Content marketing is all the rage, but once you create that perfect piece and send it out into the universe, how do you know you’re getting the maximum benefit from it? People may read it and love it – but will they ever come back?

Content remarketing Borat meme

Marketers have to take the next step to recapture audience attention and turn more lookers into leads. How? With content remarketing. It’s such a crazy effective marketing tactic I can’t believe everyone isn’t doing it, but they’re not. If you’re not, you’re not just leaving money on the table – you’re throwing it out the door. Stop doing that!

I recently presented this session at the epic Inbound 2014 conference and wanted to share it here with you, as well. It’s a bit of a deep dive, with a lot of non-obvious advice (huge hat tip to our data genius Mark Irvine for helping us analyze the data). So here are the sections we’re going to cover:

  • What The Heck Is Content Remarketing?
  • Content Remarketing On The Google Display Network
  • Getting Started With Remarketing
  • Don’t Be Creepy? About That Ad Fatigue Thing…
  • Creating Killer Content Remarketing Ads
  • The High Click-Through Rate Game For Content Remarketing
  • Creative And Effective Remarketing Bid Strategies
  • Advanced Ad Formats For Content Remarketing
  • Creating Great Content Just Isn’t Enough

What the Heck is Content Remarketing?

At its base level, remarketing is the process of tagging your site visitors and targeting them with banner ads after they leave your site, in an effort to entice them back to (hopefully) take the next steps.

Content remarketing diagram

Remarketing gives you the opportunity to appear in front of people who have already expressed an interest in your website. They could be checking their email, reading the news, watching a YouTube video … and there you are, with something new and awesome to show them! It could be a reminder to complete an action they had started, or a new piece of content to further a buying decision, etc.

Remarketing provides the opportunity to:

  • Turn abandoners/bouncers into leads
  • Increase brand recall (and thus increase branded searches)
  • Increase repeat visitor rates and engagement
  • Increase the effectiveness of SEO and content marketing

According to Forrester Research, 96% of people who visit a website leave without completing the action the marketer would like them to take. Remarketing gives you a second chance to make that first impression (and even a third, and a fourth). At WordStream, we used to be really great at SEO, but not so great and getting organic visitors back to our site. We had to get past being forgettable. We had to make our content more sticky.

Content Remarketing On The Google Display Network

All right, so we understand both the problem and the opportunity. Now, let’s dive into the solution.

You’re going to learn how to use remarketing strategies with the Google Display Network to dramatically increase the effectiveness of your inbound marketing efforts.

What’s So Awesome About The Google Display Network?

For starters, it’s huge and has massive reach.

Content remarketing Google Display Network reach diagram

The Google Display Network (GDN) is one of the largest remarketing networks in the world and has over two million sites in the network, including pretty much every site in the world (with the notable exception of Facebook). It also includes some pretty big Google sites, like YouTube and Gmail. The inclusion of AdMob for mobile targeting means you can get your ads to show up in Angry Birds and other mobile apps.

Getting Started With Remarketing

Using the GDN for remarketing gives you a great deal of reach. Generally, you can find your tagged site visitors on the network many times per day, several days per week, and across many different sites.

Content remarketing concept illustration

On average, you’ll be able to connect with 84% of the people you tag, 10-18 times per month.

Audience Definition Strategy

In remarketing, you need to first define an audience of users to remarket to.

For example, you could create an audience for people who visited your blog, or for people who visited specific pages on your website – like your pricing page.

This will enable you to reach out to just those people, with offers and messaging to suit their interests.

Here’s how you define an audience: create a new remarketing list. Google will take care of setting all of the cookies – all you need to do is specify which website visitors to include or exclude from your audience.

Content remarketing new remarketing list screenshot

Segmenting different lists of users enables you to show different ads, depending on which section of your site they visited.

A secondary benefit is that you can bid more aggressively, to get more impressions and higher ad positions, for visitors to the higher value sections of your website. For example, your data might show that visitors to your pricing or product page are more valuable than your blog visitors (since often blog posts have little or nothing to do with the products and services you’re trying to sell).

Another creative remarketing strategy for content marketers is to define audience categories based on the different post categories in your blog. If you already have a ton of blog content that is classified by topic, leverage those existing classifications in your remarketing audience definition strategy.

