Understanding Remarketing from Google and More

Health IS Technology Blog

Understanding Remarketing from Google and More

Retargeting or Remarketing Concept

Remarketing or retargeting, is a technique used by advertisers to bring ads to customers who have already shown interest in their website, products, or services.

For example, let’s say you’re searching for a new video camera on Amazon and you find one that you really like. You’ll likely scroll through all of the photos, read the ratings, and maybe even add it to your online shopping cart. But then, you decide against the purchase and click away to Facebook. As you’re scrolling through your timeline (e.g. personalized news), you see an ad for the exact camera you were considering on Amazon. This is remarketing. If you have an Amazon account, you might even receive an email with a subject line such as, “Forget Something?”

Retargeting Email

Receiving emails like these might seem invasive, but the truth is that they can be incredibly persuasive in convincing customers to purchase the items they’ve viewed.

Notice how in the example above, the Converse remarketing efforts include even more enticing wording like the very trendy ‘treat yo’self ‘ phrase. They also try to hook the customer by assuring them that it will be easy to return the item if they don’t like it, so why not give it a go? For a business, these subtle tricks are extremely effective. As a consumer, though, you might not be thrilled to be reminded of something you’d already had the willpower to refuse.

So how does remarketing work, and how do businesses track the activity of individual visitors? Let’s take a look.

Remarketing Through Google’s Ad Services

One of Google’s ad services is called, AdWords. Through AdWords, businesses can pay to create and administer their own advertisements down to the word choice, targeted demographics, targeted interests, and more. These purchased ads are then fed into Google’s other ad service, AdSense. If you have a website, YouTube channel, etc. you can implement AdSense to display advertisements to your users. As an AdSense customer, businesses are paid based on the amount of traffic (e.g. the number of people visiting them online) they maintain, while with AdWords businesses are essentially paying for additional traffic from ads. In other words:

  • AdWords: Allows you to advertise to customers and increase traffic to your websites, etc.
  • AdSense: Enables you to earn money for displaying ads on your website, etc.


In order for business to remarket, they need to add a specific AdWords code to their website. This code enables their site to use browser cookies to log user activity. This sounds invasive and threatening, but it really isn’t, I promise. Browser cookies are used on most sites (you’ve probably seen the disclaimers pop up on certain pages) for multiple purposes. Google says the following about cookies:

“Turning cookies on makes it easier for you to browse the web. Cookies are files created by websites you’ve visited, which store information, like the language you prefer or profile information.”

Google Analytics uses cookies and websites use them to remember your login information if you request it. The Cookie Law is a piece of legislation in Europe that requires websites to get consent from users to use cookies as a way of storing their information. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a similar law in the United States. Take a look at TheCookieLaw.org’s cookie disclaimer text introduction, which appears like this for reference:

Disclaimer Intro

The disclaimer reads, “We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more or switch them off if you prefer. However, by continuing to use the site without changing the settings, you are agreeing to our use of cookies”.

Always be wary of logging your information online, though, regardless of whether your presented with a disclaimer or not.

To get a glimpse into who is remarketing to you, take a look at the website http://whoisretargeting.me/. With six different boxes for AdSense, you can see the bulk of advertisements that are destined for you at one time. Are you surprised by what you see? 98% of the ads that I see are from websites that I’ve visited or searched for within the last week.

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Bekah Witten
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Bekah is the content writer for the University of South Florida department of Information Technology.