Retargeting: Ads that Follow You
After visiting a website, you’re bombarded with ads for that website for weeks. Sound familiar? Here’s what you need to know about this tactic.

Quick disclaimer, in this article I’m grouping retargeting and remarketing together. I’m discussing the strategy as a whole, not a specific brand’s implementation.

It’s an all-too-familiar experience.

You’re in the market for a new home, a winter jacket, or a health care policy, so you casually search for the product online and browse around for whatever you’re looking for.

Maybe you’re unsatisfied with the selection that you found, or perhaps you just haven’t decided to purchase yet – but either way, you leave the site without proceeding to checkout.

For the next few days (up to 180 on Facebook and Instagram) you are bombarded with advertisements for the company whose website you were casually browsing.

Sound familiar? Here’s what you need to know about this tactic.

The clear benefits.

This is too effective for any business not to use.

Particularly if you sell high-ticket items, and don’t have any cheaper products or services to use as lower steps on the value ladder (such as a luxury real estate agent), one exposure to your brand is most likely not going to sell the product OR get them to follow your page.

Here are a few examples of successful implementations:

For a luxury real estate client of mine (Houses for $1M+), I’ve found that the cost-per-lead using Facebook lead forms can be cut in half by targeting past website visitors instead of directly targeting the key demographic.

Another real estate client, but this one specializing in student rentals, finds that visitors from organic and paid search demonstrate far more intent to actually rent from them than social media traffic (a common phenomenon). In order to maximize their return on search visitors, we retarget them on social media with lead generation ads, without running any social media traffic ads. This practice helps converts more of our most valuable site traffic.

When running event promotion campaigns, I run an “abandoned registration form” campaign, to specifically target people who visited the registration page but never actually submitted a response.

Another important point: retargeting works with more than just site traffic.

One of my clients, a highly specialized medical doctor, gives lengthy and detailed video lectures on Facebook each week. He receives tens of thousands of views on each video, so we periodically retarget the most engaged video viewers with a call to action.

On some channels, you can also create audiences out of customer lists and CRM databases, which is also an effective strategy if your database is sufficiently large.

Where can you retarget?

There are a few major platforms that allow for retargeting (some use the name remarketing, which is essentially the same thing.) I’ll list the four most important groupings here, with screenshots of what ads on these sites look like in general:

Google Ads/ Youtube Remarketing

Google allows you to remarket to past website visitors/video viewers with display ads and Youtube video ads.

Google Banner Ads

Youtube Advertisement

Facebook/ Instagram Retargeting

Facebook and Instagram allow you to retarget based on a wide variety of engagement criteria, such as website visitors, video views, Facebook Canvas interactions, Instagram Business Profile interactions, and more.

Instagram Retargeting

LinkedIn Retargeting

LinkedIn allows for retargeting of past website visitors based on which pages they visited. You can exclude some URLs, and require others for more advanced targeting options.

 LinkedIn Retargeting Example

Twitter Remarketing

I’ll admit that this is the tool that I use the least of these four – Twitter is probably my least favorite social platform. Twitter has basic retargeting features, largely similar to that of LinkedIn.

Twitter Remarketing Example

How should you start retargeting?

If you only have the budget to pick one retargeting platform, you need to make your selection based on the objective of your advertisement. Here’s how you decide:

  • If you’re trying to encourage people to visit a retail location, use Instagram.
  • If you’re looking for b2c leads, use Facebook or Instagram.
  • If you’re looking for b2b leads, use LinkedIn.
  • If you’re trying to build your following, use Facebook or Twitter.
  • If you’re trying to grow a newsletter list, use Facebook.
  • If you’re trying to increase brand awareness, use Instagram, Facebook, and Google.
  • If you’re trying to encourage online b2c sales, use Facebook or Instagram.
  • If you just want more repeat site traffic, any of these tools will work.

Without a doubt, these are sweeping generalizations – most cases are much more nuanced than this. This guide is a great starting point, and if you’re unsure of what to do, schedule a call with me to discuss the best solution for you.

Setting Up Retargeting

I’m not going to give a detailed explanation of the steps involved in setting this up on each platform – you can find these guides all over the internet specific to what you’re trying to accomplish.

However, it’s good to know at a high-level how these things work. To retarget website visitors, you need to generate a tracking code for the platform you’re using (one or more of the major ad platforms listed above). Once you have that code, you’ll want to insert after the opening <head> tag on each page of your website. There are plugins that make this pretty easy – it’s a similar process to setting up Google Analytics.

Some of these tracking codes allow for more than just retargeting. Conversion tracking is another common feature of this setup, allowing advertisers to track exactly which advertisement lead to which conversions on their site. 

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Sher Agency is a web design & development agency in Tucson, Arizona. Max Sher founded this agency four years ago from his college dorm room, and the team has since grown to specialize in building high-converting websites for businesses and individuals.