How to Optimize Your Retargeting Ad Campaigns

November 25, 2019

Retargeting is picking up steam in the PPC world, and with good reason. While display campaigns get lower click-through rates than search on average (.5% and 4% respectively), retargeting ads allow the innate branding opportunity found in display advertising to expand to targeting transactional users who are more likely to convert. This is especially helpful for the 67% of folks who abandon their shopping carts (according to the Baymard Institute) – people who have already expressed interest in your product, but for whatever reason, didn’t convert.

We previously shared some best practices for running a remarketing campaign. This post focuses on what to do with a remarketing campaign once it succeeds – or fails – and how to ensure long-term customer engagement, retention, and repeat purchases.

retargeting ad tips

3 Ways to Optimize a Successful Retargeting Campaign

For the purposes of this post, we define a successful remarketing campaign as one in which a user becomes a customer within the timeframe of the campaign. Here are three things to do to keep performance high in your successful remarketing campaign:

1. Keep them as customers by adapting the campaign to similar products

The very nature of remarketing campaigns is following a transactional prospect until they convert on your product. Retaining a user as a client means adapting the offering to suit their needs. If a client just purchased a Nikon D3100 Digital SLR camera, they don’t need to see an ad of the same product, or another camera following them around. This could cause buyer remorse at the feature/functionality level, or make the client believe they could get a better price if they had waited on making the purchase. If they see a compatible lens or memory card promoted, they will be much more likely to convert. Google performed a beta-study of its dynamic remarketing product, and users found there was a “2X increase in conversions and 60% reduction in CPA.” which proves the relevance of product suggestions among the converted.

2. Don’t keep following them around with the same ask

One of the reasons sales folks get a bad reputation is the bad seeds who bombard prospects with the same ask, but no new information. Keeping a converted client on a remarketing campaign without updating the ask conveys one of two terrible things about your brand: you don’t know your customers, or you don’t care about your customers. The first few weeks are when you want to have flawless service associated with a purchase. Make sure your clients know how much you value their business by not making redundant asks.

3. Brand affinity is important 

It is important your brand maintains a level of selectivity in where it promotes itself. When a successful remarketing campaign concludes, it is important to assess whether the client opportunity can be expanded on the domain it was initially captured on, or whether another domain would have better success. While remarketing is a fairly automatic process, it is important the purchase history makes sense to the user, even if on a subconscious level. 

3 Ways to Optimizing Retargeting Ads that Failed

For the purposes of this post, we define remarketing failure as a campaign that failed to convert the user to a customer in the allotted time of the campaign. Here are three ways to fix a failing retargeting campaign.

1. Assess how long the campaign ran. Did you annoy them away?

Similar to the successful campaign that continued following a user around with the same product, bombarding a user who shows passing interest in your product will not turn them into a customer. If anything, they will turn against your brand, and likely go to a competitor for the product you could have provided them. To avoid this remarketing faux pas, ensure frequency capping is enabled on all campaigns, and the length of campaigns falls within industry standard. This can range from one to three months, with up to three views of the ad per day. That said, there will always be exceptions to every rule, which is why each remarketing campaign should be strategically put together with a clear idea of the runway available to capture a customer, as well as the sensitivity to advertising in your industry. (Note that Larry believes the fear of annoying your customer is overstated, since retargeting ads convert much better than regular display ads even accounting for fatigue; see below.)


2. Brand disconnect: Did you break the 4th wall of user experience with a nonsensical domain?

We’ve all seen examples of this – browsing on our favorite destination site when BAM, a completely irrelevant ad smacks us in the face. Not only does this interrupt our engagement of the destination site, it makes us question what the advertiser is thinking. I likely don’t want to look at baby adverts if I’m on a sports site. Conversely, I likely don’t want to see remarketing advertisements for season tickets if I’m reading about newborn care. Even if the user showed mild interest in the product in question, it makes no sense to follow them onto non-relevant domains.

3. Are you targeting demographics that can convert, or aspire to convert?

One of the biggest puzzles advertisers attempt to solve in their campaigns is filtering out irrelevant impressions (i.e. folks who are not likely to convert/yield wasted spend). The danger of remarketing is that the default is to include all IP’s that interact with your brand, which does not factor in folks who are aspirational researchers, as opposed to transactional shoppers. There is an inherent income disparity in the Internet population, and even though most folks are on the Internet, a premium product likely only cares about those in certain income brackets or age brackets. Remarketing is behavior based, but someone who wants a dlsr camera may not be able to afford it. Bombarding a student who wants their first meaningful camera is a waste of spend. Targeting a user who is researching for their next camera with a purchase window of 30-60 days is a meaningful target.

Retargeting is an amazing tool, and has equal opportunity to succeed or fail based on strategy used in creation, execution, and follow-up on the campaign.

Navah Hopkins

Navah Hopkins

Navah Hopkins is part of the Customer Success team at WordStream. When she’s not working with clients, Navah shares lessons learned through international conferences including SMX, PubCon, Search Marketing Summit, Google customer events, and local workshops. She was named one of the top 25 most influential PPC marketers by PPC Hero. Navah also loves gaming with her husband and playing with her rescue dog, HK-47, and Ocicat siblings, Chinook and Kiowa.

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