Dynamic remarketing vs. recommendation system

Dynamic remarketing for ecommerce

Dynamic remarketing was available for shopping campaigns at AdWords, so only ecommerce sites could use dynamic remarketing feature. I have managed many ecommerce website’s AdWords account where I used dynamic remarketing and usually I reached higher ROI than account average. Since dynamic remarketing shows exact item details in ads, AdWords needs to use a standard feed with item parameters. For an ecommerce website that is not a big deal to create a product feed what you can upload to Google Merchant Center which serves your dynamic remarketing campaign at AdWords with product feed.

dynamic remarketing

Dynamic remarketing for classified websites

That looks great and solution is not too complex, but what happens if I am managing a travel agency PPC campaign and I would like to use dynamic remarketing? I can not upload my offer feed to Google Merchant Center, however my offer feed contains some similar parameters like price. As another example what could be the solution if I have a real estate agency, I have a listing feed about real properties, but I can not run a dynamic remarketing campaign. Until September we had to accept this situation that we can run dynamic remarketing only for ecommerce sites, but we had another option, we had to use a recommendation system.

What is recommendation system?

In my previous blogpost I explained what is a recommendation system and why that is useful. As I described if non-ecommerce website wanted to show exact item details in their ads instead of general ads they need to use a recommendation system. For example I have a car listing website. Visitor A visited a details page of BMW 530d and visitor B visited details page of BMW 328i. In a remarketing campaign I could create a BMW banner ad and show it to both visitor, but it would be better to show BMW 530d cars to visitor A and BMW 328i cars to visitor B in my ads.

Dynamic remarketing for other industries

Google rolled out dynamic remarketing in this September for many other industries, so they provide marketers with similar solution like many other recommendation system vendors have developed. Furthermore if you want to use a recommendation system vendor service you have to pay for that. On the other hand dynamic remarketing is a free service at AdWords.

Dynamic remarketing vs. recommendation system

So if I am using a recommendation system vendor service do I need to change to dynamic remarketing, because that provides me with a similar service for free? We can not say that now?

  • We don’t have any A/B test result where we ran a recommendation system vs. dynamic remarketing, so we don’t have any data about ROI.

  • You have more flexibility to create ad layout if you work with a recommendation system vendor

  • If you don’t spend all of your digital marketing budget on AdWords you need to keep in mind dynamic remarketing is only available on AdWords. You need to serve personalized ads at other ad networks.

In the next few weeks I will work on to setup an A/B test for dynamic remarketing and recommendation system and I am going to share results with you.

Recommendation System at Google AdWords

Google AdWords remarketing feature developed a lot in the past years. Nowadays we are able to setup well-targeted remarketing campaigns and based on campaign metrics they are running really well. Different remarketing list creation rules like URL based rule, tag based rule or custom combination rule allow us to create specific segments and reach visitors with the right messages. On the other hand this logic has a limitation, let me explain with an example why I consider this limitation.

Let’s say we have a classified website for used car listing and I want to reach those visitors who didn’t send an email to my advertisers. To define this segment is really easy, because I just need to exclude converted visitors, but what will my message? Visit mycarwebsite.com and lead them to the main page? It’s too general, my past visitors won’t click on this ad. So what will be the next step to segment my past visitors who didn’t convert?


We need to use a segmentation criteria, I recommend to choose the brand name. In this case I will know about my past visitor who didn’t convert that he is interested in about a BMW, so I can create a remarketing ad for BMW and I am going to lead him on BMW landing page. Probably he is interested in a BMW 320, but on the landing page will contain many other types of BMWs, so landing page relevancy won’t be the best for him. Let’s dig deeper to serve him with more relevant ad and more relevant landing page.


That means we need to use model number as a second criteria, so we are going to come up with BMW 320 ad and we will show BMW 320 cars on landing page. It seems we created a good remarketing system which is true, but we have many other opportunities what we can not serve with this system.


Currently we can use only a standard banner or text ad for BMW 320, but imagine that how effective would be if we can come up with exact items and our ad will contain the brand, model number, price and exact picture of this car and this item list is up to date. That would be more impressive, because that is an ad with an exact offer instead of a general ad for a specific segment.

Furthermore many customers don’t have a brand preferences, they just want to buy a 4 year old car with a 20,000 dollar price. How can I target this segment with a remarketing campaign? It would be too difficult to setup a remarketing campaign at AdWords for each criteria like brand, model, fuel type, price, year, vehicle type, etc. That is the point where recommendation system will help us to run effective remarketing campaigns.

If you want to run ads served by a recommendation system that means you are going to use third party ads at Google AdWords. You can not upload third party ads on AdWords interface, first you need to choose a vendor who has an agreement with Google and they are allowed to upload third party ads. Currently I am using Gravity’s recommendation system and I have a great experience with this vendor.

When you sign up for a recommendation system you need to share your database with vendor, so they will know all necessary information about your items in real-time, so you won’t come up ads with deleted items and you can also show your latest items. Then you need to implement a code to your website (similar like AdWords remarketing code), so your vendor can track your each visitor user behaviour to show personalized ads.

If you setup everything with your vendor and your recommendation based ads are ready to launch Google will implement third party ads to your AdWords account. You can handle this ad like a text or a banner ad, so you will able to use all AdWords features with extremely relevant ad thanks to your new recommendation system.

You only need to create a general remarketing campaign what we discussed at the beginning of this blog post. Exclude your converted visitors, so you will target those past visitors who didn’t convert on your website, but recommendation system will take care about to create personalized ads based on each visitor preferences.

If you have a classified or an ecommerce website where you have thousands of items with many criteria and you want to increase your remarketing campaign effectiveness I recommend to use a recommendation system. Since this topic is quite complex and probably you have some question about this solution, feel free to post it as a comment!