Remarketing: A Complete Intro Guide to Using this Powerful Tech to Drive ROI

If you are a digital marketer, chances are that:

  • Your website is a vital part of your marketing mix
  • You strive to make the absolute most of every single visitor
  • You especially care about visitors who spend time browsing commercially important sections of your site, like pages about your products and services

You are also familiar with the challenges of the online environment, namely:

  • Your visitors are in a rush
  • There’s a ton of information competing for their attention
  • Your competition is only a click away

And yet given these points, you may be surprised that many digital marketers still hold two beliefs:

  • They continue to expect their site to convert a visitor on the first visit
  • They have no plan for what happens when a visitor doesn’t convert that first time

Which is why we see situations where, for every 100 visitors, only a small handful turn into sales.

Even though many, many more could have.

Introducing Remarketing

The topic of today’s post is Google AdWords remarketing, an effective option for bringing visitors back to your website after their first visit.

It covers:

  • What Google AdWords remarketing is, how it works and its benefits
  • The concept of remarketing audiences, the cornerstone of remarketing, which describe how you can segment your website visitors into groups of users for targeting
  • Where and how you can remarket, prompting ideas for how you can add this technology to your digital marketing mix
  • The ‘5 Levels of Awareness’, a handy framework for planning remarketing messaging that simplifies the challenge of ‘what to say’ and ‘how to say it’
  • Additional tips for getting value from this campaign type

If you are new to remarketing, this post provides an overview for getting started with a solid foundation. If you already use remarketing, perhaps you’ll also pick up a handy tip or two to take your campaigns to the next level.

From time to time in this post, I reference personal opinions. These come from experience at Reef providing AdWords management for hundreds of clients in Australia over the last several years.

What remarketing with Google AdWords is

Remarketing is a feature within Google AdWords which enables you to show reminder ads to people who interact with your business online. It is a powerful solution for prompting a visitor to return to your website for a second chance at conversion.

The two main purposes of remarketing are to:

  • Influence consideration of your brand during the prospects online buying journey, and
  • Drive action by prompting a prospect to return to your website

The difference between remarketing and retargeting

The terms ‘remarketing’ and ‘retargeting’ are often used interchangeably.

The term retargeting is shorthand for behavioural retargeting. Behavioural retargeting is a form of online targeted advertising by which online advertising is targeted to consumers based on their previous internet actions.

The term remarketing is the name Google uniquely use for their retargeting features. Other ad networks use the term retargeting instead.

Who you can remarket to

You can remarket to people who have:

  • Visited your website
  • Viewed your YouTube channel or YouTube ad
  • Used your mobile app
  • Given you their email address

It does not matter if your visitor initially arrived via Paid Search, Organic, Email, Direct, Referral or another source, you can use remarketing.

Types of remarketing

There are several types of remarketing, each with unique options and capabilities.

Where Remarketing Ads Show: Display, Video and Follow-Up Searches

Remarketing ads can take many shapes and sizes. They can be:

And more, with new options being added as the capability of AdWords grows.

Benefits of remarketing

The top benefits of remarketing are:

Benefit 1: Conversion and ROI potential. Remarketing can attract visitors back to your site and into your sales process. Because the only people who can see your remarketing ads are people who are already familiar with your brand, this is a highly-qualified audience. Using remarketing to influence and drive action from this audience therefore offers dramatic ROI potential.

Benefit 2: Relevant targeting. Remarketing ads are customisable based on what your visitors were interested in, e.g. if a visitor had previously viewed a section of your website about TVs, you can show remarketing ads about TVs specifically.

Benefit 3: Improve brand recall. Continuous exposure to your messaging strengthens brand recall and helps you be top of mind. You can keep people on your remarketing list for the time of your choosing, up to a maximum of 540 days.

Benefit 4: Measurement. See all the stats you would expect from AdWords, e.g. impressions, interactions, conversions, websites your ad appeared, best performing messaging, etc. for optimisation.

Benefit 5: Strengthens all channels. You can remarket to every eligible visitor who arrives on your website. It does not matter if they initially arrived via Paid Search, Organic, Email, Direct, Referral, etc., they can see your remarketing ads.

Benefit 6: Small budgets go a long way. A remarketing campaign can cost as little as a few dollars per month. Pricing is generally charged on a cost-per-click basis so you are not directly charged for serving impressions like some other campaign types.

