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Sorry Mom, I’m the One Following You with Ads

by Workshop Team   |   Feb 15, 2016

In my experience as a Pay-Per-Click professional, trying to explain to people how I work with “The Google” not at “The Google” is always a fun conversation. It’s a lot of conversations that start, “You know when you Google something...” or “You know when you look at a product, then you see it everywhere?” I always enjoy watching their eyes widen as they slowly realize what I am describing is sometimes the bane of their online existence, or at least that's what they think. Another part of me really loves when I get to look at them in the face and say, “Yes, yes I do know you want those shoes you looked at but didn’t buy. I am just trying to give you the nudge to go for it.”

So let me start off by saying to the moms/cousins/grandparents/friends who don’t work in digital advertising and understand remarketing, I’m sorry you feel like I am (kinda) following you on the internet with ads. Now that I have officially apologized for all digital marketers out there, let me explain to you how this black magic works and why you should view it as a good thing.

How it Works

Before I can tell you why you should appreciate these advertisements, I should tell you how we follow you around the internet with ads. When you visit a website or mobile app that has remarketing enabled, the code places cookies in your browser that contain data about your last visit to the site, including which pages you visited. Before you run and block all cookies, understand that, to some degree, they are your online memory bank that makes your life easier.

Cookie information may put you into a specific targeting group, which allows us to provide the most relevant ads possible. If you already purchased the products you looked at, we don’t want to show you ads pushing you to buy those products. However, if you add a bunch of items to your shopping cart but don’t purchase them, we might want to show you ads containing those products to remind you of past interest.

To keep that purchase or brand top of mind, we show you ads on the Google Display Network, which is a large collection of websites that offer blank banner space on pages for Google to place ads. Using our bulk targeting lists and your browser’s cookies, Google pairs up the most relevant ads for you as you move across websites.

The Benefits

While you might not realize it, I would bet that at some point, a remarketing campaign helped make your life a little easier. For customers, there are two big benefits to remarketing:

  1. Top of Mind

    Remarketing keeps a website top of mind, so you don’t have to rely on your memory for every site you've visited. Say you're going on vacation soon and need to board your dog Fluffy. You start looking around at pet boarding locations to find just the right place. You find a place you really like but decide that it's too early to schedule anything, so you hold off for now. Even though you didn’t write down the name of the place, when it comes time to book you recall the website since you consciously and subconsciously observed their ads for the past week.
  2. Coupons Galore

    Especially for ecommerce websites, most advertisers have a remarketing group specifically for people that add items to the shopping cart but don’t purchase anything. This is a highly sought-after group: You displayed a strong interest for particular items and are more likely to purchase than other visitors. In this case, advertisers sometimes offer special coupons and discounts to draw you back to complete the purchase.


Like a lot of other professions out there, there are people that misuse these tactics and make the rest of us look bad. In these cases, they often don’t set frequency caps (how many times a person is shown the ad) or exclude people who already completed the purchase. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do except try to teach the world how remarketing truly works.

If you are stalked beyond belief and think you are ready to pop, clear your cookies and never, ever return to that website.


We've all had a bad experience with ads following us, but as tools and professionals become more sophisticated, the creepy side of remarketing should decline. Our goal is not to make you feel uncomfortable but to help you remember our clients' brands and return when the time is right for you.

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Workshop Team