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The Truth About Google Ads Competitor Targeting

What is the truth about Competitor Retargeting?

The truth is: IT’S NOT POSSIBLE

Competitor Retargeting is the idea that you can target the people who have been to your competitor’s website. But unless you have your own tracking code on one of your competitor’s websites, this is impossible.

I’ve had enough people ask me about this, that I felt the necessity to tackle this topic. Hopefully, I can clear up where this idea came from and what the truth really is.

The sad fact is that some marketing agencies are actually selling the idea of “competitor retargeting”. From what I can tell, it’s mostly being sold by companies who don’t fully understand it themselves.

One example is from a local newspaper who was selling “competitor retargeting”. But they weren’t actually running the ads internally. They outsourced their online marketing to a third-party company, and that company may have even outsourced it a step further to someone who is actually running the campaigns.

So what we probably have here is similar to a telephone game. You know, that game where you whisper in someone’s ear and then it goes on down the line? And by the time you get to the last person, the original message is completely distorted.

I think that might be what’s happening. So by the time a salesman is talking about “competitor retargeting”, he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about, and he thinks its something that’s actually possible.

Now let’s see where this idea came from. Google has a targeting feature called Custom Affinity Audiences. Now let’s look inside the Google ads dashboard and we’ll see what google has to say about this. With Custom Affinity Audiences, you can:

So Google is not saying anything here about showing your ads to people who have been to those websites. They’re just going to show your ads to the people who are similar to the people who have been to those websites.

Let’s go a little deeper and see what these lists of people actually look like. So for this example, I’m using my own website as the URL. I’m entering: Here you can see that Google is creating a list of topics based on the content of my website.

So they have:

  1. Search Engine Optimization& Marketing,
  2. Advertising & Marketing,
  3. Marketing
  4. Business & Productivity Software.

You can see they’ve done a pretty good job of analyzing my website and listing the topics that are prevalent on my website. And what they do from there is create an audience of people who are interested in these same topics.

But take a look at the size of this audience. These are the number of weekly impressions that Google says I can get from this list. One billion to five billion impressions!

This is just too broad! If you want to target a list of my customers (the people who come to my website), it’s going to be a lot smaller than this. You’d never be able to get a billion impressions a week out of the people who are coming to my website. So what I’ve found is that these audiences that Google is building, based on the URL’s that you’re entering, are just too broad. They’re not specific enough. Google probably has the technology to make these audiences a lot more specific, but that’s not what’s happening in this case. They’re targeting far too broadly.

Bottom line:

Competitor retargeting is simply not possible!

To learn more about targeting and Google ads, including the most effective targeting options available, check out my advanced Google Ads training. I go deep into audience targeting, interest targeting, and other types of targeting. So you can see what works and what doesn’t.

The link to my Advanced Google Ads training: