How retargeting ads work


how retargeting ads help in marketing

In our crash course on full-funnel marketing, we discussed the importance of using this strategy to nurture customers through the marketing funnel. Although it’s important to fill your funnel with new users, what about those middle-of-the-funnel customers who leave before converting? How do businesses like yours inspire people who have already visited your website, landing page, or social media profile to come back and take action? This is where retargeting ads shine.

At MPP, we want you to reach the right people, at the right place, at the right time. For many customers, a retargeting ad may be the key that makes them convert. Retargeting might seem complicated, but once you know the basics, you’ll see why it can be a crucial piece of a full-funnel marketing strategy. Let’s learn what retargeting is, how it works, and how you can use retargeting to help your ad budget work smarter.


What is retargeting and how does it work?

Retargeting ads are shown to people who have already visited you online but didn’t make a purchase or take a desired action. These ads can be personalized to users based on how they previously interacted with your site. Along with audience personalization, retargeting ads are often successful at converting visitors because your brand is front and center as users scroll on social media, browse their favorite websites, or research your competitors. Retargeting audiences are generally created using tracking cookies.
web cookies are important for retargeting ads
A web cookie is a snippet of data that is added to the visitor’s web browser and is stored in the browser over time. Cookie retargeting works by using a pixel, or line of code, within your webpage.
Every time someone visits your site, the invisible pixel places a cookie into their browser and begins tracking the pages and products the user views while browsing. These visitors are your retargeting audience. With this audience data, marketers use third-party providers such as the Google Display Network or Facebook to show remarketing ads to users in hopes they will return to your site.

Take this example: Jenny is looking for the perfect gift for her mom. As she’s scrolling through Instagram, she clicks on an ad for a local candle company. This click takes her to a web page featuring seasonal scents.

As Jenny browses the site, she clicks on another link to the Best-Selling Scents page. She knows one of these candles will be the perfect gift, but isn’t sure which one to buy. She decides to think about her options and leaves the website. A few days later, Jenny is looking for a recipe on her favorite food blog and notices a banner ad for the candle company across the top of the page. This reminds her to order a candle for her mom.

Although Jenny didn’t fill out a contact form or make a purchase when she first visited the candle website, retargeting ads reminded her about the brand, which prompted her to make a purchase.


Types of retargeting ads

You can reach customers in all sorts of ways with retargeting ads, such as through web searches or website visits, social media, and more. All methods can be effective at bringing traffic back to your website and increasing sales or leads. Let’s break down each of these retargeting types in detail.

website retargeting is a way retargeting ads work

Site retargeting

Our earlier scenario with Jenny is an example of site retargeting. This is for users who visited your website but didn’t convert. Advertising partners will serve display retargeting ads on platforms such as Google Ads, Bing, LinkedIn, and Facebook on both mobile and desktop devices.


To set yourself up for a successful retargeting campaign, tailor your ads to specific audiences. Instead of broadly retargeting every website visitor, consider segmenting site users into groups based on the pages of your website they visited.
If you have a group of users who visited your blog, your retargeted ad could promote your latest blog post with a CTA to download a whitepaper or e-book. For people who looked at specific product pages, retarget these users with ads featuring the products they looked at. No matter the segment you’re choosing, you already have an advantage since these users have already visited your site and interacted with your brand.
social media retargeting ads

Social media retargeting

Social media retargeting is similar to site retargeting. However, as the name implies, these retargeting ads are strictly on social media platforms. Users on social media tend to be more engaged while they’re browsing, so make the most of retargeting to this group by customizing your ads for specific audiences.

You have a lot of options when it comes to creating a retargeting audience. They can be segmented by actions they’ve taken on social media or your website. You can create a custom audience on Facebook based on user actions such as:

  • Sharing their email with you
  • Following your Facebook Page or interacted with it in some way
  • Interacting with a Facebook Event
  • Watching a certain amount of your on-platform videos (ad videos included)
  • Interacting with your app
  • Viewing certain pages of your site
  • Taking certain actions on your website
  • Interacting with your Instagram Page

The importance of Pixels

To gather user information outside of social media, you need to have a Facebook-generated pixel tracking code added to your website. The pixel is a piece of code that is generated by Facebook and is unique to your business page. This acts just like a web cookie. You can manually add the pixel to your website if you’re web-savvy or have an experienced digital team, like MPP’s, do the work for you. A properly installed pixel is crucial to social media retargeting because it tracks users who visit your site, gathers insights about your remarketing campaigns, and also keeps track of conversions.

search retargeting ads

Search retargeting

Search retargeting is based on the user’s search behavior. In short, this means your display ads are shown to people who have searched for certain keywords. These ads can show up on search engine results pages (SERPs) and social media sites. Search retargeting can be a successful tool because users are already searching for a certain product or service, whether they know of your brand or not. This can drive brand awareness and prompt new users to visit your website.


Benefits of retargeting ads

As with any marketing strategy, there are pros and cons when it comes to adding retargeting ads to your mix. Retargeting is great for:

Brands or businesses that have a website

Since retargeting is based on data collected through cookies and pixels, this strategy only works if you have a website. Sites will need to have clear structure and navigation and see a decent amount of web traffic. If nobody is coming to your site or if there is no straightforward way for visitors to act (such as making a purchase or filling out forms), it will be difficult to see results.

Building brand awareness

Very few visitors will convert when they are introduced to a brand for the first time. Keeping your brand in front of them will help build awareness. The aim of retargeting is to earn your potential customers’ trust by making them comfortable with you.

More conversions

Statistics show that users that visit a website after clicking on a retargeting campaign ad are more likely to convert by up to 70% compared to those that aren’t retargeted. That’s a huge fraction of your audience! The key to conversions is personalization. Retargeting ads result in better conversion rates because you are targeting the right people with relevant ads.

As with all aspects of digital marketing, retargeting requires commitment. Don’t expect to see instant results. It may take a few months to notice the impact of your campaigns — and you’ll probably have to test and tweak your messaging along the way.


Retargeting ads turn window shoppers into customers

For many marketers, retargeting has changed the way businesses can get in front of those middle-of-the-funnel audiences. By placing a short snippet of code on your website, using data gathered through social media sites, or targeting users based on web searches, marketers can take insightful data and turn it into meaningful ways to connect with customers. Engaging audiences with the right creative and messaging can be the difference between a casual browser and a customer.

Post wrap up

How can retargeting ads elevate your marketing?