Remarketing: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Reprinted with permission from the blog archives.
By: Dane Christensen

In March of this year Google rolled out their new “remarketing” feature. Since then, numerous articles and comments have been posted that range the gamut from extolling the virtues of this revolutionary new marketing technology, to criticizing its creepy stalker-like nature. A lot of good points have been made. But I want to zero in on the core principle of this feature’s success, and then follow that principle to its natural conclusion.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Google remarketing feature, (and my sense is that’s still the majority of online marketers), here’s a brief description of how it works.

First, it’s important to understand that Google remarketing applies only to the Display (formerly Content) Network. The reasons for this are a bit too involved for this article, but it’s important to be aware of that context.

In the standard Google Display Network model, the advertiser bids on keywords, and then Google matches those keywords with the content on websites to determine where their ads will be the most relevant. So if your keyword is “kitchen sink” your ads might appear on content websites with articles discussing things such as home remodeling. But it could also show up on a site that makes some reference to “everything but the kitchen sink”. This is an oversimplification – Google’s algorithm for determining relevance is extremely sophisticated, though certainly not perfect. So you can expect a certain amount of ads displaying where the audience is not quite right.

With remarketing, on the other hand, Google no longer depends on the need to correlate website content with your keywords. They simply show your ad to anyone who has directly expressed their interest in your offer by virtue of having visited your website previously. There’s no more speculation. It isn’t a matter of “visitors to this site should be interested in your offer because the keywords match the content”. Rather, it is “we know this particular visitor is interested in your offer because they’ve already been to your site”.

And it gets more sophisticated still. You can generate “remarketing tags” to be placed on various pages of your site in order to identify different types of audience. So you could deploy one tag throughout your public site to identify people who are casually interested, another tag on your lead capture confirmation page to identify people who are very interested, and yet another tag on your order confirmation page to identify people who have already purchased. Then you can create “remarketing campaigns” based on these tags.

For example, you could have one remarketing campaign for the casual interest audience and bid $1.00 per click, and another campaign for the very interested audience and bid $2.00 click. And you can exclude the customers audience from both of these campaigns because you don’t need them clicking your ads any more.

With Google remarketing, a person who matches your audience criteria will start to see your Display ads popping up wherever they go. Whether they are in Gmail, a discussion forum about enterprise databases, or a website devoted to pictures of cute kittens, there your ad will be … again.

This is where the criticism about stalking originates. After people have seen the same ad appearing over and over in a myriad of unrelated sites, it becomes pretty clear that you’ve got their number. And some people find that annoying. But then, people always complain about advertising of every kind. The typical refrains are “I hate advertising”, and “advertising doesn’t work on me”. Yet year after year, decade after decade, results show quite clearly that advertising does work – especially when it is repeated over and over.

And that brings us to that core principle I mentioned in the beginning: repeated exposure of your message to an interested audience.

From the days when ads for Ivory Soap ran on “The Guiding Light” radio soap opera, (and undoubtedly long before that), advertisers have known that people will generally not take action until you’ve driven your brand and message deep into their minds through repetition, repetition, repetition. That is the power of Google’s remarketing tool. Of course it leverages modern technology to give us the ability to target our audience more tightly than ever. But in the end, it’s simply a more direct way to penetrate all the noise and get your message through to your prospects.

But it isn’t the only way or even the best way to accomplish this goal. For all the ingenuity of Google remarketing, there’s still another tried-and-true method that allows you to repeatedly send your message to a highly targeted and receptive audience – without the weird stalker feeling – who requested the contact and always have the opportunity to opt out.

Do I have to say it? OK.

It’s email marketing.