Does Remarketing Work, Or Is It Just Annoying?

By , Account Manager at Bing Ads


Remarketing is, hands down, one of the most powerful tools available to us in PPC. So it can be a little surprising when we get asked “Does Remarketing really work, or is it just annoying your potential customers?” That doesn’t mean that it’s a stupid question though – just one that us long-time account managers might take for granted. So with that in mind, today we’re going to answer that question: Does Remarketing really work? If so, how well does it work? And… is it annoying?

Question 1: Does Remarketing Work?

Yes. Full stop. If you can use Remarketing, you should. I have a few accounts in which Remarketing isn’t an option due to the nature of the products. It’s one of the most infuriating lost opportunities I can think of when it comes to account management. It lets you take advantage of all of your site traffic (which comes pre-qualified since they’ve already shown an interest in your site), and it provides you with cheaper clicks and conversions.

Question 2: How Well Does Remarketing Work?

This is an entirely different question, and one that depends quite a bit on the nature of your business – your sales cycle, conversion goals (ecommerce v. lead gen), and how much time you have to create detailed Audience lists to maximize your efficiency.

However, to detail the benefits of Remarketing, we’ll do a miniature case study using some data from an active account. I’ve broken down the account statistics by campaign type detailing their performance over the last six months. To start, here’s a comparison between our Search and Remarketing campaigns:

Remarketing versus Search statistics breakdown.

Remarketing versus Search over the past six months.

Now, this isn’t an entirely fair comparison, as we’re looking at two entirely different campaign types. The CTR isn’t comparable, and in reality, these two work in concert with one another to fuel the great performance behind our Remarketing efforts. But it’s still telling in that the Remarketing campaign has a 22% cheaper Average Cost Per Click. This advantage, along with the slightly higher Conversion Rate amounts to a 25% lower Cost Per Conversion in comparison to our Search campaigns.

For another entirely-unfair comparison (just unfair for different reasons, i.e. performance), let’s take a look at Remarketing versus our regular Display efforts:

An analysis of one accounts Remarketing versus Display performance.

Remarketing versus Display for the past six months.

Now, a couple of caveats: the display campaigns were introduced only four months ago, hence the lower impression and click totals. Our display campaigns also feature a markedly lower Cost Per Click – but this advantage doesn’t translate to a better Cost Per Conversion, as the Conversion Rate is so far below par for this account.

Both the Click Through Rate and Conversion Rate are indicative of the power behind Remarketing: by targeting the users who’ve already visited your site, you’re targeting an audience who’s more likely to both click and convert based on your advertising efforts. Especially in comparison to your broader Display advertising campaign options.

Here’s the bottom line: for this account, Remarketing accounted for 16.61% of all conversions over the past six months, at only 12.93% of the total cost. It has only 81.36% of the average click cost, and only 77.82% of the average conversion cost. Of all campaign types in this account, it also had the highest conversion rate. This is a fairly conservative account, so I’m positive that there are others out there making even better use of this tactic.

In short, do Remarketing.

Question 3: Is Remarketing Annoying?

Maybe. This depends entirely on your user base and how well you know them. Most people find Remarketing pretty innocuous. But some people, especially for high-profile and/or prestigious brands, may find that excessive Remarketing can be detrimental if your overall goal is brand awareness. We’ve actually had clients who’ve received complaints about excessive Remarketing, and I quote, “devaluing your brand”. So it can definitely be a concern.

The best way to decipher this, outside of direct customer interaction, is to examine the Reach and Frequency Report found in the Dimensions tab. You can throw in some extra conversion and click data to determine if you’re seeing diminishing returns – i.e. annoying your customers. Going back to our previous case study, here’s that data for our Remarketing campaigns over the last six months:

Reach and Frequency compared to conversion data.

An analysis of Conversion and Frequency Data for the last six months.

So, looking at this, there are a few takeaways:

  • Click-Through Rate shows definite diminishing returns once we hit that “8 or more” frequency threshold.
  • Conversion Rate, though? Still going strong.

Try this same analysis on your own Remarketing campaign and see if you might need to institute Frequency capping (as detailed here).

One thing we’ve run in to in the past, though: if you have multiple Remarketing campaigns that use lists that aren’t mutually exclusive, you could end up double-serving – which will definitely annoy your customers. Until I saw a screenshot of that exact occurrence today, I would have sworn that it was impossible.

What about you, PPC Heroes and Heroines? Feel like sharing the love for Remarketing? Have you annoyed your customers? Let us know in the comments and, as always, thanks for reading!

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18 thoughts on “Does Remarketing Work, Or Is It Just Annoying?