Remarketing Setup: How to Implement Remarketing

Remarketing requires specialty tags to be on your website. These tags are little pieces of code that enable the technology to work.

If you are already using a Google product like Analytics or Tag Manager, you can enable remarketing without adding extra code. Instructions are linked to below.

You can add the remarketing code to your website in three ways:

Video: How to Choose Your Remarketing Tag Method

Here’s a quick video explainer from Google:

Remember to connect AdWords, Analytics & YouTube accounts together

Google products like AdWords, Analytics and YouTube can all link together to share data. This simple action usually takes 5 minutes or less and opens up potential for using data from each platform.

Here’s a quick instructional video on how to link AdWords and Analytics and a blog post about connect YouTube and Analytics.

When your remarketing technical requirements are met and your Google accounts linked, it’s time to move on to defining your remarketing audiences.

Remarketing audience lists: Organise Your Visitors for Remarketing

To target past your visitors with remarketing, you need to create one or more remarketing audiences.

A remarketing audience is a list of cookies or mobile-advertising IDs that represents a group of users you want to re-engage because of their likelihood to convert.

You can create remarketing audiences based on user behaviour on your site or app, then use these audiences for remarketing campaigns.

Think of each remarketing audience as a segment of your users. In much the same way that an email marketer segments their database of emails, remarketing audience lists segment your website users.

How to create a remarketing audience list

Watch this quick video from the Google Analytics team for a step-by-step guide to creating your first audience list.

Segmenting your remarketing audience list

You are free to segment your remarketing audience lists in a pretty much-unlimited number of ways. Here are some examples of remarketing audience lists you can create:

  • Users who added a product to their shopping cart but didn’t buy
  • Users who viewed an important page and your contact form, but didn’t enquire
  • Users who viewed a blog post
  • Users who arrived on your site from an email campaign
  • Users who arrived on your site from LinkedIn
  • Users who have purchased something from you in the past
  • Use who have downloaded a lead magnet you offer

And more…

Keep in mind that the main purpose for defining a remarketing audience list is for targeting. You will be able to customise the ad messaging, landing pages and cost-per-click bids for each segment. Make sure to define segments that are clearly categorised, so they’re easy for you to manage later.

Please also note that a remarketing audience list must reach a certain size of users before it can be used. Avoid defining a list too narrowly if your site doesn’t get much traffic yet.

  • For remarketing with Display, your list size must be 100 or more users.
  • For remarketing with Search (RLSA), your list size must be 1000 users.

What type of remarketing should you start with?

Generally, if you are new to remarketing, using Standard Remarketing is a great first step.

Standard Remarketing is the most straightforward to setup versus the other options. Once your tags are in place and your audience has reached an adequate size, you’re ready.

If you are wondering which ad units you should start with for your campaign, check out this list of the most successful ad sizes by Google.

If you’re looking for a something more, try RLSA next. RLSA requires a little more thinking and configuration, but opens up the possibility of having a lot of extra search visibility for people you are remarketing to while they search.

The 5 Levels of Awareness and How to Use Them With Remarketing

Once you’re ready to use remarketing, you’ll face a new challenge:

“What should I say in my remarketing ads, and on my landing pages, to best entice people people back on my site and through my conversion funnel?”

If your goal is to move prospects back to your website to then take action, your remarketing campaigns have some heavy lifting to do. Your messaging in ads and landing pages will play a key role in determining success.

In instances like this, the 5 Levels of Awareness planning model makes all the difference.

Originally from the book Breakthrough Advertising by legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz, the 5 Levels of Awareness was brought to my attention by CopyHackers, an awesome resource for all things copywriting. Since learning this model, coming up with remarketing ad messaging has been so much easier.

Here’s the big idea:

Each of your prospects will be in one of five levels of awareness. If you can identify their level of awareness, you can write in a way that meets them where they are now and gently moves them into the next level, closer and closer toward purchase.

The 5 Levels of Awareness are:

Level 1: Unaware. The lowest level of awareness, a visitor who is unaware does not know if they have a need for what you provide. This visitor is just browsing without any level of intent to purchase.

Example: Jack visits a popular digital marketing blog for the first time. He doesn’t have a website and isn’t involved in marketing, but thought the article title looked interesting.

