Advanced Marketing: Retargeting, What Is It, How Does It Work, and Is It Effective?

Online Marketing

Have you ever noticed that the advertisements on websites have been getting increasingly personalized? Much of this is due to retargeting, a new way of focusing ads on a potential customer. Retargeting occurs when a customer has viewed a product on a company’s or individuals website, and that company or individual then advertises the same product on other sites that the customer visits.

For example, let’s say you were shopping for a jacket online, and clicked on a black leather jacket on If has invested in retargeting, then when you leave the site and go to a completely different webpage, the advertisements on that webpage will specifically be for’s black leather jacket. In technical jargon, companies create “customer segments” based on the URLs that the customer has visited.

David Callaway at explain the process through this graphic here:


These customer segments get specific. They can change according to which combination of products they’ve viewed, how far into the purchase process they ventured, and a number of other variables. However, not all retargeting is effective. There’s a fine line between personalized advertising, and stalking your customers and leads.  The following are characteristics of effective retargeting campaigns:


The more data you can compile about your customer, the better. Ads should be specific to the customer’s actions down to the time of day the product was viewed, how many times it was looked at and for how long, purchase history, new versus existing customers, and hundreds of other data points. This way, their advertisements are not only specific to the product or opportunity they’re perusing, but also to the customer (for example, special offers for repeat customers). You can also customize the “landing page” for each retargeted ad. This way, when a customer clicks on the ad, they are brought to a streamlined page specific to what they were being advertised.

Frequency Capping

Maintaining the credibility of your brand name is equally as important as getting your product or opportunity out there. Over-advertising, or “banner burnout,” occurs when multiple identical advertisements are plastered across a single page or throughout every page your customer visits. Limit your ads to one per page, and cap their frequency. Use “negative retargeting,” which is when you stop retargeting a customer once they’re purchased the advertised product. This is essential if you want to avoid frustrating customers, and maintain respect for your brand.


A number of vendors offer retargeting services. As a company shopping for a vendor, look for vendors who have transparent pricing models. This way, you can track your advertisement investment’s success per vendor, banner, product, etc. The more research you can do, the more refined your advertisements will become. If retargeting isn’t beneficial on one website, don’t do it. This will help avoid banner burnout, and will save you advertising costs. Even if your retargeting has the above characteristics, does it work? As always, it depends on a number of variables: the nature of the product, your target audience, and the types of sites they visit, to name a few. Beware of the following roadblocks to successful retargeting:

Retargeting Road Block #1: Ad-Free Sites

retargetingChoosing appropriate sites to advertise on can often be the biggest burden, if only because many websites do not show ads at all.  For your advertisements to work, you need to incorporate the traditional marketing idea that repetition of impressions generates results. If your advertisements are not posted on enough websites to repetitively reach the customer, no impression is made. You can avoid this issue from the start by doing some research on the types of websites that your customer visits. How many post advertisements?

Retargeting Road Block #2: Non-Changing Ads

There’s a difference between personalizing your advertisements, and having one ad follow your customer everywhere they click. If a customer searches for one of your products extensively, it may trigger a number of your retargeting campaigns. This often occurs with Google Ads. Ask your vendor what creative tactics they employ to avoid repetitive advertisements. Retargeting isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. These campaigns normally have two to three times the conversion rate of general site traffic, and have click-through rates that are five to ten times higher than other, less personalized banner advertisements. In controlled tests, there have been proven increases in not only site traffic, but also conversions into purchases. These results speak for themselves.

The major benefit of retargeting is that you’re “preaching to the choir.” Your advertisements aren’t just general information being introduced to random viewers who may or may not be interested in your field. The customers viewing retargeting campaigns have already shown that they’re interested in your product, and may have only been one or two clicks away from a purchase. They’re “handraisers,” meaning that they’ve self-identified as customers who are interested in your brand. You now understand the benefits of retargeting, and the pitfalls to avoid. How do you get started?

Choose a Platform

Your options are determined by your company or individual profile. For a small business with an equally small budget, you may have trouble affording retargeting platforms that have minimum spending amounts. Also, many retargeting platforms will not even work with companies who do not have tens of thousands of website visitors each month. Take a look at yourself, then translate that into who you can afford to work with. As with most things, the less you spend, the less quality you’re getting.

Google Remarketing offers low-cost retargeting services for smaller companies, but is not as effective as your other options. Most professional retargeting platforms will admit that Google works when your company is still getting off of its training wheels. However, it only has access to a fraction of the websites that other platforms do. So, if your potential customer visits a website that Google does not cover, your customer will not get a personalized advertisement. You want to be able to reach your target audience wherever they venture off to after viewing your product.

Select Your Audience

retargetingAs mentioned previously, a major benefit of retargeting is that your advertisements are personalized to the product and to your audience. In order for this to happen, you have to compile data. Start collecting information on how your audience interacts with your website, and decide what kind of interaction will spark retargeting. Most often, companies retarget customers who have not only viewed your homepage, but also viewed a specific product or even purchase page. Remember, more specific audiences mean less chance of “banner burnout.”

Analyze the Results

Retargeting works, so if your results aren’t showing success, your ads are not optimized. And on that note, know what “success” is. Create clear goals so that when you do not reach them, you know to alter your campaign. The good news is, the issue is most likely fixable. Review the above tips: use a frequency cap, optimize your ads, be creative, and even try using a new platform. The go-to method for analyzing results is by reviewing analytics, which most platforms will provide. Analytics are collections of data about your campaign, and often include how many people viewed your advertisements, and what resulted of the encounter. The most useful analytics track not only how many customers clicked on your advertisements, but also how many conversions occurred (a.k.a. purchases). Depending on the nature of your product, you can also track revenue, leads, and view-through conversions (or, when a customer views your ad and purchases the product within a certain time frame, even if they do not click on the ad itself). Tracking this data will allow you to see how much money each advertisement, click, or conversion brings, and therefore, whether the campaign is a success.

Keep Brainstorming

You can never be too creative. Constantly update your campaign to remain fresh and evolve with your customer’s lifestyle. There are a couple of unique ways to use retargeting that are now growing in popularity. These include monitoring when your customers open your email marketing blasts, and retargeting them based on that information. Companies have also started retargeting based on the time of day, so that ads appear once they’ve finished their commute, are on lunch breaks, or are checking their email before bed. Most commonly, customers are retargeted with ads that suggest “related products” to whatever they recently viewed.

Retargeting Take Away..

Retargeting has proven itself. It works, and as long as you follow the above tips, it can be one of your best advertising tools. Know your audience, platform, and product, don’t overdo it, and use your imagination. With some analysis and adjustment, you can soon reap the benefits of retargeting.

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