is setup and defined within your Adwords account and inserted within your site pages.
  • The retargeting ad network figures out who to serve back your ads to on the content network (other sites that are serving up Google Adsense) based on your audiences activity on your site and how you defined it. Giving you the flexibility to serve up particular ads on particular page(s) visited, or if site visitor converted or actioned on something or not. In the end you can create, write and serve a highly relevant ads to past site visitors based on behavior.

Retargeting moving mainstream?

In December 2009, a SEMPO/ survey showed results that remarketing, topped the list of most under-utilized marketing technologies. As of today (8 months later), I still think it is under-utilized and never reached the top of the adoption curve. This past June 2010, I polled some online marketers at SMX Advanced in Seattle and I was a little surprised that not many have yet adopted this tactic (some never even heard of it).

Huh? opportunity to start now before everyone else is on it? You betcha!

Besides Google Remarketing, there’s growth with third party service providers that offer retargeting and have low to mid level entry points. Some are:,,, and

What I like about Google Remarketing is that you can start with a very small budget if you wish. I think some of the third party retargeting providers may just use Google Remarketing as well, so keep a watch for that. Some may or may not reach broader audiences than the Google Content Network (BTW it is just recently renamed as “Google Display Network“).

I truly believe that broad adoption of retargeting will happen when more marketers realize that the entry level commitment is low and when they have the time to test it out to see the value, as I have done recently at ActiveState. I think it really rocks and will become mainstream soon because of the low entry costs!

Five reasons why I think Google Remarketing rocks

  1. Doesn’t let past site visitors forget about you. Sometimes site visitors come to your site to check out your products or services and they are in education/research stage and not ready to commit.  They need to be reminded that your services/products are the right fit 3-4 times before they are sure you are the right one for them. But they may forget about you and never come back to your site. Following them on the content network on relevant sites complements this theory and gets them back to your site when they are ready to try, buy or commit. Don’t let them forget about you or get away! Here is a sample of one of our retargeting ads that is being served to visitors who visited our Perl Dek Kit but not yet downloaded a trial version:
    Retargeting on Perl Tutorial
  2. Very sweet audience and segmenting. Segmenting ads by interest (page visited on your site) on the content network is sweet. What if you had two product lines that served two different audiences? Before retargeting you couldn’t serve up particular ads on the content network to audiences based on their past activities on what their interests are in your products/services. Now you can serve up ads to what the customer is telling you they are interested in (match the ad to what products or service pages they looked at). Here are some samples of our retargeting ads (we have created 7 different sizes in each ad group):retargeting samples ads
  3. Control with smart targeting. Combine audiences (see #1 below) and exclude with negatives (see #2 below). Not only can you tell what ads to show up by pages visited or actions, you can exclude audiences in your campaigns which gives you so much control! Here’s a sample of our Perl Dev Kit ad group audience settings:adgroup audience settings
  4. Valuable attribution insights with click view reports. Start to see how banner ads play with search with view-throughs (learn more about view-throughs on Google’s site here). You can now see the attribution relationship with search and the content network. No more of the last click attaboys!view throughs

  5. Very cost-effective branding. I really like the CPC vs CPM for the retargeting. The branding equity we are building with the overall impressions of banner ads (graphical images) vs overall impressions of search (text) is higher yet a fraction of a cost if it was traditional CPM model. Retargeting really strengthens brands, which is huge in my perspective for the long term online marketing efforts if branding is one of your main corporate objective! Check out the sample below, our retargeting graphical ads (#2) actually have more impressions than our search text ads (#1) and they will most likely leave more of an impression because they are graphical and show our logo and all.
    impressions retargeting

Setting up audiences

I am going to share the process I went through.

I decided to test out a retargeting campaign to deliver ads in the network to those who visited our Perl Dev Kit pages but never downloaded the trial software (didn’t convert).

I first had to define and set up our audiences and wait for the list(s) to start building up in numbers. It is important to note that it is not retroactive and only starts once you define them in Adwords under “Audiences” and if the tracking code(s) are on your site pages. Don’t procrastinate! Build your audiences now, so you have it built up when you get the budget approval from your boss and can hit the ground running!

The two audiences I defined for our Perl Dev Kit retargeting ad group are:

  1. I generated a brand new Google Audience, named it Perl Dev Kit and put the code on our site pages at a category level (all pages under Perl Dev Kit Category)
  2. I defined an audience with our existing Google Adwords conversion tracking code that we already have set up for the thank you pages after the Perl Dev Kit trial download (one conversion page only).

So we have audience tracking on pages visited and Google Adwords conversion code on the complete page for our conversion.

But for the actual campaign setting we are only serving ads to those who visited the pages (included). And excluded the ads to those who tried (downloaded) the Perl Dev Kit(excluded them as a negative audience). So why use the negative you may ask? Because we have their names already and no use serving them ads in the network to download if we are now engaged with them in others ways (email marketing, download trigger events)!

Now this may be far from perfect or advanced.But it is a start.

Imagine in the future… tracking those who purchased Perl Dev Kit and what version and then serving relevant adds on the network to upgrade to a new version with ad copy with all the new features! Now, that would be super fancy!

Some general tips

  • Offer all possible ad variations. If you are doing graphical ads for retargeting, make sure you offer all available sizes in every campaign because some blogs and portals only serve up particular sizes that fit within their site design. If you don’t offer all sizes, you may narrow your potential ad spots and in the end, have less reach. We are serving up 7 different ad sizes for our campaigns with the following dimensions:
    • 200 x 200 pixels
    • 250 x 250 pixels
    • 120 x 600 pixels
    • 728 x 90 pixels
    • 468 x 60 pixels
    • 336 x 280 pixels
    • 300 x 250 pixels
  • Use relevant keywords. Define relevant keyword phrases for each retargeting ad group if your product is not a mass consumer product. By doing so, your ads will show up on pages or sites that are mentioning your bucket of keywords within the content of the pages. If you don’t do this, your ads may show up on sites that are not relevant to the topic and your audiences will wonder why the heck your ads are on a particular sites. I have seen beauty ads stalk me on coding sites and I don’t think that campaign is fully optimized. I certainly don’t want our business developer ads showing up on porn sites nor celebrity portals nor beauty sites (I am sure it will spook our target audience out or give a sense of dissonance).
  • Hunt and include relevant sites. Do try to include highly relevant sites that you want to serve your ads on. You can use the search sites when setting up your retargeting ad group.
  • Monitor and tweak. Watch and monitor sites where you ads are showing up on. If they are not relevant, have low click through or low view through, exclude them in your campaign. Be careful not to exclude sites that have high relevancy, high click through and low conversion, they may be attributing to the conversion cycle!
  • Use the audience data to get budget approvals. First put in the tracking codes, then show your boss the potential (# of audience you have tracked so far) in which you can reach on the network – it won’t cost you a dime for doing so. You can also hit the ground running once you have the budget approval because you should have acquired an audience if you have decent site traffic.
  • Change up your ads. If you have specials, promotions or new features, change up your ads with new copy and experiment with call-to-action messaging on your ads. Never leave ad copy stale and don’t set it and forget it!

Get started today. Read more on Google’s site: “Getting Started with Google Remarketing“.

Do you have some handy dandy tips or insights on retargeting in general? Please feel free to share below!

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