Retargeting, or remessaging, is an advertising strategy that allows you to target users who have visited your website with ads to entice them to return to your site. It is generally used to encourage users who didn’t convert to come back to complete a purchase or other conversion step. But, it can also be used for a variety of reasons including product upsells, branding and social engagement. AdWords Remarketing is Google’s version of retargeting advertising. It is an easy platform to get started with retargeting in an interface that you’re already used to as an AdWords customer.
Setting up AdWords Remarketing
Identifying Your Audiences
Audiences are the groups of people you want to target or groups of people you want to exclude from targeting. Audiences will be unique to your business. You will need to determine which pages will be triggers to retarget users and which pages will remove that retargeting — each of these is an audience. You will include or exclude these audiences for each ad group to ensure you are targeting the right people. This is achieved with custom combinations, discussed in detail below.
1. Audience: People who visited a key page
- If a user viewed a page with details about a specific product or service, target them with ads about that offering
Custom combination: People who added an item to a shopping cart but didn’t complete the purchase
- The “added to shopping cart” audience included and the “complete purchase” audience excluded
- Entice these users back to complete the purchase with a free shipping or discount offer
2. Audience: People who signed up to receive information about future product releases
- When the product is released, target these users with ads for that product
Custom combination: People who visited part 1 in a content series but didn’t return for part 2
- The “viewed part 1 page” audience included and the “viewed part 2 page” audience excluded
- Delayed targeting (discussed below) can be used to schedule targeting at optimal intervals
3. Audience: People who submitted your contact form
- When users land on your thank you page, they become part of this audience
Custom combination: People who view your contact form but don’t submit it
- The “viewed contact form” audience included and the “viewed thank you page” audience excluded
Audience and custom combination targets are set at the ad group level. So, you do not need a campaign for each combination; you can create a retargeting campaign with ad groups for each custom combination or free-standing audience that you have identified. You do not need to put any keywords in retargeting ad groups as the ads only display based on the audiences you define.
Creating Remarketing Lists
Once you have identified your audiences/custom combinations and created the ad groups for each, you will navigate to the Audiences tab within AdWords. If this tab isn’t visible, click the arrow to the right of the tabs and check the box next to “Audiences – Display Network only.” Here you will select your retargeting campaign and the first ad group you want to set up. Alternatively, you can click on Shared Library and Audiences from the fly out on the left side of the Campaign view within the AdWords UI. Click on the New Audience button and choose Remarketing List. Remarketing lists are how you define your audiences and generate the code that you will place on your site to cookie visitors.
Create a remarketing list for each of your previously defined audiences. You will want to enter a descriptive title for ease of management, and you may want to use the description in case there is a question about what audience you are targeting.
Membership duration is how long the cookie should stay active once the user is tagged. This will be different for every business and may be different for each target. If your product has a long buying cycle, you may want to increase the membership duration. However, you do not want to retarget people for long after their decision process is complete as you may annoy those who no longer want to see your ad.
Tags are the code snippets that you will place on your website. For this initial setup, you will choose “create new remarketing tag” each time. When we discuss delayed retargeting at the end of this post, we will use “select from existing tags.” Save the new remarketing list and proceed through your list until you have a tag for each audience. Once you’ve created the remarketing lists you will click on the list name under the “Tags/Rules” column to access the code. I recommend pasting each tag into its own notepad file and saving it as the name of the Audience. This will help you organize everything for implementation in the website.
Send the tags you saved along with detailed instructions to place the code only on the specific pages indicated for each tag to your developer. Make sure he or she knows to place it between the body tags and specify that it should not replace any other AdWords or Analytics tracking code you have on the website. These tags are used in addition to the conversion-tracking and statistics-tracking codes you may already employ.
Make sure to verify that the correct code was placed on each page. This step is vital and frequently done incorrectly, leading to poor ad targeting.
Creating Custom Combinations
Once your remarketing lists are created, return to your retargeting campaign, choose the first ad group and visit the Audiences tab again. Select “custom combinations” if it isn’t already selected. At the bottom of the white box displayed on this page there is a link that says “new custom combination.” Click this link to create your combination of audiences. Enter the name of the custom combination and a description. In most cases you will leave “all of these audiences” selected in the first drop down.
Click on the “select audiences” drop down and change the “interest category” drop down selection to “Remarketing lists.” Now you want to add the remarketing list that initially tags the user and click the OK button. In the case of the example shown below, we are going to target all users who placed a product in the shopping cart but didn’t complete the purchase. So, we want to add the remarketing list named “Used Shopping Cart.” After saving this setting, click the small blue “add another” link and change the first drop down to “none of these audiences.” Here you will add the remarketing list that removes the cookie that was placed by the tag from the previously included remarketing list. In our example below, we add the remarketing list named “Completed a purchase” because we do not want to retarget people who did convert.
