Remarketing: fun, but not often suitable for us

Many of you will have experienced that strange occurrence where one company’s adverts seem all over the web, wherever you go. It’s invariably a company you know, and especially disconcerting when that company is a small one. How is it that little old Blue Widget Co, whose site you looked at the other day, seems to be advertising with banners on every other website you visit?

The answer is of course that Blue Widget Co isn’t actually advertising all over the web, it’s just having its ads shown wherever you go. The company is using a Google AdWords option called remarketing, which seems amazing at first, but which needs to be handled with care, especially in the B2B sector. How this works is that you opt into remarketing within your Google AdWords campaign. You put some code on your website, and then once somebody has visited your site (or certain pages you specify), that code marks them as being a target for remarketing. From that moment on, your ads could show to them on any website running ads served up by Google (and there are hundreds of thousands of these).

The problem is that people look at a wide range of websites, and so the ads often end up showing on sites which are nothing to do with your sector. For example, last summer I must have visited a website of a company offering punt hire on the River Cam. I know this because (for me at least) their ads were all over the place for weeks afterwards, including the 99% of sites I visited where they were quite inappropriate, and indeed rather irritating. For most people, when this happens, it’s just downright weird, and I don’t think any of us want to be associated with ‘weird’. Targeted advertising is the future, but for now it still makes us feel a bit uncomfortable.

For that reason, we’re rarely using remarketing for our AdWords clients. There are some specific instances where it’s appropriate: a household name in motorbikes, for example, which really needs to sear its – very cool – brand into the retinas of everyone who might be interested. Or a company which has a web shop and knows that if it can keep targeting ads at people who’ve already visited the shop, further sales will surely follow, wherever the ads show. But I don’t think mechanical engineers want to see adverts for Blue Widgets on every site they visit about hi-fi, football, movies or something less savoury.

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