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Setting Up Retargeting in Google AdWords: The Secret of Ad Frequency and Duration

05 Jun 2018

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When it comes to retargeting ads, whether on Facebook or AdWords, there are two factors you have to figure out to be able to run successful campaigns that have the desired effect. Those factors are how long and how often you want to engage your visitors with your retargeting ads, i.e. the ad duration and ad frequency.

The two factors have to do with timing and when it comes to that, you want to optimize them well because neither too much nor too little exposure is good for you and your business.

The consequences of running a low number of ads are probably clear to everybody. Your business won’t get as much attention as it should and the remarketing ads won’t bring the customers you were hoping for.

But having too much exposure can result in negative effects as well. Showing your ads to the visitors too often may result in the so-called ad fatigue.

Ad Fatigue


This condition comes when a visitor sees too much of certain ad. The web users are exposed to the ad so often that they get used to it and stop paying attention. Then your ad is useless and you waste money with no effect.

But an even worse effect can happen when the high frequency of ads is combined with prolonged duration.

The visitors’ interest in your products generally declines over time. If they see your ad on the first few days after visiting your store, their interest and the chance to convert them are much higher than when they are exposed to the ad for weeks or months after their first visit.

And if you show your ad to them too often for a too long time period, you risk that their ad fatigue won’t just mean ignoring the ad but also irritation and a possible damage to their opinion of your brand. This will lead to a high spend on ads, and you may lose your customer forever.

So what are the optimal ad frequency and ad duration you should use for retargeting? As with most other topics, there is no correct answer to this question.

When it comes to the ad frequency, you want to show the ads as often as possible to get attention but not too often to annoy the customers. That is when frequency capping comes in handy.

Frequency capping

Frequency capping lets you set how often you want your visitors to see your ads. The setting of frequency capping is a very debatable topic. Even experts in the industry have different ideas about how many ads you should run. For example, people at retargeter.com suggest running around one ad per day, while wordstream.com suggest not to set frequency cap and let the ads run free. 

Our approach at ROI Hunter Easy is to find the optimal frequency cap for each of our users. As an online advertisement company that works with merchants all over the world, we have access to the data we need to find the sweet spot and the optimal frequency cap for our customers.

But we understand that some of you may want to do it by yourself or may want to learn what the best practice is.

We have the following advice for you: You don’t need to be overly shy with your ad frequency but we do advice to set some frequency cap because we know that ad fatigue does happen.


We recommend you to set your frequency cap based on your audience segmentation. You want to show the most ads to the people that recently went the furthest in the conversion path.

If you want to learn more about audience segmentation, check out this episode of our Ads Academy.

You can set your frequency cap in the following way:

Cart abandoners, 0-7 days ago - cap at 6 ads/day
Product viewers, 0-7 days ago - cap at 4 ads/day
Cart abandoners, 8-14 days ago - cap at 3 ads/day
Product viewers, 8-14 days ago - cap at 2 ads/day

When setting your frequency cap, you also need to take into account your budget because the more ads you show, the more money you spend.

If you operate under a tight budget, focus more on the recent visitors, especially the recent cart abandoners. They are most likely to be still interested in your product.

If you have time and want to specifically optimize your campaign, try to experiment a little. Try to set different frequencies for a short period of time (about a week) and see which one works best for you.

How will you know that your frequency works or your ads start to generate some ad fatigue?

The telling signs are the click-through rate and the cost per click indicators.

The more frequently you run your ads, the more you can see your CTR drop. You will also see the rise in your cost per click. This means you run ineffective ads for more money.

Our recent research has shown that after showing the same ad four times to the same visitor, the CTR drops by almost 20% in comparison to showing it just once. The rise in CPC was close to 60%.

So if you want to experiment with your frequency cap, remember to keep track of your CTR and CPC.

Ad duration

Ad duration is a similar case to ad frequency. The maximum time AdWords will let you retarget your visitors for is 540 days, after that the cookies are erased. Most e-commerce businesses don’t need and shouldn’t use the whole maximum time period though.

Try to think of what is your product about. If you sell socks, chances are that 30 days after the first visit, the visitor already bought socks somewhere. Advertising to such a person will probably be just a waste of money.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think of how long they need to make a purchase decision. If you sell shoes, clothes, bags or other fashion products, the time period will be probably around a week because shopping for fashion is generally impulsive and driven by emotions.

If you sell electronics or household appliances, the time period may be longer because customers usually need to do some research and think about their decision.

Unless you are in the business of selling cars, real estate or other thorough research demanding industry, we recommend you to set the ad duration no longer than 30-50 days.

But just like in the case of frequency cap, this is just a recommendation. To get the best results, you should experiment with the settings. You can try to change the periods from time to time, and see what it does to your conversions. Or you can set up two different audiences with different durations, and see which one performs better.

Working with thousands of merchants all over the world, we have learned that the best way to set up frequency capping and ad duration of a retargeting campaign is to take some time and think about how long the customers may need to make their purchase decision.

Then you have some starting points to find the right settings. If you have absolutely no idea and don’t know how long your customers might need, try to start with the numbers we gave you.

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