google-remarketing-tipsRemarketing is a popular topic in the web marketing world lately. And it’s no wonder why. Who better to show ads to than your previous site visitors? Personally, I’ve found the ROI on remarketing ads to be incredible, second only to email marketing. If you haven’t yet tried it, what are you waiting for?

For those unfamiliar with Google remarketing, here’s how it works. A visitor lands on your website. Google’s ad network writes a cookie in that person’s browser, identifying them as having previously visited your website. When this same person is visiting another website in the ubiquitous Google display network, your ad appears, “remarketing” them back to your site. The power of this concept is self evident. It’s far more effective to show ads to people who’ve previously shown interest in your products, versus the person whose never heard of you.

With that background in mind, let’s look at some tips for mastering this powerful tool.

  1. Start Tagging Visitors Now: Because you need at least 500 visitors tagged with the remarketing cookie before Google will show your ads, you’ll want to start tagging visitors as soon as possible, even before you’ve developed ad creative.
  2. Test Different Cookie Time-frames: Google allows you to to create different audience segments depending on how recently prospects visited your site. I would recommend creating several buckets to start, 180 days (the max allowed), 90 days, 30 days, 14 days, etc. Your bidding strategy should change depending on how recently the visitors viewed your site. You’ll likely find that you can afford to bid higher on more recent visitors because they’re more likely to convert.
  3. Design Remarketing Ads Differently: If you’ve ever designed a banner ad for an audience whose mostly not heard of you, you need to approach remarketing creative differently. First, you need to catch their attention by showing a brand or product they’ll recognize already. Then you need a compelling reason get them to come back.
  4. Target Visitors by the Content they Viewed: If you have a diverse product line, consider targeting visitors on a department level, rather than just a one-size fits all bucket. Showing an ad featuring women shoes to a visitor who originally browsed mens clothing in an obvious ad fail.
  5. Target Visitors by their Stage in the Buying Cycle: Another popular ad strategy is targeting viewers by their stage in the buying cycle. One of the most effective tactics is targeting visitors who’ve recently abandoned their shopping cart. Or, if you sell products that customers buy on a regular schedule (say printer paper, toner, etc) you can target customers at a particular time after their last purchase, reminding them to re-order.
  6. Create Ads & Landing Pages that Follow Scent: As with any ad-to-landing page relationship, there needs to be solid follow-thru that matches the promise of the ad. It’s extremely frustrating when customers click on ad featuring a specific product or offer, yet landing page offers no such fulfillment of the ad.
  7. Optimize through Site Exclusions: This is the magic pixie dust of any Google display campaign. Once your ads have received a decent number of impressions, clicks, and conversions, visit the “Networks” tab in your remarketing campaign, and click the “show details” under automatic placements. Here you’ll find a list of sites that Google is displaying your ads on. Pay close attention to the performance of each domain. Despite the fact that your ads are always being shown to qualified visitors who have seen your site before, certain sites perform significantly better than others. For under-performing sites, reduce your bid or exclude them entirely. For the high-performers, raise to bid to attract more impressions.
  8. Exclude Site Categories: Because remarketing targets the individual, and not a specific site, your ads will potentially be shown on sites that might not mesh well with your brand. Inevitably, you just might get a nasty call from your brand police who noticed an ad on a website that doesn’t fit with your product. To prevent these minor blow-ups, go to your Networks tab, and click the Exclusions link. There, you can choose to exclude specific sites, or entire categories of  sites you deem inappropriate for your brand.
  9. Take View-Through Conversions with a Grain of Salt: I’m highly skeptical of view-through conversions. A view-through conversion occurs when Google happens to show one of your ads to someone who does not click, but who later completes a conversion on your site. In my view, just because an ad flashes for a second in the corner of someone’s screen, and that person subsequently makes a purchase doesn’t mean that the conversion wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. I’m not saying there’s no value to view-throughs, only that you should focus primarily on traditional click-through conversions when calculating your ROI.
  10. Use All Ad Formats: While testing ad creative, I like to start with just designing one 300×250 image ad, because they tend to get the most impressions. Once you’ve tested and found a winner, be sure to create ads in all the available sizes to maximize your reach.

What’s been your experience with Google remarketing? Have you tried any other retargeting ad services?