January of 2014 may forever go down in PPC history as the month that Google began its crackdown on Remarketing lists. Accounts across the globe were suddenly flagged for the “sensitive” (not to be confused with “inappropriate”) nature of their websites/products/services, and had their Remarketing lists shut down. While there may be some of you out there holding your breath and hoping the Google critters will simply overlook your account, let me make this short and sweet: if you and your sensitive site are hiding, they will most certainly find you.

What does this mean?

  1. Obviously, Remarketing in the Google network by way of AdWords is off the table. This means your ability to target users based on the fact that they’ve been to your site at some point in a designated period of time is gone. Those websites within the Google network will no longer be sprinkled with your delightful image and text ads.
  2. Remarketing for Search. Although this only targets the previous visitors if they search for your select keywords, it’s still considered poor form to target them if your site is of the sensitive nature. These are so over.
  3. Similar Audiences. Like salt in the wound, Google is also taking away the list of those who are like those who’ve visited. Meaning, if Google determined that a user has the propensity to behave in the same way actual visitors behave, they would target them, too. But because we’re no longer building Remarketing lists, kiss your similar audiences goodbye.

So where does this leave us? With our “creative thinking” caps in our hands and a lot of options ahead of us. Let’s take a look at what we can do to compensate for the exposure, traffic, and lastly conversions that we’ll lose from this transition.

In the past we’ve covered many alternatives  to Adwords, and even alternatives to remarketing with AdWords. What we are now looking at is the Life After Google Remarketing and what it might hold for you:

1. Facebook : The marketing brains behind Facebook have come a long way over the years  and the Facebook Exchange a great example of how you can manage your own remarketing efforts through FB. FBX remarketing graphic

The website custom audiences targeting now lets you zoom in on visitors who’ve engaged with your site, your mobile page, or your app. While this is hot off the press, we’ll be sure to keep you looped in as more of our clients utilize these settings.

2. Ad Roll: A popular one around the industry, AdRoll offers remarketing that partners with platforms such as Facebook Exchange, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. This means can mean 2 things. First, you may want to watch your performance to verify that your placements aren’t overlapping too much and creating some articifial competition (and thus inflated CPCs). But secondly, if you’re needing to scale back on your budget but still want to access a broad array of online real estate, AdRoll can allow wide coverage in one fell swoop. Additional perks are the many segmentation options including fine-tuned visitor lists and geotargeting. The interface is simple and ads are uploaded right into the dashboard. Joanna Lord did a review awhile back and noted AdRoll’s positive features, and now they’ve also introduced the AdRoll Liquid Ads!AdRoll LiquidAds

3. Twitter: Twitter has also jumped on the remarketing bandwagon, offering the opportunity to target your site visitors with promoted tweets! This re-engages potential customers/clients in from yet another string of online interactions, not to mention the cross-device appeal.

4. Chango: Speaking of Twitter, Chango is one example of a platform that specializes in Twitter as well as Search Retargeting, which is kind of a big deal. If you’re continuing to use Google, Bing, and any other slew of PPC sources, you may need to check your budget, as Chango is rumored to have a $10k/mo min. Because of the investment, it’s also advisable to get a demo of the interface you’ll have access to, as transparency is next to godliness when it comes to qualifying your PPC efforts. Chango’s catchy approach definitely has an appeal, too.

5. Perfect Audience : These guys specialize in website retargeting, on mainstream sites such as the Huff Post, top blogs, and Youtube, as well as sites within the Google, OpenX and Pubmatic networks. Their biggest attention grabber is certainly the confidence with which they wield Facebook marketing. Neil Patel lauds them as being one of the most cost-effective options for Facebook. These guys can give you the expertise you want, as well as the extra attention your creative continually needs. As we know, FB loves their fresh ads.

6. Criteo : In the past year, Criteo has gotten more and more recognition as a remarketing/SaaS provider to watch. They specialize in E-commerce remarketing, which needs a careful touch.

  • Note on E-Comm: Part of e-comm remarketing relates to how you’re bringing in your returning traffic. If you run a product or service that doesn’t have a product catalog, site level retargeting may be your best suggestion. If you have a product catalog, try remarketing on the product level. Can your remarketing provider target by product? Do they utilize engines that suggest additional products for the ads? We don’t just want the 1 item that was previously viewed, but additional purchase options that may increase conversion rates. When joining up with a remarketing platform, make sure you know your questions and you get their answers.

7. Steelhouse : These guys do retargeting classy. They not only provide custom-designed ads, but they also pair real-time bidding with your remarketing audience for ultimate return on investment. Steelhouse ad creativeAdd to this their own Look-Alike audience generating software and you have pretty close competition for your long lost AdWords Remarketing lists. Steelhouse has also been reported to run on a CPA-bidding system, which means you need to understand what CPA in a third party platform looks like for your account.

  • Note on CPA bidding: Builds your creative to make a bigger impact on those seeing your ads. Note: What about CPA retargeting? The nature is “do what it takes” which means a) frequency capping and other “polite”marketing tactics may be out the window b) because they’ve already visited, a followup conversion may occur with or without remarketing. Although this is an argument for retargeting, it also begs the question of cost-efficiency (meaning CPA goal should be quite a bit lower for Remarketed conversions than first-time visitors’).

8. Bing: Oh, Bing. What are we going to do with you.We’re surrounded by remarketing opportunities and yet, the most recent thing we’ve heard from you is the apparently now-defunct Search Remessaging. The Bing tech support gentleman I spoke with confirmed that in nearly 2 years, he himself has heard nary a whisper. I suppose this will be added to my 2014 wishlist so that those of us who find great returns in our Bing traffic can better target returning visitors straight through Bing Ads.

9. Intra-Google approach: Google Display Conversion Optimizer. If you’re strictly an AdWords advertiser, you may need to just be more resourceful in your current account. A suggestion straight from the Googs is to try your hand at DCO. Much like e-comm remarketing, DCO is going to have a different motive behind its driving force. If you are looking for purchases, DCO will aggressively pursue  those users that seem apt to convert. Great! However, if you are a lead generation company, you may want to try DCO with a very delicate hand. The goal of DCO is to maximize your lead volume, but speaks nothing of quality. You’ll want to have as much feedback about the quality of your DCO as possible, which means clear tracking and follow-up with your backend data. Another caveat: many of us PPC Heroes have found luck in DCO, but in intervals. What works beautifully right out for the gate may not perform consistently forever. Again, watch your performance and know when to pull the plug.

Clearly there are a LOT of other options for third party remarketing, but what other techniques or methods are you coming up with as the Google Remarketing List Ax comes down?