Level 2: Pain Aware. A visitor is Pain Aware if they are feeling a pain but have not yet identified that solutions exist for that pain.

Example: Jack just built his first website. He’s really proud of it. Now that it’s ready to show the world, Jack thinks “Great! But how do I get people to visit my new site?” He has discovered a pain, the need for traffic, that he has never had before.

Level 3: Solution Aware. A visitor is likely to be Solution Aware when they’ve felt the pain and started discovering that solutions exist for it.

Example: Jack does some research and discovers there are multiple methods for getting people to visit his website. He learns about SEO, AdWords, Email Marketing, Facebook, Growth Hacking and more, getting excited at the possibilities. With all these solutions available, he investigates each in detail.

Level 4: Product Aware. A visitor is Product Aware if they know your solution is one of the solutions to their pain, but they don’t know if it’s necessarily the best solution yet.

Example: Jack finds out that there are books, courses, consultants and agencies available to help him get traffic. He understands that these offerings are each different and begins comparing. He analyses his situation, goals, plans, timelines and budget, then shortlists two agencies.

Level 5: Most Aware. A visitor is Most Aware when they know your product provides a solution to their pain, and that your product is likely to be a good match for their needs and budget.

Example: Jack receives proposals from two agencies and decides to go with one of them.

In summary, here you saw Jack move through each of the 5 Levels of Awareness. As Jack’s knowledge about his pains, solutions and product options progressed, he moved closer and closer to purchase.

What’s really important to note here is:

  • Relevance. As Jack moved through each level, he hunted for new information matching his current stage, not where he used to be. Ad messaging that matches his current level of awareness is going to be relevant and useful to him, and therefore more likely to be effective. Ad messaging that matches a different stage will be ineffective.
  • Pacing. A marketer who recognises each stage Jack is in can keep the momentum going. The marketer can pace Jack through each level, one step at a time. A marketer who doesn’t recognise the stage Jack is in risks speaking to him in a way that’s too simplistic (a level he’s already passed) or too advanced (a level he hasn’t reached), and losing the opportunity.

Applying the 5 Levels of Awareness to your remarketing campaigns

The 5 Levels of Awareness are guiding principles. Keep them in mind as you:

  • Define your remarketing audience lists. Can you segment by level of awareness?
  • Write your ad copy. Does your messaging meet prospects at their level?
  • Choose your landing pages. Do your landing pages offer appropriate calls to action? You don’t want to drop someone who is newly pain aware on an offer designed for someone product aware.

Final Tips to Help You Succeed with Remarketing

Here are additional tips to help your campaigns be as successful driving ROI.

Tip: See which display and remarketing ads your competitors are using

If your competitors use remarketing, the simplest (free) way to see their ad creative is to go to their websites and navigate through their key pages, getting you on their remarketing audience lists. You will then start seeing their ads as you browse related content, so be ready to take screenshots for your internal research. Remember to do some follow-up searches to see if they are also using RLSA too.

For a more advanced (paid) way to see competitor display ads, specialty ad intelligence tools are available. Check out:

Tip: Rotate in lots of different remarketing ad variations.

Just like on TV, it’s no fun for your audience to see the same ad over and over. Rotate several different ad variations at any given time to keep the click-through-rate strong.

Tip: Be careful of showing ads too often.

Excessive remarketing can burn out your audience and create negativity toward your brand. To prevent this, you can limit your remarketing ad frequency to avoid tedium.

Exactly how often to show your ad is ultimately up to you, but I suggest starting with a frequency of once or twice per day. If you don’t set a frequency cap, ad networks can ‘dump’ your ads into every available slot on a page over and over again.

Tip: A simple, static ad can work just fine.

Many people new to remarketing want to start with animated ads. In my experience, this isn’t necessary.

If you’re working with a designer, it’s better to take the money you would have invested in one animated ad and instead use it to create several static ad variations. This way, you can:

  • Show your audience a variety of ad messages, for freshness
  • See which ad message attracts the highest performance stats, whether through click-through-rate or conversions

If you’re wondering about the different performance of static versus animated ads across display, check out Google’s Display Benchmark Tool. This tool helps advertisers understand how their ads compare to the rest of the industry, with results organised by region and ad format.

And there we have it! I hope you enjoyed this introduction to Google AdWords Remarketing and are now better able to put this powerful technology to work in your online advertising.

All the very best with your remarketing!

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