Retargeting with Google Adwords

Retargeting

Photo by Richard_of_England via Flickr

Loads of people are talking about retargeting at the moment, but do you actually understand what retargeting is and how it works?

Until recently I knew about retargeting and had read a fair bit about how it works but I hadn’t actually taken time to fully understand the potential (positive) impact it could have on Adwords performance.  I’m excited.  And I want to share my understanding of retargeting so you too can be excited about seeing results.

Retargeting is a form of marketing that allows advertisers to accurately manage their audience and content more than ever before.  It is a cutting edge and cost-effective way of reaching out to individuals who have either shown interest in a website or product specifically, or fit into a pre-defined demographic based on their interests.  According to Google, leaving retargeting out of your marketing plan is quite simply leaving low hanging fruit on the tree.

There are three different options for retargeting with Google Adwords:

  1. Interest-based retargeting: allows advertisers to reach users based on their interests, such as business or travel.  This form of retargeting allows you to define a set of categories that you think are relevant or interesting to potential visitors of your website.
  2. Remarketing:  this form of retargeting allows you to serve ads to visitors who have been to key pages of your website in certain period of time, usually in the last 30 days.
  3. Combination Lists:  As the name suggests, this is a combination of the two options above.

In this blog post I will focus on remarketing, as I feel this form of retargeting provides the most potential for conversions, thus making it more cost-effective than other forms of online advertising.  It is targeted, ROI-driven and customisable, which means it delivers more value for money relative to other paid advertising campaigns.  Basically, it’s hella cool.

For most companies starting out with their first ever retargeting campaign I recommend the remarketing option on Google’s Display Network (GDN). The main reason I believe this is a great starting point is because it is a low-risk strategy with maximum potential as you are only paying for clicks from individuals who have been on your website in the past 30 days.  This will extend the reach of any Google Adwords campaigns you already have running to capture people known to have shown an interest in your company.  These visitors could have come from Google Adwords, organic search, direct traffic or any other method.  Essentially, you’re targeting every person who has been on your website, regardless of how they found you.  Bonus.

One thing that should be said, however, is that depending on the nature of your business goals (traffic vs conversions) remarketing will usually yield fewer clicks because rather than reaching out to all people searching with a particular keyword, you are only reaching out to those who have been on your website in the past 30 days.

That said, the conversion potential is far greater than your usual forms of advertising because your audience has effectively been vetted.  If you can provide a compelling offer or reason to entice people back to your website, the clicks and conversions should come at an even higher rate.  Keep in mind these are all dependent on your business, your products/services and your offer, however this is generally the case for most websites.

The exact way that you structure your campaign will depend largely on the nature of your business, however, with remarketing it is usually best to start broad and narrow down after seeing initial results.  The factory default setting of a remarketing campaign is cookie-based targeting that triggers ads for all visitors to your website over the past 30 days.

If you are an eCommerce business then you should perhaps consider targeting your ads to all visitors with the exception of those who have made a purchase, however, most non-commerce websites should start by targeting visitors to all pages.  Then, after a week or two of results you can analyse the performance and determine whether it is worthwhile to narrow the targeting options further.

First, you will need to create a remarketing list in the Audiences tab within your Adwords account.  If you don’t currently see the Audiences tab, you will need to activate this by selecting the drop-down menu within the main Campaigns tab, select the Audiences option and click ok.

Google Audiences Tab

When you create the remarketing list unique tags will be generated. These tags should be placed on every page of the website you wish to use as a source for triggering the remarketing ads.  Each different tag will trigger different ads.

For instance, let’s imagine you sell bicycles.  A tag placed on the homepage could trigger an ad specifically for all bicycles, whilst a different tag on the women’s bicycle page could trigger ads that only feature women’s bicycles.  Later on you could get more granular and create tags and ads for each specific category on your website, such as mountain bikes, road bikes, children’s bikes and so on. You can target as many or as few pages as you like depending on your business objectives.  Remarketing works whether you are selling products, such as bicycles, or if you are marketing services, such as insurance or consultancy.

Next, you should create a new remarketing campaign in Adwords.  As before, I recommend initially targeting all visitors to your website for starters to get your head around the performance potential.  Again, once enough data has been collected to satisfy your test requirements you could then target specific pages/categories of your website, such as all visitors to men’s mountain bikes.

The ad options for remarketing include serving an image ad (several sizes available) or a text ad.   Ads should be created to match the structure of your remarketing campaign to maximise the potential click-through-rate (CTR) and conversion rate.  Because remarketing ads are targeting people who have previously visited your website it would be beneficial to consider highlighting an offer in your ads, such as free delivery, to encourage return visits.

To increase the reach of the remarketing campaign it is best to use a combination of both image and text ads within each ad group.  Image ads come in various shapes and sizes such as 300×50, 468×60, 728×90, 250×250, 200×200, 336×280, 300×250, 120×600 and 160×600.  Text ads appear in the same format as those triggered by keywords with 25 characters in the title, 70 characters for ad text and 35 characters for a display URL.  Once your ad group is ready and ads are set up, go to the Audiences tab and add the remarketing list you wish to trigger the ads to the ad group.

Bidding still takes place using a CPC just like your regular Adwords campaigns.  The best option is to allow for automatic bidding, which lets Google set each individual bid to acquire the most clicks possible within your budget.  However, because the remarketing ads will be shown to users who have already expressed interest in your website it makes sense to set the maximum CPC slightly higher than in existing campaigns as these clicks will potentially be more valuable.

Summary of Steps Required For Re-Marketing:

  1. Create a remarketing list.  This auto-generates the remarketing tag.
  2. Insert the remarketing tag on all relevant pages of your website.
  3. Create a new remarketing campaign.  Adjust settings as appropriate, such as geographic locations, CPC, budget, scheduling etc.
  4. Create a new ad group within the remarketing campaign and insert new banners and text ads.
  5. Add the remarketing list to the ad group from the audience tab.

Once the steps above have been completed, your ads are ready to appear for visitors who have been on your website in the past 30 days.

One thing to keep in mind is that with EU privacy laws changing pretty much as we post this, it is important to ensure that if you do run with a remarketing campaign you have taken the necessary steps to update your privacy policy.  Google has kindly provided some advice about updating your privacy policy for compliance and this information will continue to be updated as the cookie laws become more prevalent.

Word to the the wise:  Ultimately, the success of any campaign should be measured in Google Analytics by viewing goal conversion rate and overall site stats (bounce rate, time on site, pages per visit) rather than solely by visitor numbers and CTR alone.  Crucially, this is why it is so important that Google Analytics works properly alongside stats in Google Adwords.  It is the key to successfully measuring campaign performance.  So, please don’t rely solely on your stats from Adwords. While this is a great starting point, it doesn’t paint the whole picture and your campaign will be much more successful if you can take advantage of the tools available in Analytics in addition to Adwords.

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