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Top 10 Remarketing Campaign Mistakes to Avoid

Remarketing campaigns aim to re-engage visitors who previously interacted with your brand by serving them targeted ads and messages across channels. But without thoughtful strategy and optimization, remarketing efforts fall flat and waste budgets.


Remarketing campaigns, also known as retargeting, refers to digital advertising and messaging that follows users who previously visited your website, app, or interacted with your brand across channels. Remarketing aims to tap into the power of familiarity and close abandoned sales by keeping your brand front-of-mind.

But without thoughtful strategy and ongoing optimization tailored to audience needs, remarketing campaigns fail to move the needle on performance. Wasted ad spend diminishes ROI. By avoiding some of the most common mistakes, brands can get remarketing right.

This guide will cover the top 10 remarketing mistakes brands make along with actionable solutions to fix them. Follow proven best practices to make the most of your remarketing budgets and turn awareness into revenue.

Table of Contents

#1 Not Setting Specific Goals
#2 Targeting Too Broad of Audiences
#3 Poorly Designed Visual Creatives
#4 Relying Solely on Pixel-Based Remarketing
#5 Not Personalizing Messaging
#6 Remarketing Without Value Exchange
#7 Lacking Cross-Device Tracking
#8 Failing to Measure Incrementality
#9 Not Optimizing for the Buyer’s Journey
#10 Neglecting Negative Keywords
Key Takeaways on Driving Remarketing ROI

10 Remarketing Campaign Mistakes to Avoid

#1 Not Setting Specific Goals

One of the biggest mistakes brands make with their remarketing campaigns is failing to establish specific, quantifiable goals and key performance indicators right from the start.

Without clarity into the desired actions and metrics that define remarketing success, brands take a spray and pray approach both in terms of targeting and messaging. This wastes budget on impressions that fail to move the needle on ROI.

Always focus your remarketing efforts around concrete, measurable objectives like on-site conversions, email list sign-ups, app downloads, increased purchase frequency from existing customers, higher average order value, lower acquisition costs, etc.

Broad brand awareness goals alone drain budgets without accountability. Define tangible targets like conversion rate lift percentage, lower cost per lead generated etc. This allows continuously optimizing remarketing spend and efforts towards measurable impact.

#2 Targeting Too Broad of Audiences

Many brands fall into the trap of targeting their remarketing campaigns too broadly without sufficient segmentation. While wider reach seems logical, overly generalized targeting results in wasted impressions and diminished conversion rates from serving ads to users who lack sufficient interest or intent.

A better approach is balancing targeting scale with relevance. Tactics like leveraging custom remarketing lists, filtering based on observed site behaviors, integrating CRM data signals into customer match lists, employing lookalike modeling, and suppressing existing customers can help focus budget on subsets empirically more likely to be receptive.

Indiscriminate blasting of remarketing ads at every anonymous website visitor often proves a poor utilization of remarketing dollars. The subsets of past visitors who demonstrated clear initial interest deserve tailored remarketing focus first.

#3 Poorly Designed Visual Creatives

Even the most strategic remarketing media placements and audience targeting fail to register impact if the visual ad creatives or messages simply fail to capture user attention in a cluttered environment. Weak, generic copy and images get lost in the noise.

Tailor your remarketing visuals and messaging to align with different audience segments and their stage in the conversion funnel. Visitors who only briefly checked out a product page require different creative than those who made it deep into the checkout flow before abandoning their cart.

Continuously test various ad creative concepts, layouts, formats, placements, offers etc. through multivariate experiments to determine optimal combinations that generate the highest click-through and conversion rates from your remarketing audiences. Avoid taking a spray and pray approach to creative.

#4 Relying Solely on Pixel-Based Remarketing Campaign

Many brands anchor their entire remarketing strategy on basic third-party cookie tracking via a site tag or ad network pixel. However, disruptions like increased consumer use of cookie blocking browsers, privacy regulations etc. continue eroding this tactic over the long-run.

A stronger foundation is developing first-party data remarketing capabilities as a complement using authenticated identifiers you own like integrating CRM data into customer match lists. This enables owned, permissioned remarketing across channels to reduce dependency on third-party cookies.

Leveraging logins and matching via email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers etc. sustains remarketing targeting as cookies decline. Don’t keep all your data and tracking confined within walled gardens. Seek to diversify and control remarketing data.


#5 Not Personalizing Messaging

Remarketing often fails to move beyond generic messaging about sales or offers. But personalization and tailoring messages to individual behavioral and CRM insights lifts performance markedly.

