Un-Marketing: The Art of Not Showing Your Ads to Lower Cost

by | Feb 18, 2016 | Actionable SEO Tips, PPC

by Grant Perry, AIM.

Gain more customers through re-marketingRemember the pair of shoes you browsed on Amazon that followed you around the web for the next month? Or the shopping cart you abandoned and have since been flooded with emails and ads urging you to return and complete the sale.

That’s remarketing.

Loathe it or love it, if done right remarketing should mean more relevant ads for users and better results for marketers. Done wrong it can be annoying or downright creepy.

But that’s not exactly what I want to talk to you about today. In fact, I want to take a look at the flip side…

Like most direct response marketers I’m generally obsessed with trying to show the right message…to the right person…at the right time.

Advertising platforms, like Google AdWords and Facebook, allow some incredibly refined targeting options to achieve that goal. The ability to target audiences, devices, times, locations and other elements allow savvy marketers to reach people who are closely aligned to their target market and most likely to respond.

Remarketing (or retargeting as it’s often called) is an increasingly popular strategy to show your ads to a pre-qualified audience. You can, for instance, show ads (or trigger emails) to people who have abandoned your order form…visited your website but didn’t signup for your e-letter…or who are already on your free email list but haven’t yet become a paying customer.

But there’s an often forgotten aspect of remarketing (and some other techniques I’ll also cover below) that can be used to exclude certain audiences from seeing your messages too.

I call it Un-Marketing.
I’ll get into a little of the how in a moment but, perhaps more importantly, let’s look at why you’d want to do this.

Lower Your Costs…Reduce Your Risk of the Advertising Slap

Brand advertisers tend to use more of a shotgun approach. They’re looking to reach as large an audience as possible with little concern for a measurable action. In the direct response world we love to bring in a large volume of leads and customers too. But we recognise it’s critical to be more focused in our targeting, especially initially before we scale to a wider audience.

Who: The Right Person

Let’s say you’re promoting a newsletter offering financial advice for Americans. You might start with a core audience of men over 50 who live in the US and search for terms like “financial advice”. But some of those people are likely already readers of your publication. It doesn’t make sense to show them ads for something they already have.

You’re likely familiar with how this technique is used for email marketing. It’s pretty standard practise to suppress your current paid subscribers from seeing your promotional broadcasts for that product.

And what about those people who used to be readers but have since unsubscribed? Unless you’re considering a re-engagement campaign to lure them back (if you’ve improved your gauntlet, e-letter or have more products to offer that may make sense) you probably want to exclude them from seeing your ads also. Those people who no longer wanted your content are not likely to signup and are more likely to mark your ad as spam or comment negatively.

It’s not just audiences known to you that you may want to exclude though. Let’s say you have a free report on Gold Investing that you’re using as a lead magnet for your financial e-letter. A broad search term like “gold” could trigger your ad for someone searching about how to sell off their gold jewellery – not your ideal prospect. That’s where you can utilise negative keywords to exclude those irrelevant searches.

By Un-Marketing you can further refine the list of people you target which will reduce your ad spend, improve your conversion rates and ultimately lower your cost per acquisition (CPA).

An additional benefit is to reduce ad complaints which can cause ads to be disapproved and even accounts suspended. And no one wants to feel the cold, unforgiving hands of the Google or FB “slap”.

By making your ads as relevant as possible your click through rate (CTR) will improve and you’ll boost your Quality Score on AdWords and Relevancy Score on Facebook. Those higher scores will give you a discount on your cost per click.

Where: The Right Place

It’s not just audiences you may want to exclude. You can choose which devices your ads should show on – or not – or adjust the bidding for those devices.

If your landing pages aren’t mobile responsive it may be best to advertise only on desktop computers. If you’re running an offer for a paid subscription you might find it a challenge to get people’s attention on a smart phone and to pull out a credit card to enter on that small screen.

Conversely, if you’re promoting your new app excluding desktop may be a good move. Sophisticated options now include the ability to target only certain operating systems or even specific brands and models. If you’re promoting an app that’s only available on Apple you’ll want to select iOS devices and exclude Android. Maybe you’re promoting a video and only want to show it to people on a Wi-Fi connection to ensure a good quality experience. Yep, you can do that.

You know those annoying ads on a website or app on your phone you accidentally click on? Yeah, that’s just as irritating for an advertiser because you just paid for a click that will never convert. That’s one of the reasons I almost always exclude ads from showing on mobile devices or on apps on display networks.

