What is Retargeting & How it Can Help Your Business


It’s easier to market and sell to existing customers than it is to find new ones. If you can reach people who have already visited your website, you can offer more and more incentives to buy your products.

You can do this with a retargeting strategy. We’ll show you how to use retargeting strategies to build a loyal customer base and drive traffic. 

What Is Retargeting?

Retargeting is a digital marketing strategy that identifies when a user has visited your online store. Once a user visits, they’ll see targeted ads for your products and services displayed on different websites and social sites, enticing them to visit your store again.

There are a few different people who benefit from this retargeting:

  • Business Owners: you’re marketing to someone that has already visited your website and shown interest in your brand and products/services. They could be considered a warm lead.
  • Websites that host your ad: websites are paid per click when someone clicks through your online ad. If the ad is targeted and works, these websites make some income.
  • Users: yes, they benefit too. Having options presented to them when they’re in the mood to buy saves them time and effort. If they already trust or are interested in your brand, then making the choice to spend becomes easier.

In this age of online connectivity, people need to know you, like you, and then trust you, before they will engage with your brand. Retargeted advertising is a part of this process, as they already know you.

How Does Retargeting Work? 

Retargeting works by recording your visit to a website, and then displaying advertising for that particular website via social media, banner ads on websites, or ads on your SERP.

Pixel-Based Retargeting 

Pixel-based retargeting works with a tracking pixel. This is a 1×1 pixel that collects user information, such as IP address, and sends this back to the company doing the tracking. You embed the pixel into the website you want to be tracked. 

Pixels don’t record visitors’ names or where they live. Instead, they record the IP addresses visiting the site, so a certain portfolio of targeted ads can target that IP address in the future. 

Depending on your reporting software, the tracking pixel can tell you if any transactions or conversions took place. This can help with ongoing campaigns, after-sales add-ons, or advertising based on previous purchases.

List-Based Retargeting

Unlike pixel-based retargeting, list-based retargeting gathers the contact details of customers, such as email addresses or even cell phone numbers. You’ll use the list to send targeted advertising to their inbox or their phone, reminding them of deals, new stock, appointments, and special offers.

You must be careful with this kind of retargeting as it is being sent directly to the person. Too much of a good thing can overwhelm or irritate the customer, and they might just unsubscribe or block you.

Potential Converting Customer Visits a Website

In the above images, a user is beginning to research gas and electricity rates. They’ve visit a few websites and are tagged by a pixel for doing so.
Their next search returns paid ads for different gas and electricity companies, including AGL.

AGL ads are now going to appear on different websites and social media channels for them. This user is now marked as a future potential conversion. 

The Customer Leaves a Site then Views It Later on During the Sales Process


The customer leaves this website to check other competitors and their sites. Later on, they are reminded of visiting AGL’s site with an ad on Facebook. It also appears as a banner ad when they’re checking the news a few days later.

Why Should a Business Begin a Retargeting Campaign?

Retargeting marketing is a long-term marketing strategy. Once you set up your campaign, it continues to run in the background, targeting more customers and earning more conversions for your business.

With a retargeting campaign, you are aiming to be the first brand on the customer’s mind when they are finally ready to shop and spend money.

Benefits of Retargeting

Turn Existing Users into Converting Customers

People that have visited your store or made a purchase are more likely to return if they’re prompted. Add in a good user experience to increase your chances of earning a repeat customer.

Customers that visit your store and purchase are highly likely to be interested in new products, or products that complement what they’ve bought.

If a user left your site without making a purchase, you can build a retargeting campaign that targets them with new offers. Perhaps free shipping, or % off might just be enough to bring them back to make a purchase.

Grow Brand Awareness

If people visit your site and are unsure of what you do or how it benefits them, you can remind them with a retargeting campaign. 

Retargeting can keep your brand in user’s mind, so they know where to visit when they’re ready to buy. 

Communicate to Potential Customers

You can also announce upcoming events, specials, and sales to customers that are already interested in your brand.

These ads can prompt them to visit to get deals or share the bargains with their friends on social media.


In the example above, the ad includes the tempting offer of free shipping if you spend more than $50. This retargeting ad has appeared in a SERP; the AD indicator lets the user know it’s not an organic result. 

Types of Retargeting Campaigns

General Website Retargeting

This campaign targets people that visited a website but generally didn’t convert. It’s the most common form of retargeting marketing.