Audience Membership Duration

In remarketing, the audience membership duration is the number of days that you follow a user around with your ads. For example, if I set my audience membership duration to 60 days, then users who visit my site will see my ads for 60 days. How long should you set yours for?

Don’t Be Creepy? About That Ad Fatigue Thing…

Some experts believe that you shouldn’t be overly aggressive with remarketing because it will make your prospective customer feel uncomfortable, which will then somehow damage the ROI of your campaigns, or even damage your brand. Thus, they typically advocate for limiting the number of times people see your ads through the use of shorter audience membership durations, as well as impression caps.

Let’s look at a few facts and see just how “creepy” remarketing really is.

Quantifying Ad Fatigue:  Remarketing vs. Generic Display Ads

Ad fatigue is a real thing in every industry and across every medium: TV, radio, print … and yes, display ads, too. But do remarketing ads fatigue faster than other display ads?

Content remarketing relative CTR graph

We did the research and found that the click-through rate of remarketing ads is so much higher to begin with, it stays higher even as ad fatigue begins to set in. What this means is that a user is still far more likely to engage with a remarketing ad, even after having seen it 6 times before, than they are with a brand new generic display ad!

Ad Fatigue In Remarketing vs. Display Ads

Here’s the same data in a normalized view to show decay of click-through rate over time:

Content remarketing fatigue graph

What we saw is that while remarketing ads certainly did fatigue over time, remarketing ads fatigued at less than half the rate of generic display ads.

Conversion Rate vs. Ad Impressions

But what about conversion rates? How does conversion rate vary based on the number of times people have seen your ad before clicking on it? We had a look at that, too:

Content remarketing ad impressions

What we’re seeing is that although a user becomes somewhat less likely to click on a remarketing ad over time, those who do click are more than twice as likely to convert!

Go On And Be Creepy – Remarketing Truths

Content remarketing Willy Wonka meme

Sorry naysayers, but the data just doesn’t prove out the theory that people find remarketing creepy and therefore marketers shouldn’t use it, or should limit it to such short lengths it can’t be optimally effective. To recap, here’s what we know:

  • A user is still far more likely to engage with a remarketing ad, even after having seen it 6 times before, than they are with a brand new generic display ad.
  • While remarketing ads certainly did fatigue over time, remarketing ads fatigued at less than half the rate of generic display ads.
  • Although a user becomes somewhat less likely to click on a remarketing ad over time, those who do click are more than twice as likely to convert!

This brings you to my first crazy remarketing lesson:

Be Bold! Get Tons Of Ad Impressions

People visited your site for a reason and past browsing history is among the strongest predictors of future purchasing intent. It’s worth testing out remarketing with relatively higher impression caps and membership durations and seeing what happens. Don’t be timid for fear of potentially creeping people out. If your offers and messaging are on target and you’re providing value, it’s not creepy.

  • Try setting your audience membership duration to an amount equal to 3x your average sale cycle length.
  • If it typically takes an average of one week to go from first touch to sale, set the audience membership duration to three weeks.
  • Don’t worry too much about impression caps (remember, more impressions means higher conversion rates) and consider rotating though multiple ads per campaign to combat ad fatigue.

Creating Killer Content Remarketing Ads

Now that we’ve talked about defining an audience to remarket to, let’s focus on how to create killer remarketing ads.

Ad Formats on the Google Display Network

There are 14 different display ad formats on the Google Display Network:

Content remarketing ad dimensions

Ad formats matter to marketers because of how the ad auction works. Different ad formats do not compete against each other for positioning.

Content remarketing Universal Hub screenshot

The lesson here: Diversify your ad formats!

This table shows the share of impressions accrued by the various different ad formats on the Internet.

Content remarketing ad format impression share

Diversifying your ad formats maximizes your chances of ad placement in better positions.

Emotions That Make People Click On Content

The same emotions that draw people to your content will drive people to click on your ads.

Content remarketing emotional triggers

The key here is to create ads that resonate with users on an emotional level. Stay away from boring, plain, informational ads that look the same as every other ad out there.

Creating killer content remarketing ads is really quite simple:

  • Diversify your ad formats.
  • Create ads that appeal to your audience on an emotional level.

