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What Is Retargeting?

July 6, 2016

What Is Retargeting

We’ve all seen it – You check out a website, you leave, and then all of sudden you start seeing ads for that website everywhere you look. I’m sure you’re used to it by now.

Retargeting, also known as Remarketing (these are interchangeable in the digital marketing world), is the practice of tagging your website visitors with an anonymous cookie that tracks behavioral data and “follows” the user around the web.

Advertisers can segment out cookied visitors into audiences that can be broad (such as All Website Visitors) or super-targeted (such as Cart Abandoners). As long as the cookie is active on the users’ browser, advertisers have the ability to serve retargeting ads to them.

Retargeting can be implemented through a variety of digital platforms including Google AdWords, Google Analytics, Facebook advertising, Twitter advertising, Bing ads, AdRoll, Perfect Audience, Criteo, and more. LinkedIn will soon release UET code implementation that is assumed to allow retargeting functionality as well.

How Retargeting Works

In today’s noisy online marketplace where users are prone to comparison shop before making a purchase, retargeting / remarketing is a necessary component of any online marketing initiative.

Why Use Retargeting?

I don’t know… It seems kind of creepy, doesn’t it? Won’t my customers be turned off if they think I’m collecting their information and following them around on the internet?

I won’t deny that some people are uncomfortable with the Big Brother idea of retargeting, but it’s safe to say that if someone is uncomfortable with the thought of being followed around by ads, they probably also have serious trust issues when it comes to buying anything on the internet. And if you’re targeting these types of individuals, you are most likely wasting your time.

I also want to be clear that advertisers are not actually collecting personal information by tagging users with a cookie. In fact, platforms such as Google AdWords have very strict policies that prevent the collection of sensitive information.

Consider this:

A study by Neilson found that for major brands, it took users 6 visits on average before they made a purchase.

MAJOR brands. Trusted brands.

If it takes users 6 visits to make a purchase from a website that has reached Household Name status, then why would anyone ever buy from you?

Well that’s ridiculous. I get sales from first-time visitors all the time!

Same. But 98% of the time, your visitors are leaving your website without performing your desired action.

Consider your own behavior on the internet. Each time you visit a website, are you making a purchase or performing some sort of action that is generating bottom line revenue to the person that operates the website? Probably not.

There are many factors that contribute to a purchase decision.

Even if you are offering the perfect product to a potential customer for the perfect price, many factors are at play beyond your control. Perhaps the user was doing preliminary research for new accounting software but needs to wait until the start of the next fiscal year to move forward with it. Maybe they stumbled upon your product on their smartphone while waiting for the subway. Or maybe they’re just too damn tired after a long day of work to actually commit to buying something.

In order to get someone to convert on your website, they need to be in the right psychological mindset. If they’re not psychologically ready right now, that’s OK! You’ll just have to reach out to them when the time is right. And retargeting is the best way to do that.

Does Retargeting Work?


The average Click-Through-Rate (CTR) for an AdWords Display Campaign is around 0.07%, whereas the average CTR for an AdWords Remarketing Display Campaign is 0.7%! AdRoll, a popular retargeting platform, reports that 89% of retargeting campaigns are more effective than standard display campaigns.

But if you want to have truly profitable retargeting campaigns, it’s not as simple as showing a static ad to just every person that has ever visited your website. Effective retargeting strategies consider the level of engagement by previous website visitors to make educated and profitable decisions on how you want to treat users as they continue to surf the web, use search engines or social media, check their email, etc., after they leave your website.

You can decide which audiences are of a higher quality and bid more aggressively on them. You will choose how and when to target your users, what message you want to send them, and ultimately, how you will bring this high-quality traffic back to your site at the right time for them to buy, sign up, or take whatever valuable conversion action you want them to take.

The Reality of Internet Behavior

If you have ever sold a product to a customer on their first visit, you either sell a very cheap product or there was a high motivation for impulse behavior. But even if this is true for you, I promise that you’re leaving money on the table.

Your customers WILL comparison shop. There is no stopping this.

Internet speeds are increasingly faster, and users have grown accustomed to aggressively clicking from site to site until they find exactly what they’re looking for. If you’re not strategically bringing these users back to your site at the right time, your website is nothing more than one stepping stone that users will take down your competitors’ conversion path.

Marketers need to start thinking about their retargeting campaigns in the same way they think about their email DRIP campaigns. The strategy should be the same, but with retargeting, you don’t have to cross your fingers and hope that your audience will actually see your message.

How To Get Started With Retargeting

If you have an agency managing your PPC accounts, reach out to them to discuss retargeting. Basic remarketing can easily be set up within an existing Google AdWords Account, Facebook Ads Manager, or Bing Ads Account. Third party platforms such as Criteo and Perfect Audience should only be considered once you are looking to explore unique retargeting opportunities.

If you’re managing your own online advertising efforts in-house and want to learn more about how retargeting works, or if you yourself are an agency looking to broaden your PPC knowledge base, I recommend checking out our brand new retargeting course on

Shameless Plug Time

Released in June of 2016, How Retargeting Works -The Complete Guide to Retargeting Ads! is the second Udemy Course published by AdVenture Media’s Co-Founder, Isaac Rudansky. Isaac’s first course, Ultimate Google AdWords Course 2016 – Stop SEO & Win with PPC! has quickly become to top rated business marketing course in the history of Udemy, and for good reason.

How Retargeting Works -The Complete Guide to Retargeting Ads! is the only online training course that will really teach you, step by step how to profitably re-engage with your abandoned website traffic, and to get them to come back to your site and do what you want them to do. Check out the video below for more information.

P.S. If you’re interested in the technical aspects of how retargeting works as it relates to demand side platforms (DSPs) working with Ad Exchanges and calling retargeting ads, click here to get an easy-to-understand overview.

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