Retargeting Tricks: How Are These Banner Ads Following Me Around?

One of my responsibilities as an Internet Marketer is to introduce new opportunities to clients that can help to increase their exposure online to subsequently enhance their bottom line. One such tactic that I have been recommending more often lately is called retargeting, also called remarketing. Inevitably I get one of two responses: “So that's why I've been seeing ads for [INSERT ONLINE RETAILER HERE] on every website I visit!” or, “I had no idea you could do that, but that sounds way too Big Brother for how I want to reach my customers!” Before I let anybody jump to any conclusions and write it off, I always insist on explaining how the process works.

What is Remarketing?
Remarketing is a feature within many ad networks, most notably Google AdWords, which allows you to show specific ads to people who have visited your website. To go one level deeper, you can set ads to show only to people who have performed a certain action on your website, such as people who have visited 3 or more pages, signed up for an email newsletter, added items to a shopping cart but never checked out, or even bought a sample but not the full order of a product.

The typical way to buy ad space involves choosing exactly which websites, pages, or even individual placements you would like your ads to show. In doing so, marketers choose this space in hopes that the average person that looks at a particular site will also be the type of person to buy your product or service. With remarketing, you are buying space with specific people instead of specific locations. If you think about it, this eliminates a lot of wasted budget since you already know that the individual seeing the ad is already inclined to be interested in your product or service after having completed a telling action on your website. And yes, this may often lead to odd combinations that you may have seen before like ads for women's handbags appearing on a sports website, or ads for a shooting range showing up on  Please contact us to learn more!

By Lauren Pickens

How Does Retargeting Work?
The basis of retargeting is built upon cookies. Not the delicious ones you each, but the little files saved on your computer that track certain actions completed on websites. Although some cookies can be nefarious, the vast majority are used for perfectly harmless reasons. Nearly all data compiled in Google Analytics is gathered with the help of cookies and there are upwards of 10 – 15 million websites using this program as of April 2012, including 60% of the top 10,000 sites on the internet.

To set up a retargeting campaign, you first have to decide what you want your audience to be. An audience in this case just means what segment of your traffic you want to reach again in the future. Here are some examples of how to define an audience:

  • A website for a business consultant offers a blog with helpful business tips in an effort to demonstrate their expertise. A potential audience for them could be anybody that visits two or more articles on their blog within the past 30 days.
  • An online retailer that sells pet food knows that the average bag of dog food lasts 30 days. A possible audience for them could be visitors who purchased one bag of food between 20 and 35 days ago.
  • An ecommerce website selling high-end shoes notices that they have high shopping cart attrition immediately after the page which displays the cost of shipping. To help encourage the purchase, the audience could be all visitors who have put an item in the cart without purchasing in the past 7 days.


Ad Creative
The best ad creative to use while remarketing should include specific imagery, text, and calls to action that make the individual want to “act now.” Typically image ads work better than text ads since people are more likely to pick up on branding cues from seeing an ad for a split second than text ads that all look the same without reading them. As always, the more relevant the message to the individual's specific experience, the better. In the last example above, a great ad would promote free shipping with a special promo code to help entice a shoe purchase. It's also possible, although time consuming, to create different audiences for people who looked at different categories within a shopping cart and create unique ads that reference each.

Do you still feel that remarking is too Big Brother? If not, I'll leave you with one last thought: Would you rather be shown random banner ads about things you don't care about, or for a 24 hour sale that is happening at your favorite online store?