So it’s a challenging question: remarketing ads can easily get creepy, as we’ve recently discussed.

The other day Ali asked me for some tips on how to do ad personalization without seeming creepy, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject with everyone.

My first piece of advice is to not reveal too much. Imagine seeing ads that say, “I know you’re pregnant…” or “Hi there, visitor from ObscureTown in StateName!” — by acknowledging directly the facts you know about them is almost-always creepy. That’s a big no-no.

But implying what you know, on the other hand.… now that is where the magic is! You want to say just enough, without saying too much.

It’s easier to say what not to do, than what to do. So here are a few ways to personalize ads without seeming creepy.

First: the most effective ads have a straight line in terms of subject-matter (and keyword) content from the phrase searched in Google (yes, this is in reference to search ads now) to the ad copy they see to the landing page they then click on and go to. So someone is searching for “product category” like (realistic example) “vitamin D”. You can take out ads with lots of different adjectives: “cheap vitamin D”, “organic vitamin D”, “overnight delivery of vitamin D”, “strong dose vitamin D”, etc. You can have the ad text on that adjective (“Need the most affordable Vit D?”), and then you can send them to a variation of your landing page that just is your same landing page but you just use the word “Affordable” all the time on that version of the page. Personalized and voila!

(Full disclosure: I’m working on software that is just a line of Javascript that makes creating lots of custom pages like this trivial!)

Also note a trick I did there: even though they searched for “cheap,” I used “affordable” in the ad text and landing page just because it feels less, well, cheap.

Now, there is a display tie-in, and the display tie-in is this: this same adjective… you can use it in the remarketing ads that follow them around. In the above example: if you see ads that say “affordable Vitamin D”–perfectly on-target, and not creepy, at all.