Once you’ve assigned custom combinations to each ad group, you’ll want to upload text and banner ads that match the goal of the ad group. Remember that remarketing ads are being served to people who have already seen your website. Also, you may be targeting people who took specific action on your website. Your ad creative needs to reflect this. Depending on the audience you are targeting, you may want to use ads that:
- Offer a discount or free shipping as incentive to complete an abandoned purchase
- Offer a complementary product if they’ve recently purchased from you
- Remind the user why you are better than your competition
- Show the user a photo of a product he or she viewed
- Ask a recently converted user to subscribe to your newsletter for product updates
- Try a different message than used in other ad campaigns
Testing ad creative is even more important with remarketing campaigns because you are appealing to people who didn’t perform an action you wanted them to perform. They have already seen your website and left for one reason or another. Maybe they were just interrupted and need a reminder about your business. Or, they may not have liked your prices, shopping cart or product selection. You need to carefully test your ad creative to ensure you are appealing to the users instead of leaving them with a negative view of your brand.
Remarketing Landing Pages
In some cases, you can direct users back to regular pages within your website when they click on remarketing ads. For instance, if you are retargeting people who looked at a pair of jeans but didn’t add them to their shopping carts, you could retarget them with an ad featuring the jeans and bring them to the product detail page for those jeans when they click on the ad. But if you are offering something new in the ad, such as a discount, or if your ad has drastically different messaging than is reflected on your website, you will want to develop custom landing pages for your remarketing efforts. The landing pages need to deliver what is promised in the ad, such as a code for free shipping or a list of products related to the one they recently purchased from you.
Frequency capping is a setting at the campaign-level that allows you to limit the number of times your ads are displayed to each user in a 24-hour period. There is no magic number for frequency capping, although it is believed that a rate between 7 and 12 impressions per day is ideal. You will want to test how changes to frequency capping affect your campaign. I recommend starting with a larger frequency cap and reducing it after you gather initial data. Continue to gather data and make frequency changes until you find the point where your campaigns perform the best. The default setting is “no cap on impressions,” which will very quickly make your target users feel stalked, so you will want to change this setting to a lower number right away.
Remarketing Campaign Optimization
Your remarketing campaign must be optimized like all other advertising campaigns. You will want to test various ads and landing pages as well as different custom combinations. You may find that certain combinations don’t produce the results you need for your ROI goals. If you no longer want to target those audiences, you can simply pause the associated ad groups.
You may also find that some combinations perform very well but the ads are not running in high positions. In that case, you may decide to increase the bid for that ad group to see if you can generate additional sales at a profitable level.
Finally, you will want to vet the Networks tab in your remarketing campaign, just like you do for regular display network campaigns. You will most likely find that there are websites that simply do not perform and should be excluded. Alternatively you may find sites that result in a large number of conversions, in which case you would add them as managed placements so you can test bid changes on an individual level.
Once you are comfortable with setting up remarketing lists you may want to try more advanced targeting techniques. The possibilities are virtually limitless if you have a large website. Additionally, you can manipulate the duration settings of tags to create more advanced scenarios, such as delayed targeting.
Delayed targeting is useful for many businesses. Some examples are businesses that:
- Sell products that expire or need to be replaced at various intervals
- Target users every 3 months to schedule an oil change at your car dealership
- Offer complementary products that users may buy after using the first product they purchase
- Target users with baby clothes ads a month after purchase of baby bottles
- Sell products that are only purchased during specific times of the year
- Target users one year after they purchased travel to a vacation destination
- Have a series of educational blog posts scheduled every two weeks
- Every two weeks, target users who saw the previous week’s post
To set up delayed targeting, you will create two remarketing lists with the same tag. For this example, we are going to target people for 30 days, 15 days after they read a blog post. To accomplish this, we create a regular remarketing tag to cookie the people who view the blog post page. The duration for this tag will be 45 days (30 days plus 15). Then we create a second remarketing tag but select the “Select from existing tags” option and select the tag created in the previous step. Set the duration for this tag to 15 days. You will place this tag on the blog post page and create an ad group for this targeting. Within the ad group you will create a custom combination and include the 45-day duration tag and exclude the 15-day duration tag. This will prevent your ads from displaying to users for 15 days after they are cookied but will allow the ads to display for them on the 16th through 45th days.
Whether you’re doing simple retargeting to increase conversions or advanced retargeting to maximize all possible opportunities, AdWords remarketing is an easy-to-use interface. The most difficult part of the process is identifying your audiences and custom combinations. Once that is complete, optimization is only slightly more involved than a normal display campaign. Adding retargeting to your advertising program can accomplish any number of goals if implemented correctly.
Have you tried retargeting? If not, do you plan to soon?