Ad Retargeting – Why You Need to Understand How to Use It

Updated on January 17, 2018

You’ve spent a lot of time, energy, and money to promote your website. And you’re probably elated whenever new visitors stop by your site. But the excitement will likely die out after some time if it’s not helping you turn a profit.

Studies suggest that online businesses and e-commerce stores manage to convert only 3% of visitors. In other words, you will get just 3 sales out of 100 visitors on average.

This is because it takes around 6 to 8 touches before a customer decides to purchase from you. The major problem with this is the majority of these visitors will never come back to complete the sale.

So how do you follow up and make the 6 to 8 contacts required to get their trust and attention?

The solution is online ad retargeting.

What is Ad Retargeting?

Retargeting allows you to follow up and engage your website visitors.

Instead of wasting your entire advertising budget to get new visitors, you must consider retargeting people who have already visited your website with personalized ads and messages.

How Does Retargeting Work?

When visitors land on your website, they are tagged with a cookie. This cookie allows you to earmark and target these people with customized ads wherever they go online.

For example, I browsed the Perfect Audience website moments ago.

Just now I see this ad while browsing


This is not a coincidence.

They’ve managed to follow me to by leaving an anonymous cookie in my browser.

How Can I Use Retargeting?

Retargeting Ads are better than typical display advertisements in many ways.

In a standard campaign, your ad will be seen and clicked by many who are not your potential customers (even with all those targeting options available).

However, retargeting allows you to target people who have shown interest in a specific page or category of your website that validates their interest in your products or services. Here are just a few ways you can utilize them:

Build Brand Awareness

Very few visitors will trust and buy from a brand they’re looking at for the first time, hence the low conversion rate. Thankfully, retargeting allows you to follow these visitors almost anywhere they go on the web, giving them the impression that you’re a big, well-known brand.

When they see your ads on so many websites, they will become more and more aware of you and who you are, and will become influenced by your brand identity.

Create Personalized Ads

You can categorize your site’s visitors depending on their behavior and then serve up personalized ads for each.

For example, a fitness equipment store can target people who visited the aerobic training category with aerobic accessories ads while those who visited strength training will see strength training equipment ads.

Get More Conversions

Retargeting ads will result in a much better conversion rate and lower CPA (cost per acquisition) because you are targeting the right people with the right ads.

Types of Retargeting

You can retarget customers based on their searches, intent, website visits, or emails.

Let’s read about each of these types in detail:

1. Site Retargeting:

This is the most common type of retargeting. You can choose to retarget all visitors or people who visited a specific page or category.

Learn how a luxury watch retailer got 1300% ROI and 34% lower CPAs by retargeting users who showed intent but didn’t purchase on their website.

2. Search Retargeting:

Some advertising platforms allow you to retarget people based on recent searches they’ve made on popular search engines.

For example, someone searches for “balance trainers” and lands on a page in their network of partner websites.

The visitor will be tagged and you can target them with your business’s ads.

3. Remarketing Lists for Search Ads:

Adwords allows you to retarget your site visitors when they are searching for a relevant product in Google Search.

You can set higher bids for people who visited your website in the recent past because these people are more likely to convert.

eBags is one of the biggest online stores for bags and accessories. Read this case study to find how they achieved 10 – 15% growth in revenue by using Remarketing Lists for Search Ads.

4. Email Retargeting:

You can retarget subscribers who open your emails or newsletters, too.

Email retargeting allows you to identify potential customers in your subscriber list and engage them with customized ads.

Some platforms offer CRM retargeting in which you can target people on your mailing list even if they haven’t opened your emails or newsletters.

Retargeting Ad Platforms

If you’re looking to try ad retargeting, you will have to use a third-party service to manage the technical stuff like tracking cookies and user segmentation.

You can choose from one the following platforms. Some of these are self-service while others are fully managed, it’s up to you depending on what level external involvement is needed.

