HomeBlogHow Display Remarketing Can Destroy Marriages + 3 Other Fatal Remarketing Fails

How Display Remarketing Can Destroy Marriages + 3 Other Fatal Remarketing Fails

Author: Erin Sagin
Last Updated: November 23, 2021 | Display Ads

Remarketing campaigns are a PPC manager’s dream come true. Not only are they easy to implement, but their performance is usually quite remarkable. It’s really a pretty fool-proof formula—you’re pursuing people who have already been to your site, so of course they’re perfect targets!

Unfortunately, remarketing doesn’t always work as planned. Here are a few cautionary tales to help you avoid the pitfalls of a bad display remarketing campaign.

You’re advertising for a sensitive industry

While display remarketing is an incredibly powerful strategy, it’s important to recognize that it may not be a great fit for every business. In fact, however well-intentioned it may be, in the wrong circumstances remarketing can cause quite a bit of havoc.

Consider Ashley Madison, the all-too-famous online dating service that targets individuals who are already in relationships. Now, let’s say a searcher visits AshleyMadison.com, purely out of curiosity. He clicks around the site for a few minutes and decides it’s not his cup of tea…but not before he’s been cookied by a remarketing code. Now, let’s say his wife logs into the same browser a little later to check her email. BOOM, she gets an ad encouraging her to return to the scandalous dating site. In all likelihood, the husband will be sleeping on the couch tonight and won’t be returning to Ashley Madison anytime soon—a missed opportunity for the company.

bad display remarketing ads

The moral of the story is, it’s important to remember that the original visitor may not always be the recipient of your remarketing ads. If you’re advertising for a sensitive subject—think medicine, divorce lawyers, even engagement rings—you may want to think twice before you implement a display remarketing strategy.

Your ads are showing in unsavory places

Google’s Display Network is expansive and includes a wide variety of websites, including a few that you probably don’t your ads to appear on.

display remarketing campaigns

To avoid these negative associations, advertisers should take the time to set up category-based exclusions. Depending on the product you’re marketing, these settings will look different, but I typically recommend excluding sites that fall under the umbrella of sensitive content (think profane, sexually suggestive and crime related pages). While you’re at it, you may also want to exclude error pages, parked domains and forums. If showing alongside inappropriate content is a major concern for your business, I recommend going so far as to review your placement reports to exclude anything additional sites that you’re not comfortable with.

display remarketing placements

Your impression caps are backfiring on you

Due to its stalkerish nature, remarketing has earned a pretty bad rap online. And yet, despite its reputation, the “hit em hard” with ads strategy is remarkably effective. In fact, our data shows that the more aggressively you retarget a user, the better. In fact, a remarketing display ad is more likely to garner clicks than a regular display ad, even if the user has seen it six times beforehand!

Unfortunately, many advertisers miss out on retargeting conversions, because they’re too concerned about the creep factor. In an effort to mitigate the risk of being creepy, they tend to set low impression caps for their campaigns, a fatal misstep.

So, how should you be dealing with frequency caps? Set them to unlimited.

display remarketing impression caps

I’m 100% serious and here’s why: When we analyzed our clients’ data, we made a shocking discovery—ads are almost never served to their full impression cap. Moreover, a typical remarketing campaign is rarely delivering more than two ads per day, regardless of this setting. Using unlimited impression capping is the best way to combat this and ensure your ads are making it in front of users.

display remarketing caps

Toddlers are killing your performance

Sure, they may look innocent, but those little buggers can do some serious damage to your remarketing campaigns. A while back, my colleague Caleb Hutchings encountered a strange phenomenon. He noticed insanely high click-through-rates coupled with insanely low conversions for retargeting campaigns he was running on mobile apps. When he dove into his placement reports, he found that nearly all of these poorly performing venues were apps for children’s games. Yes, these mini-humans with spotty motor skills were accidently clicking on his remarketing ads, driving up his costs tremendously.

display remarketing mistakes

The good news here is, this is easy to prevent. You can go full-throttle and exclude all mobile apps in AdWords or set up individual app/site exclusions. To learn how, check out Caleb’s post here.

Data is based on a sample of 84 accounts (WordStream clients) representing small and medium-sized businesses in all verticals who were advertising on the Google Display Network in June 2014.

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Meet The Author

Erin Sagin

Erin Sagin worked at WordStream for five years with roles in Customer Success and Marketing. She lives in California.

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