Devices aren’t the only component of where someone sees your ad. Placements can be an issue too.

You may find certain websites aren’t appropriate regardless of device. They may not be suitable simply because they’re not converting or possibly you don’t want to be associated with that site or topic. Of course you can lower bids or even exclude them if they are really not working for you.

When: The Right Time

Consider the when factor too. Day-parting provides the ability to eliminate (or adjust bids for) days of the week or times of the day if you find poor converting periods.

Ok, hopefully you can see the merit in why you may want to limit your ads to the right audience, device, placement and time and exclude the wrong people from seeing your message.

Now, onto the how. With so many different techniques it’s beyond the scope of this article to go into all of them in great detail. At AIM we’re fans of the “ready, fire, aim” approach which means you shouldn’t worry about doing everything perfectly. Start with the most important areas and refine and improve as you go.

So, here are some of the most important or obvious methods.

3 Steps to Ensure the Wrong People Don’t See Your Ads

1. Exclude them

A couple of years ago Facebook launched Custom Audiences which allows you to upload emails or phone numbers from your database. It was a huge innovation, allowing advertisers to target customers to sell them more or to convert free readers into buyers. It also allowed you to build lookalike audiences to reach people similar to those lists.

Understandably marketers were pretty excited by all this. So when FB rolled out the ability to also exclude those audiences it was perhaps lost in all the fireworks. But it’s an easy method to execute.

At the Adset level simply select “Exclude” from the drop down list (rather than the default “Include”) as shown below.

Google remarketing: Excluding audiences or Un-Marketing

Twitter offers a similar feature called Tailored Audiences. AdWords was a little later to the party, not until late 2015 when they launched Customer Match. After uploading your email lists in the shared library you can then exclude them from your targeting at the Campaign or Adgroup level. Currently this is only available on Search, YouTube and Gmail and not the Display Network.

Keep in mind – unlike supressing a segment in your email broadcasts – you won’t exclude everyone on your uploaded email lists. Each ad platform can only match with those people who use that same email address to login to their services. Typically you’ll find about a 50% match of your email file on FB and AdWords. On Twitter that may well be much lower, perhaps only around 10% depending on your target audience.

To improve your odds you can create a remarketing list of people who have visited the online confirmation page for that offer, such as signing up for your free e-letter. And, as with the methods above, ensure you exclude this group of people from seeing those ads too.

Facebook offers a huge variety of other exclusion targeting beyond custom email or web audiences too. You can exclude certain interests or fans of your page for instance.

2. Don’t let them find you

Negative keywords are still incredibly powerful and a vital pillar of AdWords success. You can use negative keywords to ensure certain search terms don’t trigger your ad to be shown.

3. Qualify them with copy

There’s another way to reduce your spend on the wrong person too. It won’t stop them from seeing your ad but it can discourage them from clicking on it and therefore costing you.

That’s simply by making your ad copy as transparent as possible. There’s a temptation to focus on an ad that will encourage a click and drive a high click through rate (CTR). It’s true that will drive more traffic and is a factor in a good AdWords quality score. But if you mislead someone or encourage someone to click who is unlikely to convert you’re wasting money…and potentially causing you issues if they complain or mark your ad as spam.

It’s always best practise to make your ad relevant to the keyword or audience target and the landing page relevant also. A somewhat extreme approach is mentioning your call to action in the ad itself. e.g. Get your free Gold Report when you subscribe to our free e-letter. Or Get the Best Financial Tips. Subscription Required. Now, this will also certainly reduce volume but it will result in very qualified traffic. It will also be super compliant with ad policies and be much less likely to get you shut down.

The Moral of the Story: Un-Marketing Refines Your Targeting For Better Results

To wrap up – and let you get back to that pair of cowboy boots that’s stalking you on the internet, urging you to reconsider buying on Amazon – these are just a few approaches to the art of Un-Marketing. I’ve focused on the advertising platforms but the same principles apply to all aspects of your marketing including the calls to actions or offers on your own website or email marketing.

The ability to run ads to the right person – and exclude the wrong people – is becoming increasingly sophisticated and is widely open to your imagination and creativity in using those ad platform tools. Hopefully this has given you some food for thought when creating advertising campaigns. I’d love to hear your comments or learn of any approaches you might be taking too.


Grant Perry

Grant Perry
Marketing Director, AIM

P.S I realise the options can sometime be overwhelming so please reach out if you have any questions to help you get started with your Marketing – and Un-Marketing – strategies.