The High Click-Through Rate Game for Content Remarketing

Hot tip: the way to reduce click prices is to raise your click-through rates. Sure, you’ll end up paying for a greater volume of clicks, but they’ll end up costing much less – as much as 400% less, in fact.

So how does it work?

Cost Per Click vs. Click-Through Rate on the Google Display Network

The Google Display Network uses an algorithm called Quality Score to determine which ads to show, what position each will display in, and how much to charge the advertiser for each ad click.

Google doesn’t make money by showing ads no one clicks on, so it makes sense for them to show ads that are more likely to get clicks. To provide an incentive for advertisers to create great ads, they give out huge discounts for ads with high click-through rates … and dish out huge penalties for ads with low click-through rates.

For this reason, for every 0.1% increase or decrease in the CTRs of your ads, your click costs will go up or down by 21%.

Content remarketing higher CTR lower CPC graph

About Those Display Text Ads…

This all sounds good in theory, but how do you create an ad with high click-through rate?

For starters, it’s worth pointing out that 67.5% of the image ads you see when you’re browsing the internet aren’t even images. They’re just plain text ads that have been formatted into an image, like these:

Content remarketing example ad text

For obvious reasons, the average CTR on text ads is much lower than image ads, as you can see here.

Content remarketing ad text CTR

As a result, the CPC on text ads is way more than the CPC on image ads:

Content remarketing image ads CPC

It’s like you’re paying a 381% tax on text ads!

The key takeaway here is to take the time to design customized image ads, rather than simply converting your text-based search ads into image ads.

Winning Tactics For Improving Your Remarketing CTRs

Higher click-through rates win you lower costs per click, but how do you boost your CTR?

1. Use Ads That Push To Your “Hard” Offers. What should you be featuring in your image ads? The most common tactic is to simply promote your highest value offers, e.g., a free trial of your product, a request for a demo, etc. This is my top performing ad:

Content remarketing WordStream PPC ad

The dog ate my PPC! No more excuses for poor results! Use WordStream’s PPC Grader – and of course, it has a cute puppy.

If you do it right, people will actually love your ads rather than hate them.

2. Do A Conversion Path Analysis. The goal here is to figure out which pages on your site, if visited during a user’s session, result in a much higher probability of the user converting to a lead or a sale (for example, the product overview page).

Content remarketing conversion path analysis

Come up with that list and target those pages in your remarketing audience.

3. Try Ads That Push To Content. Check out this ad from my colleague Marty Weintraub at AimClear – It pushes to a content piece, “10 Kevlar PPC Analyses and Processes for a Bulletproof PPC Account,” rather than a hard offer.

Content remarketing Marketing Land screenshot

But how do you know what content to feature in your ads?

4. Analyze Social Shares On Your Blog Content. If you analyze your blog content, what you’ll usually find is that around 5% of your pages generate half of the shares on social media.

Content remarketing social media shares graph

For example, I analyzed all of the articles on the HubSpot blog over the last year and found that on average, the typical article gets several hundred shares on social media. However, the top 5% of articles gets tens of thousands of social shares.

Not surprisingly, we found that the same stories that work well on social media also tend to do very well as featured content within ads.

Try a free tool like BuzzSumo to see which pieces of your blog content get the highest shares.

Why Content Marketers Are Fabulous PPC Marketers

Content marketers are uniquely qualified to become fabulous PPC marketers. Why?

Because so much of the success and failure of PPC marketing relies on the creativity of your ads.

Not to throw my PPC marketing brethren under the bus, but most are not super-creative people. I mean, look at these ads for a search of “Big Data Solutions” – the ads are essentially all the same:

Content remarketing big data ads

Booooring. I estimate that 90% of all the ads out there for any given search are pretty similar.

I call this an AdWords Jackpot, because it reminds me of hitting a row of lucky 7s in Vegas. I just hit a Big Data Solutions jackpot! If you can come up with an emotionally charged, totally different and stand-out ad – I called these Unicorn Ads – you can blow away the competition.

Basically, there’s not a lot of creativity here, which means huge opportunity for the marketer who gets creative.

Creative And Effective Remarketing Bid Strategies

Now that you have remarketing audiences and ads down to a science, let’s turn our attention to bid management strategies.

