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Retargeting definition

Retargeting (© boonchok /

Retargeting (© boonchok /

Also referred to as remarketing, retargeting is a type of online advertising that involves serving ads to people who have visited a website after they leave it. The advertisements served in retargeting can appear on various other websites on the internet and keep a brand in the forefront of bounced visitors in an effort to drive them back and increase the likelihood of converting.

The hope of every online marketer is that every person that visits their website will convert. However, in reality, only about 2 percent of web traffic converts on the first encounter. What if there was a way to keep those who visited your website interested in what your business has to offer and encourage them to come back convert? There is! How? – Through retargeting ads. This online marketing process is a tool that is intended to help business you reach the 98 percent of people who visited your site and didn’t convert the first time. The goal of this process is simple: increase conversions.

Retargeting Defined

Unlike typical display ads, the ads that are associated with retargeting are a form of targeted advertising. The ads are delivered to those who have already visited a website but didn’t convert. These ads are different than banner and display ads because they only target users that have visits your site in the past and have already had some experience with your brand. You can opt to target people who have visited a particular page on your site, such as a product or service page, or target anyone who has visited your entire site. Whichever way you choose to target your ads, with retargeting, you can guarantee that you are only spending your advertising dollars on people who have visited your site. In other words, with retargeting, your ads are reaching the perfect audience because these individuals have already visited your site, which indicates they have interest in what you have to offer.

How does Retargeting Work?

There are two types of retargeting:

  • Pixel based
  • List based

Each one works a bit differently, and each one offers different benefits.

Pixel based retargeting is the most widely used form of retargeting. It displays your advertisements to anonymous visitors to your site. Whenever a user visits your website, an inconspicuous pixel (a piece of JavaScript) is attached to their browser, which cookies their browser. When these cookied visitors click off of your site and continue searching the internet, the pixel alerts the retargeting platform to send out particular ads based on the particular pages that they visited on your website.

Pixel based retargeting offers several benefits. It works in a very timely manner; in many cases, they can be retargeted almost immediately after someone leaves your site. This type of retargeting is also specific to a precise page on your website. It’s also behavior based. However, despite the benefits, there are some disadvantages associated with pixel based retargeting. The primary downside is that the volume of users within the campaign is lower. That’s because it is based on how frequently people are visiting your site, viewing particular pages, and then leaving. Additionally, it can be difficult to execute or it can take too long to implement the pixel on website pages.

List based retargeting once you have a user’s contact information in your database. Additionally, you can use lists of existing contacts for specific types of retargeting advertisements. The process is pretty straightforward: A list of email addresses is uploaded to a retargeting campaign, often on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. These platforms will then identify users on their network with the email addresses you provided and distribute retargeting ads only to them.

List based retargeting isn’t used as often as pixel based retargeting; however, it can provide a number of benefits. For example, it allows you to create ads that are more customized because this type of retargeting is based more on behavior than pixel based. The downside, however, is that there is always the risk that someone on your list used a different email address with a social network, which means they won’t see your ad at all. Furthermore, you are responsible for uploading and maintaining your list, which makes list-based retargeting a more timely process than pixel based.

How is Retargeting Measured?

Not like the measurement used for typical display ads, retargeting gives you credit to both click-through rates and view-through conversions. Click-through rate conversions refer to any type of conversion that takes place as a direct result of a person clicking on a retargeting ad that they were served. View-through conversions are associated with another channel, but at one time, these people were served a retargeting ad.

Examples of Retargeting in Practice

An excellent example of retargeting in practice is Amazon. You visit the online store, look at a piece of furniture, and click off the site without making a purchase. The next thing you know, you see ads for Amazon – and the product you were checking out – everywhere you turn on the internet; other websites, blogs, your social media newsfeed

openPR-Tip: You might also see this happen when you visit the website of a B2B company; you check out a service, click off the site without purchasing said service or inquiring for more information, and suddenly, there are ads for the business and the service you were interested in all over the internet. In other words, every type of business that has an online presence can take advantage of retargeting.

