7 Point Checklist for Retargeting Campaigns That AREN’T Creepy

Online Marketers are Creepy, but they don’t have to be! Last week, I shared the results of an informal survey about banner ads promoting a site or product you recently viewed. More than 90% of the people I spoke with had a distinctly negative view of these ads and the few that liked them were marketers.

However, retargeting does not need to make online marketers creepy. Here are 7 points to keep retargeting from turning you into a creepy marketer.

Frequency Cap

Retargeting ads often run with high frequency caps because the results are good and marketers try to “buy more.” The problem is, you can only buy more by reaching the same people more often, inundating your audience with retargeting. Set your frequency cap at one to two impressions per day.

Opt Out Customers

Do not continue to retarget someone after they have converted. Adding a pixel to a conversion page is an easy step, but don’t forget other pages that would indicate someone has already converted, like client logins.

The experience Jure Klepic commented on last week (see his comment) indicates Hostgator isn’t thinking about how to identify customers. Most likely, they remove people from retargeting when they convert (purchase hosting), this is an easy step and one most providers recommend. However, Hostgator likely didn’t consider the fact customers come to their homepage to login to their account, and did not add an optout pixel to the login process or on customer pages, an easy solution.

Consider Context

Limit your retargeting campaign to content that is contextually relevant or on an adjacent topic (for instance, business content for an enterprise technology offering). For example, most B2B marketing is very out of context on sites like Parents.com or WebMD.com, and drawing your audience back from a personal context to your business offer or content is a significant hurdle, even when you are reaching the right person.

Staying in contextually relevant areas limits the chance your audience feels your banner ads are following them around the web.

Use a Single Provider

You cannot apply a frequency cap if you use more than one provider. If multiple networks are running retargeting, each network will apply the frequency cap separately. A frequency cap of two run with three networks or providers is an effective frequency cap of six!

Restrict Performance Based Buys

Because retargeting is often one of the best performing tactics, performance based advertising buys (buys that either guarantee results or are optimized by the network provider based on results) often use retargeting without a specific lineitem. You can control this by limiting the pages each network’s tracking pixels are placed on.

Be Creative

Consider how you would follow up with a prospect by email or in other channels, and apply that same thinking to the creative you use in retargeting. When implemented correctly, retargeting reaches some of your best prospects, make the investment in creative that positions your offering and addresses potential concerns. Price-based offers are ok, but the same offer repeatedly quickly wears out.


Visit your site regularly from your home computer or mobile to see how you are then retargeted. Assuming all of your buys are with OBA compliant providers (they should be, learn more at www.aboutads.info), you can easily tell what provider is running an ad.

Bonus: Add an Opt Out

I have never seen this done, but it would be simple to execute. Add a small Opt Out button to your banner that links to a page that includes your optout pixel and a brief explanation of how they just opted out.

Your Turn

As an individual, are these steps enough to make retargeting ads acceptable? As a marketer, is this too restrictive? What other steps do marketers need to take to limit the negative impact of retargeting ads.

Share your view in the comments below or with my on Twitter (@wittlake).

Commenting was recently changed to use Disqus’s comment platform. If you do not have a Disqus account, add your comment and click “Post As…” to comment as a guest.

Like this post? Subscribe to be notified of future posts!

About Eric Wittlake

I am a digital and B2B marketer with a background in online media and analytics. I work with B2B clients on media and integrated marketing programs at Babcock & Jenkins. You can connect with me on Twitter at @wittlake or in the comments here on my B2B Digital Marketing blog.

  • Pingback: Best of B2B Marketing Zone for December 8, 2011 « Sales and Marketing Jobs

  • http://twitter.com/ryancharleston Ryan Charleston

    Very good post Eric. Our technology speaks to all these points you outlined in the article. I’d love to discuss more and chat when you have time. We’re kind of retargeting nerds here at FetchBack. A couple problems we’re seeing right now are the ability of marketers to obtain adequate reach. We recommend using multiple DSP’s with the appropriate tool to manage… and you can, with ONE pixel (to rule them all). The other problem is scaling creative ads so that every visitor is treated uniquely without over burdening creative teams.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Ryan. Glad to hear you guys are addressing some of the DSP issues, now to make that the new standard!

  • http://www.retargeter.com/ Caroline Watts

    Great post, Eric!  Retargeting is such a powerful technology when used correctly, but it can do brand harm when used improperly.  Failing to implement a frequency cap or opt out pixel are two major oversights that tend to get people in trouble, so I’m glad to see they were first on your list!

    Here are two more best practices that those new to retargeting should always keep in mind (Full disclosure: I work for ReTargeter, an online ad platform specializing in retargeting):

    1.Rotate Creatives:  
    Make sure to periodically change your banner ads to keep your brand fresh.  Users continuously exposed to the exact same banner ads will experience “banner fatigue” which will hurt both your retargeting campaign and your brand.

    2.Segment Your Audience: 
    Place different pixels on different parts of your site, and tailor ads to users based on where they are in the engagement funnel.  For example, if someone only visited your main page, you might want to target them with general branding ads, but if someone visits your products page, you may want to serve them an ad with a more specific call to action.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Caroline, thank you for adding segmentation to the list! I see many marketers dynamically feature a product, but less are taking the time to segment based on how someone interacted.

      Appreciate the comment, thanks!

  • Doug Kessler

    Great post.  
    I’ve been stalked for over a year by Fuze Meeting (and I’m already a client!)
    I think they may break all seven of your tips.
    And it is creepy indeed.

  • http://www.manageyourleads.com/services/appointment-setting/ Appointment Setting Services

    Great post. Good list of points for retargeting the marketing campaigns. 

  • Pingback: CRM Retargeting: The Shiny New Advertising Tactic? — B2B Digital Marketing

  • Pingback: Marketing ROI Is a Broken Metric — B2B Digital Marketing

  • Pingback: Confluence: Sales & Account Management

  • Pingback: Banners Don’t Drive Leads in B2B Marketing | Healthy Life Connect

  • Pingback: 7 B2B Advertising Options Your Are Probably Missing — B2B Digital Marketing

  • Pingback: B2B Marketing: Moving Beyond Campaigns — B2B Digital Marketing

  • Matt Payne

    Seriously, Jedi of B2B Marketing. This content is a year & a half old & it’s still timeless. I rarely comment on blogs, this was that helpful.

  • Pingback: The Real Reasons Programmatic Ad Buying Fails in B2B Marketing by @wittlake — B2B Digital Marketing