Leverage data you know about each customer like past purchases, browsing history, interests etc. to customize follow-up remarketing across channels with relevant recommendations and offers. Dynamic creative optimization mixes tailored variables.

Email follow-up remarketing benefits enormously from personalized subject lines, content and calls to action tied to the recipient’s history and preferences.

#6 Remarketing Campaign Without Value Exchange

Some brands make the mistake of continually remarketing the same brands, products or content a user previously saw without any added value. This quickly annoys audiences.

To capture attention, ensure remarketing campaigns provide an explicit value exchange through exclusive deals, sales promos, must-read content etc. tailored to the specific segment targeted. Give customers a compelling reason to re-engage.

Don’t simply advertise at visitors again without offering them anything new. Demonstrate relevance through personalized value.

#7 Lacking Cross-Device Tracking

Users jump across smartphones, desktops, tablets and other connected devices daily. But many brands lack adequate tracking and identity linkage to remarket across these devices cohesively.

Look to cross-device tracking solutions and Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) that use authenticating factors like email logins, phone numbers etc. to unify consumer identities across screens.

This prevents ineffective repetition of ads across devices and enables true omnichannel sequencing of tailored messages. Seeking to fill tracking gaps is vital.

#8 Failing to Measure Incrementality

Determining the true incremental lift generated by remarketing remains challenging. Many brands assume effectiveness rather than quantifying it.

Isolate impact using exposed vs. control groups that allow comparing remarketing on/off performance independently of other factors. Sound incrementality analysis is the foundation of optimization.

Sophisticated attribution modeling to account for multi-touch conversions beyond just last click also helps gauge remarketing’s influence accurately at each funnel stage. Don’t operate blindly.

#9 Not Optimizing for the Buyer’s Journey

Often remarketing employs, a spray and pray approach without considering the different stages of the buyer’s journey website visitors are at when ads are displayed.

Tailor messaging and offers specifically to the needs of visitors at each funnel stage – cold traffic, product researchers, cart abandoners, repeat customers etc. Guide different segments through the stages with appropriate follow-up.

Look to onboard cold traffic first with educational messaging rather than hard-sells. Make optimization for the buyer’s journey an ongoing priority.

#10 Neglecting Negative Keywords

Broad targeting and creatives often result in irrelevant impressions being served to users already loyal or disinterested. Negative keywords help prevent this wasted spend.

Analyze your audiences and inventory management data to systematically identify negative keywords indicating unqualified traffic to exclude across search, social, and display networks through active optimization.

Don’t serve repetitions to existing customers. Leverage analytics insights to guide both inclusion and exclusion targeting as optimization. Poor targeting invites fatigue.

Key Takeaways on Driving Remarketing ROI

The key lessons for effective remarketing include:

  • Establish specific measurable goals and continuously optimize efforts to meet them
  • Balance target scale with tight relevance using rich data like CRM and observed behaviors
  • Test tailored creatives aligned to audience segment needs at each funnel stage
  • Build future-proofing capabilities like CRM-powered first-party data remarketing
  • Personalize messaging with insights from each user’s history and preferences
  • Exchange tangible value through deals and exclusives rather than untargeted ads
  • Unify experiences across devices with cross-screen identity resolution
  • Quantify incrementality of remarketing through statistical testing and attribution
  • Make optimization across the entire buyer’s journey an ongoing priority
  • Leverage negative keywords and suppression to avoid budget waste

With strategic deployment and ongoing optimization informed by data, remarketing transforms awareness into conversions across the entire customer lifecycle. Avoid common mistakes for greater impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are some early signs my remarketing campaigns aren’t working?

Indicators like low click-through rates, high cost per conversion, poor attribution, and minimal sales lift indicate suboptimal targeting, creatives or overall strategy.

Q. How much budget should I allocate to remarketing?

Aim for 20-40% of overall digital ad spend for most brands. Gauge incrementality lift vs. other channels and adjust budget between them accordingly.

Q. How many times should I remarket to the same user?

Limit remarketing frequency to 2-4 exposures per week maximum to avoid fatigue unless subsequent messages are highly tailored and valuable.

Q. Should I manually exclude existing customers from remarketing?

Yes, suppress your current customer lists from remarketing ads to avoid wasting budget re-engaging those already loyal.

Q. Is there a best time frame for deploying remarketing?

Begin remarketing immediately after site visits while interest remains fresh rather than waiting weeks. But stagger deployments to nurture visitors.

Q. How long should remarketing campaigns run for?

Plan for a minimum of 2-3 months’ duration, though ongoing always-on remarketing tends to perform best by sustaining awareness.

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