  • Adwords: If you’re using Adwords, setting up a retargeting campaign is pretty straightforward. You just need to enable retargeting, create remarketing lists, and create customized ads to engage users on those lists. It also offers site retargeting and remarketing lists for Search Ads (RLSA).
  • Adroll: Adroll makes it extremely easy to set up, execute, and analyze retargeting campaigns. It supports all popular networks and ad exchanges like Google, Facebook, or Twitter, so you can follow your potential customers wherever they go.
  • Perfect Audience: Perfect Audience is another easy to use platform that offers site retargeting, mobile app retargeting, Facebook retargeting, and the like. They don’t have a set up fee or minimum amount required that you spend, making it a great option for small businesses.
  • Retargeter: Retargeter offers both DIY and Managed services to its customers. DIY plans are limited to site retargeting and Facebook retargeting while managed services come with additional options like CRM or search retargeting.

Social Media Retargeting Platforms

Other than the above-mentioned platforms, popular social media networks let you target your website visitors through native ads.

  • Facebook Retargeting: Use the Facebook Pixel to mark your website visitors. Then go to the Ads Manager and create a custom audience to target through Facebook Ads.
  • Twitter Retargeting: Place the Twitter Tag on your website. Wait for a week and let it create a list of your website visitors. Then you can target these people through Promoted Tweets that will appear in their timeline.
  • Pinterest Retargeting: Pinterest has recently added a retargeting option for advertisers, which means that you can target your website visitors on Pinterest through Promoted Pins.

We wrote a very detailed step by step DIY guide on the topic, make sure you take a look: Ultimate Conversion Tracking Guide for WordPress

How Do I Set Up an Ad Retargeting Campaign?

Setting up a retargeting campaign is as simple as ABC.

You will get a small snippet of code (also referred to as “Tag” or “Pixel” on some platforms) that you need to place on your website. Once in place, this code will start marking your website visitors with a tracking cookie.

Next, you need to create remarketing lists.

Depending on your budget or goals, you can choose to target all website visitors, returning visitors, visitors who browsed a specific section, or the visitors who performed a certain action on your website.

Create ads and your ads will be served to people on your remarketing list.

Just to give you an idea, here’s how to set up retargeting campaign on Adwords. Click on campaign and choose “Display Network Only” from the list.


Choose “Buy on your website” from marketing objectives.


Choose your bid strategy, location, budget, and click on “Save and continue.”

On the next page, choose the name of your Ad group and CPC bid.

Choose “Interest & Remarketing” from “Choose how to target your ads” and click on the “Set up remarketing” button.


A new window will appear with the Remarketing Tag that you need to place before the </body> tag on all pages of your website.


Once this tag is in place, you will be able to choose a remarketing list to use in your campaigns.


The “All visitors” list is there by default and you can create custom lists depending on your goals and objectives.

Choose a list and click on “Save and continue.”

Create Ads and Adwords will start serving the ads to people on your remarking list right away.

Using Lists from Google Analytics:

You can also create and use remarketing lists from Google Analytics.

To do this, go to your Google Analytics account.

Click on “Audiences” under “Audience Definitions” in the Property column.


Click the “+New Audience” button.


In the “Destination Account” choose the advertising account where you want to use these lists.


You will get different options like new users, returning users, users who visited a specific section, or users who completed a goal.


Set the membership duration, which is a period between 1 to 540 days. This is the duration that you want to use for keeping these people on your list.


Click on “Save” and Analytics will start creating a list of your site visitors who meet these conditions.

Adding Remarketing Lists to Existing Campaigns

You can add remarketing lists to existing display or search advertising campaigns by going to the “Audiences” tab, right next to Keywords.


Click “+Remarketing” and choose “Interests & Remarketing” from the menu.


Choose “Remarketing lists” from “Select Category” and you can choose from all available remarketing lists.


It’s that simple.

Now it’s your turn to come up with an ad retargeting strategy and start following your site visitors on web. Because honestly, if you don’t, you’re just leaving money on the table.

The choice is yours.

Now I want to hear from you. Have you set up an ad retargeting campaign? How did it go? Please share your experiences in the comments! 

This article was written by Brenda Barron
Brenda Barron is a journalist and copywriter from California. She contributes to sites like WPMU DEV, Envato, and Torque.

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  1. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Skeletor July 4, 2016 at 6:50 am

    Thank you Brenda, this is very helpful. Thanks for taking the time to create screenshots for each step.

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