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Remarketing and the Display Network

Running Remarketing Correctly

By Rachel Anderson

One of the first things I do when I get a new account is check whether of not they have a remarketing campaign. When they do, 7 times out of 10, it isn’t done correctly. It’s not that remarketing is difficult; it’s actually pretty cut and dry. What trips people up most often is making the distinction between what is good for a display campaign and what is appropriate for remarketing. Just because remarketing runs on the display network does not mean you treat it as a regular display campaign.

If you’ve ever set up a remarketing campaign or gone into the settings for one, you’ve probably noticed that there is actually a special button you check to indicate that the display campaign is going to be remarketing. That should be your first clue that remarketing is distinguished among display campaigns.

 Why the distinction? The purpose of a remarketing campaign is essentially different from other display campaigns. A remarketing campaign’s goal is to bring people who have already been on a site back.

Often remarketing campaign’s will have multiple groups of people organized into what are called remarketing lists. These distinguish audiences and allow businesses to target what they want particular groups to do. For example, a travel agency may create a remarketing list just for people who looked at travel packages to France and another for those who viewed a page on summer specials and did not request more information. Remarketing for the France page may center around bringing people back to book their trip while the summer special page wants to get a sign-up. Unlike all other display campaigns, the goal is never branding or getting the word out about a new product or service. It is not even to drive traffic. Remarketing is all about bringing already interested groups of people back to the site to do a particular thing. For this reason remarketing campaigns should never use display keywords, managed placements (or exclude placements), topics, interests, age or gender.


When we’re using remarketing, we don’t care about the person’s age, interests, or other websites that are related to ours. All that matters is that a person came to our site and showed interest in something we offer by the page or pages they viewed. By using managed placements or excluding placements we are actually limiting our reach. It doesn’t matter whether or not the sites we remarket on are related. We want to show up on as many sites that a person in our remarketing list visits as we can.

When I make changes to remarketing campaigns like removing display keywords, topics, placements, etc., the volume of impressions and clicks takes a nosedive and sometimes I get panicked emails or calls asking what happened. The conversations that follow usually reveal that the client did not understand the difference between remarketing and display and wants to be doing both. Both are valuable but have very different objectives.

Now that you know the difference between remarketing and other display campaigns, figure out your goals and decide which campaign will be able to accomplish them. By using remarketing and display campaigns the way the were designed to work you’ll see some great success.

Rachel Anderson is a Pay Per Click Advertising Strategist at Off the job she enjoys photography, good food, being outside, and spending time with her husband. Share your thoughts with Rachel on Twitter @gladygirl, Google+ or Facebook- she’d love to hear from you!