These retargeting ads can appear on social media channels and websites everywhere.

Search Network Retargeting

This campaign is based on what people have previously searched for. It returns tailored retargeting ads that prompt a user with terms or offers related to the user’s search. 

This kind of retargeting is good for tailoring your bids for certain keywords and search intent for PPC ads.

RLSA is a Google Ads feature that lets you customize your search ad campaign for a targeted audience. You can target people who have already visited or searched your site, and prompt them to click through to what they have previously browsed or towards a new product. 

Email Ad Retargeting

When a visitor signs up for a newsletter or a special promotion, you have their contact details and permission to contact them.

From here, you can retarget emails to these consumers to inform them of special offers, sales, or if they have left something in their shopping cart.

Email retargeting is sent straight to the user’s inbox. People can often ignore web ads as they see them so often. An email can be more effective at converting someone to buy.

Common Mistakes Advertisers Make when Creating Retargeting Ads

No Custom Ads or Landing Pages

If one customer browses your site for shoes, and another for shorts, it can be a mistake to send the same ad to both.

Create ads that match the user’s search intent. While someone MIGHT be interested in shorts, if they were originally looking at shoes, the chances of a conversion are lower, and so too would be the ROI.

Pay special attention to where you sending people who click on the ad. If you do have custom ads depending on the web page visited, make sure you send that user to a landing page that also matches the ad. 

Do not make your landing page your website’s home page. Make a landing page that welcomes them and encourages them to spend. 

Creating a different landing page for each retargeted ad can increase conversions.

Ad 1:


Ad 1 Landing Page:


In the examples above, you can see a retargeting ad for Semrush and its related landing page. Once we clicked on the banner ad, we see the landing page with a clear call to action to start the free trial.

These ads use white space and a splash of color to invite us to “learn more,” not spend money.

Ad 2:


Ad 2 Landing Page:


Here, we can see the results of search network retargeting. The ad shows up on a SERP after the user does some marketing research on the website. Once we click through, we see a nice, clean landing page with a simple call to action.

Bidding Frequency

If you’re bidding on keywords for your campaign, not bidding enough can have a negative impact on your retargeting campaign.

The type of product or service can influence how long a potential customer is interested. Searching for clothing can be a much shorter campaign than searching to buy a house. Hence, the time you allocate to a campaign will vary. 

Not Targeting the Right Audience

You need to be sure that you’re sending retargeting ads to the right audience.

For example, you don’t want a pixel on your homepage triggering a retargeting campaign. You don’t know what the user’s interested in yet. 

Once a user has shown interest in a particular product or service, then you have an idea of your target audience. This is when the retargeting marketing begins.

Not Rotating Your Ads

Seeing the same ad repeatedly tends to lessen its impact. It can help to create alternative ads for the same offer, then cycle through the options. 

You might get a bite from someone wanting something else, or a better offer. Variety also keeps people interested and aware of your brand.

Running a successful retargeting campaign relies on you understanding your target audience. You can use tools like the Social Media Tracker and Traffic Analytics to better track the kind of content that drives visitors to your (or your competitors’) websites.

Semrush Social Media Tracker


The Social Media Tracker offers an overview of any company’s social media engagement, including your own. Each company profile reveals the numbers for their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Select any of the social channels in the tabs above for a more detailed view of its metrics, including engagement types, follower activity, and mentions:


Traffic Analytics

Use this tool to track a competitor’s online performance off social media. You’ll have a clearer idea of how they earn their traffic, which sites they earn traffic from, and the top pages visited:


You can use this info to determine popular landing pages for your competitors, which can help you build your own ads. If you work in a similar niche, pay special attention to the traffic journey chart to find out where users go when they exit your competitor’s websites:


Market Explorer

Before building your campaign, you can use the Market Explorer tool to determine your market share within your industry. Learn which one of your competitors’ is earning the majority of market share, any major industry demographics, and more:

Retargeting Marketing for Your Business

Retargeting marketing is a powerful way to connect with potential customers that already show an interest in your brand and its offers. While it may take some setting up ads and landing once you start these campaigns off they begin gathering views and clicks.

Once you’ve reviewed any campaign data, fix what didn’t work, boost what did, and get back into retargeting marketing for bigger and better wins.

Analyze any company’s online performance

with the Traffic Analytics Tool

ADS illustration



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