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Frequency Capping in AdWords Retargeting Campaigns

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Fall is officially here and seasonal advertising is kicking in. As usual, when we start the march toward the holidays, the advertisers dust off their PPC jackets and see what tricks they can pull out of the sleeves to improve upon their performance from last year.

One thing seems to be getting a fair amount of attention right now is retargeting. As people have noticed over the past year that ads are following them around the internet many are curious and inclined to dip their toes in the water. Now, savvy paid search advertisers have been involved with retargeting for years across the various display networks but as Google tossed their hat into the ring last year it seems more and more prevalent with a lower barrier for entry.

I hear more and more people talking about how creepy it is having ads following them everywhere they go and, at times, I admit it feels like certain companies might actually be stalking me on my daily web browsing. But as talk fades and the PPC people step to the forefront it might be a good time to talk about something that will put the shackles on Big Brother while boosting your engagement – something that surprisingly few people do with these AdWords retargeting campaigns: set frequency capping.

What is Frequency Capping?

A frequency cap (also known as an impression cap) allows an advertiser to limit the max amount of times that your ad will be shown to a user over a period of time. Google allows you to specify this on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

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Why Would You Want to Set a Cap?

Aside from people not knowing that they have the ability to cap the frequency of their ads, this seems to be the question I get next. Their logic here is that it's a PPC ad so while it might make sense to cap this if you were paying on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions), why would you want to cap it when you're only paying for clicks?

The answer lies somewhere deep in your branding. Retargeting, by its nature, is a very powerful tool. After someone has interacted with your site in a way specified by you, they can then have more personalized advertising displayed to them on other sites.

You must remember though, that no one likes to be harassed. In fact if you sell yourself too hard or too frequently it can, over time have a negative impact on your brand.

Additionally, although length of time between displays is a factor, we have seen that with each ad impression a user sees, your chances for a click through starts to diminish. That means that interested users will tend to re-engage with you sooner rather than later. So, if you're still following around a user 72 times a day, four months after they accidentally visited a page on your site, chances are you aren’t doing it right.

Setting up frequency caps in AdWords is fairly straightforward:

  1. Select your campaign
  2. Choose the Settings tab.
  3. Scroll all the way to Advanced settings then click Edit next to Frequency capping.frequency-cap-retargeting

What Should Your Frequency Cap be Set at For Remarketing Ads?

Unfortunately there is no simple, direct answer. Each campaign is likely going to be different depending on its goals so just move into each with that in mind. In the end, your metrics and conversions will be the deciding factor on what your caps should be set and when.

Just like everything in PPC: Test. Test. Test!

Do you have any best practices or experience with frequency capping that you would like to share? We would love to hear and learn from you in the comments below!


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