Editor’s Note: As we are building our SkiftEDU service for marketers and SMBs in travel, we recently launched a new initiative: our new weekly series on digital marketing tips and tricks, SkiftEDU How-Tos. These How-Tos are a series of free in-depth weekly articles around various topics in digital marketing, such as this one below.

Are you under the impression that after having visited a website, say TripAdvisor or Booking.com for example, all of a sudden their ads appear all over the place as you browse other sites or scroll through your Facebook newsfeed? No, it’s not your imagination! You are targeted as part of a remarketing campaign!

Some people find this form of advertising somewhat controversial, if not intrusive. It is nevertheless a powerful and effective tool that is being used more and more. Others believe that since they’ll be exposed to advertising, it may as well be relevant advertising, with topics that interest them.

Let’s explore how remarketing works.

The basics

A business that uses remarketing must be able to install a cookie in order to follow you as you visit different websites. As mentioned above, some web users find this type of marketing intrusive.

That’s why some companies, such as Google, have implemented measures that ad agencies have to respect. Moreover, these agencies also have to update their privacy policies if they want to carry out any remarketing initiatives. For example, website visitors must be informed about how they can deactivate cookies using Google.

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Regulations in Europe are much more severe and are governed by the CNIL (Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés). Websites must clearly display a banner the minute a new visitor arrives, stating that it uses cookies and explaining how to accept them (or not).

Remarketing in search engine results

How can you ensure that your remarketing initiatives are a sound investment for your business? You can customize your remarketing by using Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) from Google. For example, if a customer is searching for a hotel in your area and visits your website without making a reservation, you can display highly targeted ads to her. For example, you can send her a promotional code for the type of room she was looking for. This level of customization and greatly increase the conversion rates of your ads. You can even pay more for each click and remain ahead of your biggest competitor—all without spending a fortune because you’ll only advertise to pre-qualified visitors.

It takes good planning

A successful remarketing starts with clear goals. What do you want to achieve? Who are you targeting and why? There are many factors to take into account before starting a remarketing campaign.

User journey

Do you want to target all the visitors on your website? Unless you want to carry out a brand awareness campaign, this approach remains difficult to measure. However, you can target only visitors that browsed on your reservation page, that added an item to a cart, or that came back for a second visit. This way, you can focus your efforts on visitors that have a high level of interest in your products or services.

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The right message at the right time

What step in your conversion funnel is the most likely to convince a visitor to buy your product or service? As mentioned above, if a person adds an item to a cart, he could view your best-selling products. On the other hand, if he has proceeded to pay for your product (but has not yet finalized the transaction), you could display an ad promoting a free upgrade. What’s important to remember is that you need to find out why the visitor didn’t complete the process and provide the right argument to close the sale or obtain the reservation.

You can also create lists that exclude visitors. For example, you may not want to offer a promotion to a customer who has already purchased (although it is rare that someone purchases two trips in the same week!). You can therefore create a list of customers that have completed transactions and exclude them from your remarketing campaign.

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How to create a remarketing campaign

From a creative standpoint, a remarketing campaign resembles a Display type ad campaign. In case you missed it, you may want to read again How To Craft Your First AdWords Campaign, here on SkiftEDU. Your remarketing campaign will therefore include one or several ad groups. Ads will always be created in the same way; however, you’ll have to focus more on your targeting.

Determining your targets

Before continuing, there is one important detail to remember: you must set up your target and sequence strategy 30 days before launching your campaign. Why? As previously mentioned, you need to use cookies. Therefore, you need to make sure that AdWords or Google Analytics place these cookies. In other words, you cannot retroactively target a list. You must first set up the right conditions. Then, once this is complete, leads will be added. Start by working out your strategy and creating your lists today. They will be available when you want to launch your remarketing campaign.

Google Analytics allows you to create very precise and elaborate targets and sequences, which is an approach that is widely used. You have to ensure that your AdWords and Analytics accounts are linked (essential to monitoring any type of campaign). Under the Admin tab, Property, Audience Definitions and finally Audiences (dynamic attributes require some programming, which will not be addressed in this post). From there, you can create different types of audiences (either predefined or custom). These sequences will enable you to very precisely target visitors.

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Once you have your list, you can then go into AdWords and create a display campaign like any other, with locations, budgets and ad groups. However, instead of targeting by keyword or interests, this is where you’ll use your remarketing lists as targeting criteria.

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Under this tab, you can easily select a list or several lists. You can even add a list that excludes certain types of visitors, such as visitors who have already made a purchase on your website.

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The limits to remarketing

Remarketing is a very powerful advertising tool that enables you to target your potential customers. However, it does have its limits. Because remarketing is based on cookies, it is hard to follow website visitors across different computers and mobile devices. You can follow them if they have signed into their accounts, but most of the time, this only occurs when they are about to make a purchase. You need to take this into account when determining the ROI of your remarketing and the number of conversions.

In most cases (particularly for smaller businesses), remarketing should be considered as an effective and inexpensive tool to better promote your company with new visitors, without having to invest heavily in major promotions.