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Remarketing in PPC

Noticed that certain adverts are following you around the internet these days? That's remarketing.

Websites you have visited before have, usually via a service like Google Adwords, planted a cookie in your browser which remembers the website you visited and pages that you viewed on that website.

Based on this information the owner of said website can, if they set things up correctly, target you with ads elsewhere on the internet related to your behaviour when you were on their site.

You looked at porcelain tableware? OK – here's an advert reminding you about our porcelain table ware range. You looked at our product page for the iPhone8? OK – here's an advert of an iPhone8 reminding you that we sell it.

Google adwords loves this concept because its own research has shown people are 70% more likely to click an advert that relates to their past browsing activity than one which relates to the page you are on.

And Google makes money when people click on ads!

Advertisers like it as well, at least those who get the set up right, because advert clicks from people who have visited their website before are clicks from people who are far more likely to achieve their goal – buy a product, fill out a form, sign up to something, etc.

How does remarketing work?

The adverts will only ever be from websites you have already visited. Hence the name remarketing, the adverts are marketing again to past visitors.

They work by placing a cookie in your browser while vou are on their website with information about what you looked at. As such a remarketing advertiser can decide what advertisement to show you elsewhere on the internet based on any, or any mix, of factors including:

  • what products you looked at
  • what pages you visited
  • what browser you are using
  • where you are located
  • and on and on and on!

The list and complexity is almost endless but it allows advertisers to be incredibly precise at what advert they show and as a webmaster that should be of great interest to you.

Now remember the factors discussed in the page on PPC and PPI about when an advert service such as Google Adwords decides which advert(s) to show. In short these are:

  • how relevant is the advert to the pages content?
  • how relevant is the landing page of the advert to the pages content?
  • how likely is the user to click on the advert ?
  • how well does the user react to the landing page?
  • reviews about your business from third party review providers
  • how much is the advertiser bidding?

Well the first two factors just get thrown out the window with remarketing because the user is very likely to click on the advert and highly likely to engage with the landing page.

Remember all the advert service is interested in is making money so it wants internet users to:

  • Click on the adverts now.
  • Be confident to click on more adverts in the future because they bought relevant content in the past.

All this means that if you set up remarketing effectively you can bid much less than your competitors for the same amount of traffic and get a much better return on your investment.

Not surprising then that remarketing can be unbelievably effective when you do it right.

Setting up remarketing

The only downside is that it can be fiddly depending on the complexity of your website. A simple remarketing campaign that works on the principle “show my advertisement to anyone who visited Page X on my website and is from country Y” is fairly straightforward.

However for large ecommerce sites with hundreds or thousands of products setting up campaigns that show adverts with specific products (along with pictures and pricing) is more taxing!

But lets start with the basics.

The remarketing audience

Remarketing is rule based and generally has the following components:

“Show my [define an advertisement] to anyone who has [enter rules here such as 'visited a specific page on my website'] and then goes on to visit other websites/apps/etc. that show adverts from this provider within [x days]”

In other words the constraints are the users past and current activity bound by time.

The result is what is known as a remarketing audience. The set of people you intend to remarket to as a number.

For example I might say “Show my 'remarketing tutorial ad' to anyone from the United States who has visited this page in the last 30 days and then go on to view websites showing Google ads” and that will turn out to be an audience of about 600 people per month.

Most advertising services (such as Google Adwords) have a minimum base before they will allow you to create a campaign to target any particular audience. In Adwords this is 100 people so don't waste your time creating fancy banners or ads until your know your remarketing audience passes this test.

Successful remarketing campaigns

The success, or otherwise, of your campaign is going to depend on how well you tailor the advert and the audience. Consider the following examples:

1) You target visitors who looked at your Sony Camcorder model xyz page with advertisements for Sony Camcorder xyz.

Here you are assuming that the visitor is only interested in Sony Camcorder model xyz. That may or may not be true so it would be worth testing this with a other campaigns that target the same audience but advertise:

  • Sony camcorders in general
  • Camcorders in general

Using Google Analytics you can then assess which advertisement is the most effective for that audience. Remember it could be all three approaches work well!

2) You target visitors who looked at any Sony Camcorder or a list of Sony Camcorders with advertisements for Sony Camcorders.

Again this may work but it would also be worth a second campaign that targets these visitors with advertisements for Camcorders in general and assessing which is most effective or if both are!

3) You target visitors who looked at any page on your site with advertisements about your site.

For complex ecommerce websites this is probably too vague to attract visitors back. They may or may not remember your brand. However for simpler niche sites it can be effective.

If your site is about, for example, relief from arthritis then advertising this to any past visitor is likely to be effective.

Remarketing banner ads

Remarketing takes place on other people's websites (or apps) where they display banners from services such as Google Adwords. There are around 20 different banner sizes with Adwords which means this part of remarketing could become very time intensive.

However Adwords has a banner creation tool where, once you put in some of the basics (images, color choices and text) Adwords will then create all the banner sizes for you.

Realistically this is the most efficient solution as you may want to experiment with various banner styles to see which is the most effective.

The most regular remarketing mistake

Remember, however, don't go burning up the hours creating banner ads until you know that your remarketing audience is large enough for Adwords to activate a campaign targeting that audience.

In Adwords that means 100 people must fit the criteria you specify and go on to visit websites displaying Adwords banners within the number of days that you have specified.

The biggest mistake many webmasters make here is to think “well according to analytics 200 people visit page X every month so therefore the remarketing audience is 200 people”. Not true because you do not know the final part of the equation – how may go on to visit other websites displaying Google ads.

You will not be able to work this out in advance. Once you have created the audience criteria you will need to wait for Adwords or Analytics to report on the audience size.

Google remarketing tutorials

The most widespread remarketing service is, unsurprisingly, Google Adwords. Remarketing audiences can be set up in either Google Analytics or Google Adwords. The following links are to Google's set up instructions: – Google Analytics. – Google Adwords.

Remarketing is for fairly advanced users of both services so if you feel that you are in over your head get in touch for assistance.

Broadly speaking the savings you make from the increased effectiveness of remarketing more than pay for third party services like mine which help you set them up … and that's not just sales talk :)

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

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