While it’s definitely not search, if there is one display technique that search marketers need to start using it’s retargeting. And with Google’s new remarketing feature it’s easier than ever to set up campaigns that will help improve overall search campaign ROI.

Google is far from being the first to launch a retargeting feature, but it’s the first service that is easily available for search marketers and doesn’t require any additional tagging if you are already running a search campaign with conversion tracking in place. If not, it’s easy to create a specific remarketing tag and implement on the desired web pages.

Getting started with retargeting

The first thing you should do if you are considering setting up a retargeting campaign is to make sure the cookie pool is starting to build up. Since Google won’t activate any retargeting lists before it has at least 500 unique cookies this might take some time if you’re working in a niche industry. Also keep in mind the typical sales cycle and future use of the cookie pool when setting the cookie length.

The simplest way of starting a retargeting campaign is to reach out to everyone that has visited a specific landing page or whole site. While this will likely improve conversion rates (considering that typically around 95% of visitors won’t convert on the first visit), it is still wasting budget on existing customers and restricting the possibilities of tailored messaging.

Audience lists in Adwords works similarly to keywords and can be used as negative matches and part of Boolean expressions which gives them enormous power to hone in on the desired audience.

Fine tuning the audience

A next logical step to improve the basic retargeting campaign is thus to exclude any visitors who have already converted by using an audience list of converting visitors as a negative match. This also gives the flexibility to target them with a possibly more enticing offer to win them over. This can then be further refined by combination lists to target people within a certain timeframe after a visit, or where they dropped off in the buying cycle etc.

In recent tests for B2B clients, we’ve recorded a vastly improved cost-per-lead due to the improvement of conversion rate that are up to triple that of search and is already contributing to an additional 20% leads.

Obviously retargeting cannot work on its own, i.e. in order to create a retargeting campaign there must be visitors to retarget in the first place.  Worth noting is that the Adwords remarketing tag will work for any type of traffic, so in contrast to the regular Google conversion tag, it will drop cookies for visitors from other sources such as direct traffic, email or display etc.

Don’t be creepy

When discussing the topic of retargeting, it’s virtually impossible to not feel obliged to also highlight the privacy issue. As noted earlier Google requires at least 500 unique cookies per list before it can be activated for retargeting purposes. The main reason for this is to avoid the risk of overly clever online marketers to triangulate data to target individual people.

Google also requires the inclusion of retargeting information in the sites privacy policy and a link for users to opt-out from the functionality across the Google Content Network.

A further control that we as markets have to avoid the creep factor, is the frequency cap.  While Google typically advices to start off with an uncapped retargeting campaign, it’s advisable to revisit this as the campaign progresses over time.

In addition to improving campaign ROI, retargeting can of course also be used very effectively for branding purposes, but that’s another post.


Published 18 June, 2010 by Magnus Strømnes Bøe

Magnus Nilsson is Managing Director at RED Performance, a Norwegian based performance agency. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (2)

Mohib Ahmad

Mohib Ahmad, Director - Online Marketing at LeadPile

Nice post.

It is surprising that Google took so long to come out with a retargeting solution. It will be interesting to see what they do with it over the next few months.

There are a few really good companies operating in this space and a good idea is to find one that buys remnant inventory from major ad exchanges. The CPM is generally lowfor the advertisers and usually these companies have technology to retarget all non-converting visitors.

Retargeting is a great concept and as you suggest, it would work very well for branding purposes. However, it could also turn out to be a very effective conversion campaign if the retargeting creatives are done right and served accurately. Frequency is important to avoid the creepiness factor and a good way to do it is to retarget customers only for X number of days and just Y number of times daily. Monitor the performance and adjust accordingly.

about 8 years ago


katie frothingham

In addition to this, people who own websites that sell durable goods (i.e. small, medium OR large businesses) can partner with retargeting companies, make a data deal, and profit from the serving of ads. In a bad economy, targeting might be an all around help. check out http://www.owneriq.com for more information on safe and effective anonymous targeting

about 8 years ago

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