Google Display Network Retargeting Ads: A Primer for New Marketers

Today, modern marketing technologies can easily provide data on the ROI of our marketing efforts. Especially in the field of online advertising, advertisers want to know where the money is dropping off. We’d all like to think our customers follow a straightforward path towards a purchase. But in reality the path is far from linear.

A visitor, for example, pops by to read a few articles then leaves. In two months they might come back and take you up on your feel trial. A few weeks later they might return looking for pricing and eventually become a customer. We as marketers need some way to push visitors to reengage with the business. One of the best ways to do this is via Google Display Network retargeting ads.

This article is meant as a primer to Google Display Network retargeting ads – what it is, how it works, and how you can implement it as part of your own marketing strategy.

What are Google Display Network Retargeting Ads?

Retargeting in a basic sense is the process of tagging and targeting past website visitors with advertisements. The goal being to re-engage those people who are interested in your business – but for whatever reason decide not to convert.

If Joe, for example, lands on your website looking for dishwasher repair services but leaves to explore other websites, you can create a series of ads to run on the Google Display Network (GDN) to hopefully convince Joe to return and give you a call. The GDN will automatically tag Joe as a past visitor and serve him display ads on the relevant websites he visits.

I think it’s safe to assume that around 90% of your website traffic visits and bounces without engaging. A landing page that converts at 20% is a huge success in this business, and I’ve written many articles (and a comprehensive ebook) on how to increase your conversion rates by even 5%.

How retargeting works:

  • You place your Google Ads pixel (it’s a snippet of coding, also called a tag) within your website’s code and turn on retargeting to begin capturing an audience
  • Any time an internet user finds their way to your website (from an ad, a Google search, your social media profile, etc) but then bounces before converting, they’ll trigger the tag you placed
  • That tag latches onto their browser as a ‘cookie’ (imagine it like a piece of gum they’ve stepped on)
  • Your retargeting software can then ‘see’ them as they move around the web
  • Over a million sites on the internet are part of Google’s Display Network. When your bounced traffic heads over to one of these sites your business’ ad will appear (and only for that individual)

Here’s a simple graphic that shows what I’m talking about:

google display network

  • Your site traffic enters at the top of your sales funnel
  • For whatever reason, that traffic decides to jump out the side of your funnel
  • Without a retargeting strategy you lose that traffic, maybe forever
  • With retargeting and the Google Display Network however, that traffic doesn’t get too far before being retargeted
  • Your lost lead is recaptured and brought back into their own sales funnel

With the Google Display Network, you know you’re doing everything you can to ensure your escaped leads haven’t disappeared permanently.

The Benefits of the Google Display Network Retargeting:

Retargeting with the Google Display Network allows your brand to, essentially, walk beside your bounced traffic as they travel the internet. But more than that, it allows you to target them specifically as individuals with content created for them (resulting in many times the click-through-rate of traditional online ads).

Here’s what you get:

  • Segmented Audiences: Retargeting from specific pages of your site allows you to segment your leads (hugely impacting on the click-through-rates of the ads those leads see). For instance, if you capture leads who have bounced from a specific product page, an advertisement featuring that exact product will have way better success than a standard ad promoting your business as a whole.
  • Being where your audience is : With a community of over a million sites, there’s no doubt that your leads will travel to sites within the Google Display Network. This means that you can reach your leads a couple times a day from different angles. And, with most software providers, you can keep showing your ads until that lead converts on their interest.
  • Efficient and easy-to-use: Not all retargeting providers will be straightforward (after all, there’s a lot more to retargeting than this article makes out!). But some can make it a two-step process: choose your ad image (with your message within the image) and choose where you want that ad to drive traffic. Boom!

google display network

Putting Retargeting to Work for Your Business

Retargeted Ads don’t look like your normal ads, instead, they’re designed based on the landing page they traffic to as well as the specific place in your website their viewers have bounced from.

Here are my recommendations for how to implement retargeting for B2B and B2C businesses:

Retargeting for B2B companies with the Display Ad Network:

The most important part of retargeting B2B website traffic is knowing why that traffic bounced.

For instance, if your site traffic bounces from your price page, you can be reasonably sure that they bounced because your price-points were over their budget, or that they are interested enough to see what your costs are – they may just need a strong nudge to make them into your customer.

If they bounced from your homepage or landing (before making it to your price page) you can be reasonably sure that they bounced because you didn’t communicate enough value or some miscellaneous reason you can’t control.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Create two ads, one directed at website traffic who bounced from your price page and one directed at website traffic who bounced from your main landing page
  • For the price-page retargeted ad, promote a free trial or limited-time discount (the nudge)
  • For the main landing page retargeted ad, promote a one-on-one demo of your tools or access to a case study or white-paper (with impressive statistic within the ad that preaches the value of your service)

Here’s an example from ClickMeeting (a site I was looking at as an option for a webinar I’m doing on retargeting which then retargeted me on my favorite music website:

google display network

Because I only visited ClickMeeting’s main homepage, I was showed their generic retargeting ad. I have no doubt that if I’d clicked through to their price page I’d be seeing a different ad entirely.

Retargeting for B2C companies with the Display Ad Network:

As you start with retargeting, I’d recommend B2C companies focus on brand awareness. Because your leads have already been to your website, you know they’re interested in your products (unlike traditional online advertising).

This changes your online advertising approach in two ways:

  • Focus on reminding them of why they liked you in the first place
  • Give them more than just an ad; give them an incentive

This means you’re creating an ad that does two things: incentives engagement and brand awareness. This is the kind of ad that isn’t too pushy with an ‘Ask’ but also isn’t too vague that its viewer doesn’t know how to engage.

Real-world example:

Let’s say I was a parent, and after I went to Aveeno’s website I headed over to my favorite source of parenting information, After reading an article I scroll down and what should I find but this ad?

google display network

As I mentioned above, your ads should be focused on brand awareness – keeping your brand in the forefront of a lead’s mind. Aveeno does this with an ad focused on an adorable baby as well as a unique selling point (“#1 pediatrician recommended brand in Canada”).

But (as you’ll notice with Aveeno), it’s also about incentivizing engagement. Not to the extent of a coupon code (though those have their time and place) but simply providing a little bit of value with your general brand awareness. Don’t go so specific as a B2B company might, but offer a 10% discount, free shipping or, like Aveeno has above, a small saving.

It can also be hugely beneficial to create retargeting ads based on the product page your lead has bounced from. For instance, if I were specifically interested in Aveeno’s baby moisturizer (as opposed, perhaps, to their color-care conditioner) the ad above would have a much higher chance of converting me to a sale. And, of course, visa versa.


Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the fundamentals of retargeting. While it doesn’t mean you can stop optimizing your landing page for conversions, it does mean you have a bit of a safety net for when leads do escape your sales funnel.

Stay tuned for more articles on this subject in the next couple weeks.

By James Scherer


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