Benefits of Retargeting

Retargeting offers businesses a wealth of benefits. Here’s a look at some of the most notable advantages that it can offer:

  • More precise targeting. What really makes retargeting such a great tool is that it allows you to target the perfect audience. Unlike other types of display advertising, such as banner ads, you aren’t placing ads all over the internet in hopes that you reach the right crowd and make a conversion. With retargeting ads, you are literally targeting people who have already shown interest in the products and services you offer because they have either visited your website in the past, or because they have supplied you with their email address. As such, there is a much greater chance that this type of advertising will increase conversions, and therefore, your success overall.
  • It expands your marketing reach. Perhaps you are already taking advantage of an advertising system, such as Google Adwords (retargeting here = Google remarketing), or Facebook Ads. If so, then you already have a particular reach, but with retargeting, you can expand that reach. Thanks to retargeting, your ads can be shown on even more websites, which will help to make your brand more visible and increase its popularity.
  • Increased engagement. One o the primary factors that impacts a website is the amount of time visitors spend on it. With retargeting, you can connect with your visitors in a really meaningful way. Remember how we said that only 2 percent of site visitors convert on their first visit? Through retargeting, you can reconnect with the other 98 percent of those people who visited your site but didn’t convert.
  • It sets you apart. Even if you offer the most exemplary and unique products and services, you are always going to have some type of competition. Retargeting can help set you apart from the crowd. Since it keeps you in front of those who have previously interacted with your business, it keeps you fresh in their minds, thus making you stand apart from the competition.
  • Boosts conversions. Though we’ve already said it, it’s worth saying again: retargeting can help to significantly increase your conversions. When you focus on delivering relevant ads to people who have expressed interest in what your business offers, you increase the likelihood that they will convert in the future. More conversions is the ultimate goal, and retargeting can help you achieve it.

Disadvantages of Retargeting

While this type of online advertising certainly offers several impressive benefits, there are some downsides that should be noted. These include:

  • It can actually work against you. They say that too much of a good thing isn’t always, well, a good thing. This is certainly true for retargeting. Experts suggest having people see your ads between 7 and 12 times a day over the span of 30 days is the ideal. If people are seeing your ads more than that, or they are seeing the same ad over and over again, it can actually have a negative impact on your goal of making more conversions. Essentially, if your ads are being seen too frequently, people start to feel like you are shoving your products and services down their throats and are basically harassing them. That’s definitely not going to do any good for your business.
  • It can take time. Don’t expect to see the results of retargeting right away. Experts say that it can take a few months to actually start seeing real results. You want to commit yourself to your efforts and make sure that you are staying on top of your retargeting game. If you drop the ball, you might not see the potential results that this type of advertising can offer.
  • It’s its own channel. Retargeting is a channel all to itself. It requires unique banner ads, customized landing pages, and specific optimization. While you might be tempted to use other display ad techniques with your retargeting campaign, they likely won’t have any effect.

Tips for Effective Retargeting

If you’re interested in using retargeting, there are some things that you want to keep in mind in order to ensure your success. Here are some helpful tips that will help you get the most out of your retargeting efforts:

  • Determine your objective. Obviously, the ultimate goal of retargeting is to increase your conversions; however, you also want to focus on how you are specifically trying to grow your business. For example, are you trying to increase the number of leads you get by a certain amount over a certain period of time? Do you want to increase your upsells by a specific percentage? Do you have a specific goal for increasing your revenue?
  • Use different ads. You definitely don’t want to show the same ads over and over again. If you do, the people you are targeting with retargeting are going to grow tired of your ads pretty quickly and could eventually become blind to them. Change out your messaging, your calls to action, your images, etc. The fresher your ads are, the more people are going to pay attention to them.
  • Put a cap on your ads. As we’ve already said, if your ads are being seen too frequently, they can do more harm than good for your business. When people are constantly seeing your ads, they are going to become annoyed by them; there’s no other way to put it. And when they’re annoyed, they are far less likely to make a purchase; in fact, there much more likely to avoid interacting with your business in the future. Over-advertising is never a good idea.
  • Segment your audience. By segmenting your audience, you can break your visitors down into groups that are based on their specific behavior on your website; they can be segmented into different levels of purchase readiness based on the specific pages on your site they have visited. This will allow you to create and deliver better ads by showcasing the products or services these groups have previously looked at and lead them back to the pages they have already visited.

The Takeaway

Retargeting is an excellent way to keep potential customers engaged and connect with those who have already expressed interest in your business. Though the concept sounds simple and it seems like it would automatically yield excellent results, it does take time to nail down retargeting and get the results that you want to achieve.

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