Are PPC Ads Following You?

Telling people what I do for a living has always been a bit difficult. If I say that I do pay-per-click management they ask me how I could possibly spend all day managing “paper clips.” If I tell them that I am responsible for the ads on their Google search results, I get a groan followed by “You’re that guy.” After explaining in more detail, I usually have a very intelligent conversation and people are fascinated at how interesting PPC advertising is. But I’ve noticed that more and more people are mentioning that they feel “creeped out” by the ads they see; like they’re being followed. But are they?

In short, yes, they probably are. This tactic has been around for a few years and is commonly referred to as retargeting or remarketing.

How Does Remarketing Work?

In March 2012, I’m going to be speaking at Conversion Conference in San Fransisco so I’ve visited the Conversion Conference site several times to review the agenda, register and make travel arrangements. Today, I noticed the following advertisement upon my visit here to Small Business Trends:


This ad is targeted to me because I’ve been to the site and have the cookie on my browser. Here is the technical explanation:

  • The site owner places a snippet of code on their website.
  • Site visitors have a cookie placed on their browser when they visit the website.
  • The advertiser creates ads and targets all users with the cookie on their browser.
  • Any site using Google to serve ads can then show targeted ads when the cookie is detected.

How Can This Help Your SMB?

According to a post by last year, a 50% bounce rate is average. That means half of your visitors leave after viewing only one page. They say you only get one chance to make a first impression and a high bounce rate may indicate you’re not making the best impression. However, utilizing remarketing allows you to make it up to them. Offer them a discount, remind them of your free offers, or emphasize different benefits.

Don’t Be Creepy

When creating your ads, be careful not to be creepy. While you may want to remind them that they were on your site, the average user doesn’t understand how remarketing works. They just see your ads in places they might not expect it. And don’t overdo the frequency. Most platforms, Google included, allow you to set a frequency cap so they only see your ad a certain number of times/day. This helps decrease the creepiness a lot.

In the end, this is a chance to bring back some of the lost sheep that you worked so hard to get in the first place – even if it does require you to follow them around.


Robert Brady Robert Brady is Senior Manager: Software, SMB, Strategy at Clix Marketing, a Google AdWord Certified Partner. Robert helps small business owners and large companies just getting started with Pay-Per-Click (PPC) get better results from their PPC advertising.

11 Reactions
  1. Great Article on re-marketing Robert! Maybe it’s just because I know how they work, but I actually really like how ads I’m being shown have improved due to re-marketing. I’d love to see more information on how re-branding is positively affecting PPC campaigns. Maybe a before and after study?

  2. Thanks for sharing. I like that people think you sell paper clips.

  3. This is a great intro to retargeting!

    It’s true–many internet users aren’t familiar with the technology which is part of why it’s so powerful. If users don’t realize they’re being retargeted, they’ll assume you’re spending a fortune on marketing and have bought ad space all over the web. That’s why it’s such a valuable tool for SMB’s…it can make you look bigger than you are.

    (Full disclosure, I work for ReTargeter, an online ad platform specializng in retargeting.)

    Frequency caps are a must for any successful campaign. Here at ReTargeter we’ve found that at a certain point, showing users more ads actually becomes counter-productive and can lead to brand disillusionment. The sweet spot is around 17-20 impressions a month. Some retargeting providers suggest that amount PER DAY, but in our experience it’s a bad idea. It’s also a good practice to stop retargeting converted users–why waste ads on someone who’s already taken action?

    • Remarketing in Google is also a great way for SMBs to start advertising in the Display Network. You know the ads are being shown to people who have already shown an interest in your site and don’t have to worry about whether the placements are sketchy or credible.

      You can also gain greater insight into what sites your customers visit often and direct your outreach to those sites.

  4. Interesting post Robert thanks for sharing your insight! I work for FetchBack and certainly agree with you. Frequency caps, proper segmentation is key, among many things in a solid retargeting campaign.

    Something else you may want to look into is the growing trend in display retargeting vs. search retargeting and the various aspects of how branding and impressions lead to conversions. We work with many clients who achieve substantial lift online AND offline, with or without recorded clicks-to-conversion.

  5. I wondered how this was accomplished. I knew they could not be advertising to every page I visited. Personally I think it might be effective so long as the user does not know. Once they find out they may be offended.

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