Getting Started with Retargeting

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As a digital marketer, you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with retargeting, the display technology that’s largely taken the digital marketing world by storm.

If you haven’t yet used retargeting, or aren’t yet an expert, here’s an overview of what it is, how it works, and how it might fit in to your digital strategy.

What is Retargeting?

Retargeting comes in many forms, but we’ll start with the form of retargeting that is both the most common and the most universally effective: site-based retargeting. Site-based retargeting is, simply, the practice of serving ads to people who visited your website but left without completing a desired action like making a purchase or filling out a lead form.

How Does It Work?

For the advertiser, the process of launching a campaign is extremely simple. You place a few lines of Javascript within the HTML of your website. This code drops a browser cookie on anyone who visits your website, and places them into an anonymous, targetable cookie pool.

When anyone in this cookie pool visits a site with available ad space, your retargeting provider is pinged. In a fraction of a second, before the page loads, your retargeter bids on that ad space, which allows your ads to appear in front of anyone who leaves your site, virtually anywhere they go around the web.

Getting the Most out of Retargeting

Retargeting is so effective because it focuses your spend on people who are most likely to make a purchase, increasing your conversion rate at a relatively low cost.

To get the most out of retargeting, focus with what makes retargeting work in the first place—relevance and recency. Retargeting works best when it is based on serving the most relevant ads to those who have recently expressed interest. To keep retargeting at its most effective, limit your retargeting pools to those who have visited your site recently (say, within 30 days).

Secondly, be sure to keep your retargeting as relevant as possible. If you have a ton of site traffic, it could be prudent to only target users who have demonstrated significant purchase intent. For example, you may find it more effective to target only those users who have checked out product or pricing pages rather than everyone who visits your homepage.

Where Can Retargeting Fit Into My Current Strategy?

Though a powerful tool, retargeting is at its best when working in conjunction with other marketing strategies. Frankly, it is unlikely to be efficacious as a standalone tactic. For one thing, retargeting can’t drive new traffic or generate interest or awareness. It will improve brand recall among those who have already heard of your brand, but at its root it’s a conversion optimization tool. If you aren’t driving sufficient traffic to your site, or if the traffic that is visiting your site isn’t qualified, then retargeting can’t help you.

If you are seeing strong traffic numbers but aren’t seeing the conversion rates you’d like, retargeting could be the solution you’re looking for. It’s a great tool and works well for a wide variety of marketers, though it’s not the type of service you can set and forget. Retargeting campaigns need to be monitored, measured, and optimized, so make sure you have the bandwidth or work with a managed solution provider who can help make sure you get the most for your money.

About Caroline Watts

Caroline Watts is a marketing manager at ReTargeter, a full-service display provider specializing in retargeting and audience targeting, where she directs content and email marketing. You can find her on Twitter and Google+.
View all posts by Caroline Watts ➞


  • Angela Best says:

    The article on “Getting Started with Retargeting” is very informative. I believe this idea focuses on people who wants what you have to offer.

  • D'Arcy Mayo says:

    This is exactly what I need to do … Thank you for the prompt to action