Content remarketing not all ads are created equal

Remember, in PPC marketing, you have to pay for each click. The advertiser specifies a maximum cost per click that they’re willing to pay, but the key here is not to buy every possible click.

Rather, you want to be super picky and just cherry-pick the clicks that are the most relevant to your business. The way to do this is though bid management!

The Key To Effective Bid Management: Target Your Buyer Persona

In AdWords, you can overlay user demographic information on top of your remarketing audiences to find the needles in the haystack. It doesn’t make any sense to remarket ads to everyone in your audience. Why? Because not everyone who visits your website is a qualified buyer.

For example, someone from Zimbabwe could visit your site. They can’t convert if you can’t ship there.

Content remarketing campaign targeting

Here’s where it comes in handy to know a thing or two about your target customer persona. What are the ages? Parental status, where do they live? Gender? What time do they search for your products? What is their income?

You can be very picky and just bid for the people in your audience who also meet your demographic filters.

Advanced Ad Formats

We discussed standardized image ad formats, but there are some really cool advanced ad formats that are worth mentioning.

YouTube Ads

People spend billions of hours every month watching YouTube ads. You may have your own YouTube content, but perhaps your viewing metrics aren’t quite as high as you’d like them to be, or perhaps your users have no idea you have interesting video content to share.

Using YouTube TrueView ads, you can target your audiences as they are watching other videos on YouTube.

Take this screenshot for example:

Content remarketing TrueView ad screenshot

I’m trying to watch a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle video and it’s showing me an ad for a tourism company in Italy. Why? Because I was planning a trip to Florence at the time I took this screenshot, and they’re remarketing to me.

The cool thing about TrueView videos is that you only pay if people view your video content. There’s no cost if the person clicks on the “skip ad” button.

Seriously, if you’re creating video content, why wouldn’t you pay a few bucks to promote it?

Post Ads

Content remarketing Google Post ad

Another relatively new ad format is the +Post ad on Google+. Now, Google’s social network isn’t as popular as Twitter or Facebook, so what they did was they came up with an ad format that lets you promote your Google+ content to visitors – even if they’re not on Google+.

Last month, I tried the new +post ads for my own website to target people who visited my blog. There’s an ad creation feature that automatically creates ads in all of the different ad formats to promote your latest Google+ post (Facebook has a similar feature).

I set the budget for $25 per day and a max CPC bid of just 25 cents.

Content remarketing Insights report

My Google+ visibility and engagement went through the roof, increased by 10-20 times, for just $25/day! How the heck does that work?

We can thank the flywheel effect of paid social promotion. There are billions of social updates happening every day on social media – it’s very noisy. Buying the first few Likes or +1’s or Retweets using paid social promotion then raises the visibility of your updates. It results in massive organic social engagement. Sometimes you just need a little push to get things started!

Remarketing Lists For Search Ads (RLSA)

Here’s another interesting but advanced thing you can do. It’s a little complicated, but I promise it’s awesome. It’s called Remarking Lists for Search Ads.

RLSA lets you can target people in your audiences with customized ads when they do searches for specific keywords on Google.

Content remarketing RLSA concept

Say, for example, someone visits your site. You tag them and now they’re in one of your audiences.

That person then searches for a competitor of yours. This probably means they’re doing some comparison shopping.

Using RLSA, you can target that comparison shopper with a specific ad, like a 10% discount code or something similar. Knowing that the person visited specific pages on your site and is now performing specific searches, it’s possible to come up with very specific and compelling ad copy.

Creating Great Content Just Isn’t Enough

You’ve done your research, you know your topic, you have something interesting and entertaining to say – it just isn’t enough anymore! As individuals and brands have become publishers, the game has been upped big time. Competition is fierce.

Once you create great content, remarketing helps you get it in front of the audience most likely to engage and convert, furthering your business goals. Commercial intent + audience demographics = a huge win for your company!

With remarketing, we increased our repeat visitors by 50%, tripled our average time on site and saw a huge increase in direct visits to our site.

In short, content remarketing enabled us to maximize the value of every piece of content we put out. We were able to get each piece in front of the audience with the most intent, at the right time and via the right channels.

You can, too! Use content remarketing to make your content sticker and increase conversions with a highly targeted audience.