Why Remarketing Needs Work

Kelsey Jones

Jan 23, 20143 min read
Why Remarketing Needs Work

Remarketing is a paid search strategy that continues to blow my friends' and family's minds.

"Look!" they exclaim. "How did they know that I was wanting a purple duvet cover?"

It's at that point I explain remarketing to them and how cookies track your browsing history.

The idea of remarketing is enough to make any marketer excited. But when actually put into practice, the theory is much better than what actually happens.

The ideal audience

Sometimes remarketing happens to users who have no desire to buy your product.

Take, for example, my recent experience after watching "The Millionaire Matchmaker" on Bravo. One of her clients was Andrew Christian, a well-known underwear designer that specifically targets gay men. I searched for his name on Google during the show so I could learn more about him.

But the problem is now I am seeing (no matter where I venture online) men in neon thongs, boxer briefs or shorts beckoning me to buy a few pairs of thongs for all the men in my life. But because I have no men in my life that I wish to buy thongs for, these ads are not useful to me.

Remarketing algorithms should be able to somehow better view user behavior on the advertiser's website to learn enough about whether or not they're actually going to make a purchase.

For example, on Andrew Christian’s website, I just looked at the About page and the homepage. Because I didn't look at any of the product pages, that should have told the remarketing algorithm I was not interested in purchasing thongs at this time.

While some remarketers may argue that people using my same browsing pattern on Andrew's site actually are interested in purchasing and that's why they went to the website on the first place, I would say that's not always the case. Repeat visits or number of pages per visit should also be taken into consideration.

Not working with other ad space on the page

"I can't explain it," I wrote in an email to my cousin and a few of my friends. I was referencing a horse backpack I, for some reason, was entranced by.

"I just see it accompanying me on my travels around the globe." I finished my email with the link to the backpack in question.

A few hours later, my cousin wrote us all back with a screenshot. "Look what's happening on my screen."

The horse backpack was taking up all the banner ad places on the website she was currently on.

While it made for a good laugh (especially because I have no reason for wanting a horse backpack), the oversaturation of the advertising for my cousin wasn't necessarily convincing her to buy a horse backpack of her very own. In fact, it may have dissuaded her from buying a backpack because she felt overwhelmed.

There should be a way for the algorithm to detect other ad space on the page and adjust each ad's display strategy accordingly. This way, remarking ads won't seem so out of the ordinary, and may lead to more users clicking on them as they are a natural part of the web page they're viewing.

Time frame

Maybe I just searched for that blender or Transformers t-shirt one time. That doesn't mean I want ads for blenders and Transformers gear to be following me all around the internet for weeks on end.

There needs to be a more flexible timeline for remarketing campaigns because users simply lose interest. If they see your ad repeatedly after a week or so and haven't made a purchase, then the algorithm should know to focus ads to someone else.

Luckily, time frame is something that users can control with their marketing campaigns: up to 90 days. But be aware of your own preferences and choose wisely. Do you want that Family Guy phone cover to haunt you until the summer?

Marketer failure

As mentioned above with time frame, there are several aspects of the campaign users can change that many just aren't utilizing. In order to get a higher ROI on these types of campaigns, Google recommends you try to customize your campaigns as much as possible.

One example Google gives is a clothing store that wants to target women who have visited their women's clothing product pages. The store can target this segment with ads specifically about women's clothing. This will naturally get a higher ROI than showing that same audience an ad for men's shoes from the same store.


When it comes down to it, knowing your target audience is key toward having a successful remarketing campaign. It is not enough to target everyone who's ever visited your homepage for three months and be done with it.

While remarketing does need a major upgrade, we as marketers are responsible for optimizing our existing campaigns. This not only ensures a higher conversion rate, it also spares someone like me from seeing neon thongs over all the blogs they read for the unforeseeable future.

Author Photo
Kelsey JonesKelsey Jones is the Editor-in-Chief of NeilPatel.com/blog and has spoken around the world at conferences like Pubcon, State of Search, and SMX East. She was Executive Editor of Search Engine Journal for 3 years and also has worked with Salesforce, Yelp, Woobox, Tophatter, and more on content strategy.
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