Article Updated: June 12, 2020
Note: There were some components of this article updated to improve data and information. The majority of the content has remained the same from its original publish date in May of 2019.
I knew something wasn’t right when it came to the retargeting ads I created for a client. After analyzing the data, our client was getting a large amount of clicks and impressions from their retargeting campaign, which didn’t make sense based on the amount of website traffic their site received.
If you are unfamiliar with a retargeting advertisement, they are online display ads shown to visitors who came to your website, but leave without acting.
What’s retargeting? Let’s say you visit Wal-Mart looking for a lawn mower. You decide to leave their site without making a purchase. Suddenly, when reading a news article, you’re getting served ads from Wal-Mart for that exact lawn mower. It’s not magic, it’s retargeting! Since you visited Wal-Mart’s site, they have the ability to track you based on pixel placed on their site, which means they can then serve ads to you across millions of other sites.
Related Blog: Benefit of Google Ads Responsive Display Ads
Analyzing the Data
If your website gets 100 visitors per day, retargeting should only account for an average of 8-10 clicks. This is based on data within our agency’s Adwords account.
What raised a red flag when auditing our client’s Google Ads account was that they were receiving hundreds of clicks per day from the retargeting campaign we created for them.
Below is a screenshot from the Google Ads account where we had the issue. The date range is set to May 18, 2019. The “all users” audience is the retargeting audience and there were 6 clicks in a day, which is normal for site receiving 100-200 visitors per day.
At the bottom under “total,” you’ll see there were an additional 154 clicks and 23,104 impressions during the same timespan one day coming from the same display campaign! I saw this data early in the morning on May 18, 2019. At this point in the day, our client’s website hardly received 200 visits so clearly something was wrong.
Be Careful About Audience Expansion – Google Can Trick You!
If you stumbled across this article, you are likely in a similar boat to where I was. You’re getting a lot of traffic for your retargeting campaign, which is unnatural based on the overall amount of visitors to your site. This is likely due to audience expansion being turned on. I’m going to tell you how to turn off audience expansion and save money which will improve performance! First, it’s important to understand what audience expansion is all about and how Google can trick you.
According to Google, “Audience expansion allows you to reach the audience that you want in a simple, goal-based way. With audience expansion, it’s easier for advertisers to reach more people that matter to their business and achieve their marketing goals with Google.”
Google’s definition of audience expansion sounds great but you must be careful. Many advertisers assume audience expansion is a part of retargeting. Google automatically selects audience expansion to “on” for your retargeting ads, which is what can cause a massive influx of clicks.
The purpose of this article is to save your business money while improving performance on your retargeting advertisements. With audience expansion, Google will try to find a similar audience but it will never match the quality of a retargeting audience. It’s a quick way for your business to burn through its budget.
Video and Step-By-Step Directions Below
I provided screenshots as to where you can locate Audience Expansion in your Google Ads account so you can easily turn it off, which in turn will help reduce the amount of retargeting clicks.
I also recorded a video. If you’re more of a visual learner, I logged into the Google Ads account for the client that had the issue and followed the exact steps outlined below.
According to Google, you should follow the steps below. I wanted to highlight each step to make it easier for you and add more clarification on the final step.
- Click Display campaigns in the navigation panel.
2. Find your campaign and click on it.
3. Click on the ad group you’d like to adjust targeting for
(Note: I was having the issue initially because I’d be looking for the settings at the campaign level and not the ad group level. Make sure you click into the ad group so you actually see your display campaign before clicking into settings, which is outlined in the next step)
4. Click Settings in the page menu.
5. Click Edit ad group targeting.
6. Turn off targeting expansion or change your settings to “no automated targeting”.
(Note: Depending on the way you set-up the campaign, it can be one of the two options but regardless, just turn this off.)
The steps outlined above should solve your problems if you were getting too many clicks from retargeting and couldn’t pinpoint how to fix the issue. If you are still having issues, feel free to contact an advertising specialist at our agency today!