When I tell people what I do for a living,  “Ads are annoying!” is often repeated over and over. Facebook feeds, websites, and the online experience as a whole is filled with ads. But why do so many share the popular opinion that ads are annoying?  The truth about ads is this: The wrong ads sent to the wrong people are annoying; the right ad to the right person, however, is rarely viewed as annoying. In fact, I would argue it’s not even seen as an ad. Done right, ads become informative doorways that help the user accomplish something they were already striving for. So what exactly is it that makes a good ad, an ad that acts as one of these informative doorways? Retargeting. And not just retargeting, but retargeting done right.

Incorrect retargeting is the most common mistake I run across when I audit an account. The truth of the matter is that in the competitive ad space we all work in, it's absolutely critical to take every step possible to hone in our audiences before we send them an ad. If not, we could end up sending them the wrong ad, and nobody likes annoying and irrelevant ads.  Here is one change you can make today to help your retargeting efforts.

Mistake #1:  Retargeting site visitors

When a user visits a webpage, their visit is logged within many companies' databases as a potential customer. However, serving an ad to them at this point isn’t going to be effective with such limited information—we need to target visitors for factors beyond the simple fact that they’ve seen our webpage. Consider the following journey:

 retargeting example A

The above example is not only an effective method for flushing money down the drain, but also a great illustration of one of the number one reasons we find ads annoying. This explains why after Grandma uses your computer, you're stuck with ads for medicine, cheap jewelry, and Donald Trump. No one wants that! As paid advertising professionals we can't expect to be successful if we follow this method. The solution is found by narrowing down the field using intent-based retargeting.

Intent-based retargeting

With intent-based retargeting, the world is truly your oyster. Start by asking yourself, "what traits does a valuable lifetime audience have before they've converted?"  Within Google Analytics, we have a wealth of information to help aid these decisions.

intent based retargeting

First, determine how many people are visiting your site. While all this information is lovely in its overview state, diving deeper into metrics like session duration will yield valuable insights. As you drill down, determine the answers to questions like:

  • How long are users on the site?
  • How many times have they visited?
  • Of all the site visitors, who is new and who is returning?

How long are visitors on the site?

how long are visitors on the site

How many times have they visited?

how many times have they visited

Of all the site visitors, who is new and who is returning?

Using this information from Google Analytics, Facebook reporting, or any other reporting platform will help you change your journey from the poor experience we've discussed to something closer to what we have below:

retargeting example B

In this method of retargeting, we can serve ads to a much more targeted group. We may choose, for instance, to serve an ad to someone who visits not only the site, but a specific page, and shows us they're informed and investigating by staying on the page for an extended period of time. This person is primed to be sent an "ad" that is the doorway for conversion. With proper retargeting, the chances of your ad being successful are greatly increased, and the user will likely see the ad not as an annoyance, but rather as a step in their educational journey towards your solution.

This is the tip of the iceberg as far as intent-based retargeting goes. The big takeaway today is: Serving the right ads to the right people makes all the difference.