It’s happened to all of us before. You visit a retail website, and before you know it, that retail store is all over you like a cheap suit. Not like, the actual suits they sell or anything, but their ads. Everywhere you go online, you see their ads inexplicably popping up.

That is what we call ad retargeting, or ad remarketing.

It’s not just an annoying tactic that marketers use. If you use it correctly, it can help your business to increase traffic, leads, and sales. Twitter bird icon

How Retargeting Works

You can do retargeting through AdWords, Bing, Facebook, or a host of other ad platforms. Regardless of which tool you use, the general principle is the same. You place a piece of code on your website that will then place a cookie on visitors who come to your website. Then, when that same visitor goes to other websites that display advertisements, your ad can be placed on those sites for them to see again.

How Retargeting Can Help You

At the end of the day, retargeting is similar to many other forms of advertising, in that it gives you an opportunity to reach your customers and provide them with something of value. The only difference is that you have the advantage of knowing that the people viewing your ads are at least a little bit interested in your product or services—because they’ve visited your site already. Twitter bird icon

If you get fancy, you even know which pages your target audience visits or what kinds of actions it takes. If you direct your retargeting efforts in this way, you can really start to capture low-acquisition costs. Let’s take a moment to cover a few of the basic groups you could try retargeting.

Who You Can Retarget

All Visitors

Pros: It’s easy. Cons: It’s easy—which usually means it’s not very effective. With this strategy, you simply retarget the same ad, or set of ads, to everyone and anyone who visits your site. It will be difficult for you to get specific with your messaging or calls to action, so don’t expect a campaign like this to be the most efficient. It is good if you really want to cast a wide net though. It also makes for a great starting point for anyone wanting to try their hand at retargeting.

Shopping Cart Abandoners

I’ve always felt like the term “abandoners” makes this group of customers sound so evil, but they’re not! These people are your best friends! They almost bought your product before, they just need a little more nudging. Or maybe they even forgot. You might let them know that you miss them and want them to come back, or even offer them a discount. Many times, just a little extra encouragement is all you need to close the sale. Twitter bird icon

Visitors Who Take a Specific Action

Perhaps they watch a video on your website, download an eBook, or subscribe to your blog. Whatever it was, you probably have a very clear idea of where they fall in your sales funnel now, so you know what it is they need next. Craft some well-thought-out messaging to help these visitors take the next step.

These certainly aren’t all the possibilities for people to retarget. You could retarget to new visitors to your site, people who’ve visited one page but not another, people who visit your site for a set amount of time, or dozens of other possibilities. The key is to test lots of these and find what works for you!

Forms of Retargeting

You’re probably most familiar with the image ads you see everywhere after visiting a site, but you actually have several options for how to reach your visitors:

Text Ads

These are very simple to make and won’t take you long. It often gives you more words to play with, but they likely won’t catch your customers’ eyes.

Image Ads

These come in many different sizes, so it can take a long time to design lots of image ads. They are bound to draw more clicks though, and you can still throw in some text. Twitter bird icon

Animated Image Ads

Animate your image ads to give them a little extra pop. It will take more time and effort, but can really bump up your click-through rate.

Mobile Retargeting—A Final Word of Caution

You’ll often find that mobile retargeting ads will accumulate a lot of clicks—often more than desktop. Be wary of mobile retargeting ads. If you suffer from clumsy thumbitis like me, you’ve clicked on your fair share of mobile ads by accident. These ads often appear within apps too. This is not to say that you shouldn’t use retargeting ads on mobile because often times they are very effective—just keep a close eye on the results. Make sure that you aren’t just getting clicks, but real leads and conversions too.

Do you have a favorite method for retargeting? Let me know about it in the comments below!




  • Sarah Jane Dayley, June 12, 2015 @ 5:01 pm

    I am an abandoner for sure! Usually I’ll just get distracted by something else and forget to click to submit my order. I am more likely to come back and purchase, so I love the idea of getting a reminder about my order. 🙂

  • Josh, June 15, 2015 @ 8:10 am

    I spent a lot of time last week researching a specific pair of running shoes. It seems like every website I visited after that showed me ads with a picture of that running shoe. I’ll admit that it did keep these shoes on my mind.

  • Jamison Michael Furr, June 15, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

    I’m with you Josh, retargeting ads at the VERY LEAST keep something I’m interested in on my mind for longer, even if I don’t get it. I’ve noticed normally if it’s a product I think is cool, I will often bring up that product with friends in future conversations even if I didn’t actually buy it – probably because my recall of the product is better due to the retargeting.

  • Jamison Michael Furr, June 15, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

    I’m with you @sarahjanedayley:disqus – that’s been me a dozen times 🙂

  • Caz*, June 25, 2015 @ 11:59 pm

    Can I just say as a consumer, I LOVE AD RETARGETING! It reminds me what I was looking for and looking at. Often times the reason I don’t buy is due to timing. To be reminded and not have to look it up again later? Priceless! I buy from ad retargeting all the time. I don’t always click back via the ad, so the company probably doesn’t know that. I go back and search for that particular item on the website I remember. That’s another reason why maintaining good SEO is valuable. Many people go and search for something after seeing an ad or something posted via social media rather than clicking on the link directly in the content. It reminds them, “Oh yea I wanted to search for an SEO company…” and you still have to be on top to get that person engaged! Otherwise, you’re just doing the work for someone else.

  • Jamison Michael Furr, June 26, 2015 @ 3:30 pm

    @cazbevan:disqus, I love all of your input here. Although you could argue that the remind to look things up again isn’t exactly “priceless” 😉 Unless you don’t click on it and just look it up like you often do! You’re right though, that can pose a tracking problem. There’s always the “view-through conversions” on bing and analytics, but I never really trust those. I mean, maybe as a rough estimate, but that’s about it. And of course there’s plenty of attribution methods, but that can be a headache.

    Great point though about SEO. Couldn’t have said it any better 🙂

  • Caz*, July 2, 2015 @ 2:09 am

    Aww shucks thanks!

  • Andrew Williams, February 22, 2016 @ 11:07 am

    This is kind of crazy that you can do this and put a cookie on visitors that come to your site so when they go to other sites that allow ads your ad can show up for them to see you again.

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