Adwords Remarketing – first impressions

adwordsTwo weeks ago I started experimenting with Adwords Remarketing. As with most new advertising methods, this sure isn’t something that you can just switch on and then expect it to work. It takes time to understand it and then more time to test, tweak, test some more. Here’s an update on my findings so far.

Message and Destination Page

Quoting from my earlier post about remarketing:

You are targeting people who have already visited your site at least once, you can assume that they already know what your product is about.
Your message should be focussed on getting them back to your site.

This is what I tried first, the direct approach. An image ad with a special $10 discount offer, linking straight to the shop, with the coupon applied:


This resulted in some sales, but not many.
I began to wonder whether this approach was too direct. Are these people ready to buy? I know they visited my site, but maybe their visit was short. Many of them didn’t even download the trial edition yet. So hitting them with an invitation to Buy Now could be too bold, or at least too early.

Interestingly, the ads resulted in only a couple of normal conversions, but many “View-through conversions” (Adwords terminology for “conversions that happened within 30 days after a user saw, but did not click, a display ad”). It looks like the image ads *were* helping to remind visitors to return to my site. And not only that, they were now signing up for the free trial after all.

So maybe a simple reminder of our existence is enough. As a quick test I added my regular Content Network image ads to my remarketing ad groups, linking them to the regular Content Network landing page:


This resulted in higher CTRs and more conversions, both regular and view-through.
Maybe for our stuff I should use remarketing purely as a way to stay top-of-mind, to remind visitors of our product, to reinforce our brand and to create credibility.

At the moment I am testing this “reminder approach”, using an image ad that just states what our product does (“Catalog your comics”), a tag line, our product name and a “Try it Free” button:


Targeting, or: Who to cookie?

Up until today I have been cookying all visitors, separating them into 5 remarketing lists, one for each product. All visitors to my Comic Collector product page get added to the comic collector list, anyone who visits the Movie Collector home gets added to the movie collector list, etc…

After visiting our site, you immediately start seeing our banners. This includes all members of the team. We are getting our own ads everywhere. Sometimes three on one page, in three different formats.
But that’s not the worst: existing customers are seeing the banners too. This was instantly visible after I emailed all Music Collector customers about our version 9.1 update. The next day I saw a huge jump in the number of impressions of my Music Collector remarketing ad group.

The solution (I hope): cookie more selectively. Today I have added some PHP code to my site that includes the cookying script only for first time visitors, on their first page view. That should improve the targeting of the remarketing lists.

Campaign structure and settings

When I started out two weeks ago, I added the new remarketing ad groups to my existing Content Network campaign. I figured that remarketing was just another way to target the Content Network and thus the same campaign settings would do fine.
Now I am not so sure, for two reasons:

  • Site exclusions: In my regular Content Network campaign, I am continuously adding campaign-level site exclusions. Sites that are not targeted enough and/or don’t perform well. But with remarketing, you are targeting specific visitors, regardless of the site they are on. Your remarketing list controls who sees your ads. If you cookie the right people, the targeting is always okay. In other words, you don’t need or want to exclude sites. But if your remarketing ad groups are in the same Content Network campaign, all site exclusions will apply to those ad groups as well. Not a good idea.
  • Bidding type: I am currently using CPA bidding for my Content Network campaign. It works well for me, as it lets me control how much I spend per sign up. However, CPA bidding only counts regular conversions, not view-through conversions. But my remarketing ads seems to mainly generate view-through conversions. The result: Adwords gives you less impressions, because it “thinks” the ads are not converting. My guess is that good old CPC bidding may work better.

A separate campaign for remarketing ad groups, with its own settings, seems to be better after all. Changing that today.

Overall, I am happy with my new remarketing toy. Of course, I will keep trying to improve results and will keep reporting em here 🙂

One thought on “Adwords Remarketing – first impressions

  1. Thanks for this detailed post on remarketing. I’m in the throes of setting up remarketing campaigns for a couple of our sites . . . but I have to say that I think Google has done a poor job so far of documenting how to set this up. The UI workflow is not at all intuitive (no doubt because it’s v1.0) and the help files are more geared to explaining how flexible the system is for complicated list segmentation etc rather than easy to follow instructions on how to set up a basic campaign.

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