Brad Geddes / PPC Geek
Official Google Ads Seminar Leader.
Author of Advanced Google AdWords.
Co-Founder, Adalysis.
(703) 828-5811‬
Brad Geddes's Theories on Marketing Are You Creeping Out Your Customers?

Are You Creeping Out Your Customers?


I was recently talking to a group of consumers (not search marketers) who had some very negative perceptions about a handful of brands.

In some cases, they use to be a fan of the brand, or at a minimum would buy continue buying from that brand. In other cases, they had never purchased from the brand before.

These negative feelings did not derive from product usage, social media, or even word of mouth.

These negative feelings had arisen because they felt the companies were haunting them.

No matter where they went, no matter what they did, the ads followed them around.

If you can’t control your ads, you may no longer be reaching your customers – you might be driving them away.

I did an experiment today. I went to eight sites I suspected of not controlling their ads well. Then I wandered around the web for an hour. Six of the eight sites showed me more than 100 ads in less than an hour.

The biggest culprit is remarketing ads. While remarketing ads are fantastic when used correctly, they can be harmful to your brand if not controlled. In today’s column, we will examine a few ways of controlling your display ads.

Frequency Capping

The easiest way to control your ad display is by capping the frequency in which you show your ads. Frequency is the number of times the same person can see one of your ads in a time frame.

By default, Google does not place frequency caps on ads. This is very simple to do. Navigate to your campaign settings. Under advanced settings, you can set a frequency cap.


If you are buying CPM from someone besides Google, make sure to set frequency cap. If you don’t, you could buy 1000 impressions and reach a total of 1 person.

Use Multiple Ad Themes or Offers

Most companies are pretty good about using multiple sizes within an ad group. However, those sizes are often for the same offer or theme, just resized to fit all of the ad format sizes.

If someone has seen the offer fifty times, the fifty-first impression is not going to be magical. Create a few offers, using completely different themes (look and feel of the ads) and place them in the same ad group. Now when you show your ad to the same person a few times (and showing someone an ad multiple times is fine – just control yourself), at least you are rotating the ad’s themes and offers. If offer one does not convert them, then maybe offer two will.

Use Topics Targeting to Refine Your Ad Displays

It is common to see someone research a cruise on the weekends while sitting with the spouse and thinking about their next vacation. Later in the day, that same person realizes their computer is getting old and they start to research computers. In another week or two, that same person might go back to researching cruises, but that could be an entire week.

While they are researching computers, they often don’t see computer ads, they are seeing vacation ads.

The vacation ad impressions are completely wasted at this point in time.

These silos of research are common and sometimes are referred to search sessions. It’s common to start with one session, find an answer or postpone the search and switch to a completely different train of thought for a while.

With remarketing you are reaching the person regardless of their current intent unless you filter your ads by topic (in this case travel) and your remarketing ads at the same time. You can easily use topic targeting to refine your remarketing lists so you are only showing ads when they are researching similar products or services to what you offer.

Use Negative Audience Lists

In my previous remarketing article, I detailed a way to reach back to customers a month or two after they bought from you with remarketing. However, after someone buys from you, they probably don’t want to see your ad another twenty times in the next two days. Use negative lists to stop your ad from showing to customers for a while. It is OK to reach out to them with new ads in the future, but do not annoy them in the meantime. If your company does not have repeat buyers, then use your negative lists to make sure you are not putting your ads in front of someone who will never be a customer again.

Control Your Ads

Displaying ads is easy. It takes just a couple minutes to add another ad to an ad group (or buy CPM from another company) and start showing ads across the web. Getting clicks to your site is a bit more  difficult as your ad needs a compelling offer, and needs to be shown at the correct time and place to the consumer. Getting customers from ads is even more difficult as your landing page needs to convince them to take an action.

Advertising is easy. Getting customer is no t – assuming that you have a chance of even converting the customer.

If you do not control your ads, you might annoy potential customers so much that they buy from your competitors because you drove them away with your incessant advertising.

Taking control of your advertising is a necessary step so that you are not just advertising; but you are acquiring new customers with your marketing efforts.


  1. andyt
    April 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm · Reply

    I literally spit coffee all over my monitor this morning when I saw the “we’re stalking you” ad.

    One of the cell phone carriers is “stalking me” even though I already signed up with them. I wish there was a “already converted” signal I could send to them, or measure in my own account.

    What about a “leave me alone about this topic” button??
    Great post, epic info.

  2. olafpijl
    September 25, 2012 at 11:10 am · Reply

    Hahaha! Just LOVE the fake ad! But you’ve hit the nail right on the head. There’s many consumer complaining about stalking behaviour, and that’s a great way to destroy your brand and the effect of your PPC campaigns.

    In my opinion, many businesses (and agencies, unfortunately) fail to implement retargeting to exclude converted visitors from the same campaigns that got them to convert in the first place.

    Don’t show them the same song and dance, show them something relevant to increase cross- and upsales, or exclude them from remarketing alltogether. Just don’t hang them out to dry!

  3. brad
    October 12, 2012 at 12:20 pm · Reply

    @poldberg Hmm – I don’t think you can as that type of frequency easily as it is targeted an individual user. Google doesn’t let you market to a single person; its always groups and cookies and not single people. So, I don’t think even with the API this would be possible without a lot of rules and thought.

    If you went crazy and did something like:
    On landing page, set 10 list cookies.
    Make a campaign for each list (frequency capping is at the campaign level).
    Campaign 1: List goes live for one day
    Campaign 2: List is people in list two but not one
    Campaign 3: List is for people in list 3, but not in one or two

    Then as each cookie expires, the person is removed from the list and then next list would become active.

    In *theory* that should work. In reality, it’d have to be tested to see how it functioned.

  4. poldberg
    October 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm · Reply

    @brad I like that plan, but probably more effort than it’s worth.

  5. poldberg
    October 12, 2012 at 12:04 pm · Reply

    The stalking ad graphic is great! It’d be interesting if you could have ads reduce geometrically after a cookie has been set, instead of just capped at a flat line. Like “up to 5” ads on day 1, “up to 4” on day 2, down to 1 every other day, and once a week. I wonder if Automated Rules mixed with Frequency Capping could make this happen, or if it would need to be deeper hooked into the API.

  6. brad
    October 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm · Reply

    That’s what I think. I’d need a very specific reason before I went to that extent. There might be one – but I don’t know what it is yet.

  7. poxc2006
    May 10, 2013 at 1:26 pm · Reply

    When I try to go to the forums, I just see a blank white page that says “siteforums”. I’ve tried in chrome, firefox, and IE; same result. Are the forums down? Or is it on my end?


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