  1. graham

    Working with accounts that have higher CPAs, but also higher average cart values, I’ve found remarketing to be a mixed bag so far. I also consider my remarketing campaigns to be part brand awareness and thus don’t hold it to the same performance standards as my seach campaigns.

    After gaining enough data the last couple months, I’m beginning to optimize these campaigns, so the jury is ultimately still out for me.

    1. EricCouch

      There’s some definite value in segmenting out your Remarketing audiences if you haven’t done so already – especially if you segment out converting visitors, or high-value cart visitors, and bid those up. Your ads can be top of mind the next time they have a purchase in mind. I’ll be curious to hear how your ongoing optimizations work. Thanks for reading!

      1. graham

        Absolutely. Again, I want collect a bit more data before getting into the heavy segmenting (e.g. which products with which bids, etc.), but definitely in the pipeline. Thanks again for the article!

  2. Preet

    after i started remarketing my overall campaign CTR records are gone down from 1.50% to 0.57% as re marketing CTR is hovering around 0.17%. Should i stop remarketing? but since i have started remarketing i m getting more conversions.

    Confused how to go ahead with it! dont want to have my overall CTR standing at 0.5% something!!! Please advise.

    1. EricCouch

      You have to look at Search and Display CTR as wholly separate things – and segment your campaigns accordingly. Display CTR is often dramatically lower than Search due to the amount of Impressions available on the Google Display Network. If Remarketing is working for you, and *converting* for you, keep using it!

  3. Ving

    Hi Eric,

    Do you think re-marketing works for all industries? Would re-marketing be suitable to drive registers to a site or drive up newsletter sign-ups?

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    1. EricCouch

      Definitely – we’ve used it to great effect in both lead generation and ecommerce accounts across all different kinds of industries.

  4. Joe M.

    At my first agency we dealt with B2B, industrial clients who had products with much larger buying cycles. Remarketing was working incredibly well for almost all of my former clients in that industry and was actually the number one driver of leads for several of them. It helped that a lot of them were niche industries with not too much competition.

    I’ve now switched to an ecom focused agency, and I can’t get remarketing to boom as much as I would like since we have to keep our spend under a certain percentage of our revenue. The products these new clients are selling are ones you can get at a lot of other places so if they didn’t buy it from my site, they most likely went somewhere else and purchased it making my remarketing ads pointless.

    Monitor it closely, use frequency capping to really have control of it to avoid that annoyance. Set up “negative remarketing” ads to users who’ve completed your desired action so you’re not wasting impressions, clicks and budget. Even though my remarketing campaigns now are not pulling in the revenue I want, it’s amazing how much assisted transactions they’re pulling in for organic and direct channels. Monitor all of your options in analytics before excluding something out as not working.

    1. EricCouch

      Great tips – the assisted transactions are a great point, and we’ve employed frequency capping to great success across many of our remarketing campaigns. We’ve noticed a statistically significant drop off after 3 or so, so at some point you’ll just continue remarketing to people who no longer have any interest in your brand, as opposed to “new” remarketing audience members whom you might have a better chance with. Thanks for reading!

  5. Scott Andreasen

    Eric, do i got to be running an adwords ad a the same time? or could i just pause an Adwords Ad and have only the remarketing working?

    1. EricCouch

      Remarketing isn’t necessarily native to AdWords, it’s just the easiest version with the widest reach. There are other services, like AdRoll, that can also fulfill your desire to remarketing to visitors without having to bother with AdWords. Thanks for reading!

      1. Scott Andreasen

        Thanks for the quick reply bro, but can u clarify if i need to have an actual adowrds ad running at the same time as my remarketing ad? Or could i just paude the PPC ad and work soley with the remarketing ad? I say this because I got good rankings locally/organically and don’t need PPC… but I want the remarketing in potential customers faces that visit my site so I stay in their mind, you follow me?

        1. EricCouch

          Ah – I see. You’re referring to running Search Network ads in addition to Remarketing on the Google Display Network. They all fall under the AdWords umbrella, hence the confusion. You’re not required to run Search ads.

          1. Scott Andreasen

            Awesome! so i can somehow setup a remarketing ad. This way my organic traffic is getting the remarketing code when they go on my site… then as time goes by and they see me on other sites in the “Google Display Network” I am only billed for impressions or clicks from the remarketing on Google Display Network sites, yes?

  6. Sal Conca

    Great breakdown, It amazes me how many people are basically leaving money on the table by not using remarketing campaigns. You’re correct that understanding the buying cycle of your companies products plays a key role which really translates into making sure your campaign messaging, landing pages and offers resonate with the audience in your remarketing pool.


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