What Is Remarketing (Retargeting)?

Remarketing means reengaging with people online who have previously interacted with you.

Most people use the words “remarketing” and “retargeting” interchangeably.

Here’s how remarketing via digital advertising usually works:

  1. Someone visits your website
  2. The remarketing code you have installed on your website places a “cookie” in that person’s browser
  3. You show ads to that person as they browse other websites and social media platforms

Converting the Other 97%

On average, only 3% of people visiting an ecommerce website decide to make a purchase during their visit (websites that focus on lead generation tend to convert at a higher rate, but still regularly see a ~90% non-conversion rate from their visitors)

You can use remarketing to reach the other 90% – 97% of your visitors who were interested enough in your product/service to reach your site, but who didn’t pull the trigger and take a valuable action during their visit.

Remarketing on the Google Display Network

The Google Display Network is a conglomeration of 2+ million websites that show text, image, and video ads from Google. Over 90% of the people using the internet browse websites that are opted into the Google Display Network.

Example websites on the Google Display Network include:

You can serve ads on the Google Display Network through Google AdWords.

Google Dynamic Remarketing

Google Dynamic Remarketing works best for ecommerce, travel, real estate, and other websites with lots of product/service listings.

To use it, install specific remarketing code on your website pages that lets Google identify which pages people have visited. Then, if those individuals leave your website without taking the action you wanted them to, you can remind them of your brand/product/service via the various websites on the Google Display Network, using dynamically-generated ads that showcase the actual or related products/services they originally looked at on your site.

Example: Jane is looking for a gift for her husband, Bob. She looks at the power tools on your website and views a specific product page. She knows she still has time before she has to purchase the gift, so she moves on with her day and doesn’t make a purchase. Later she reads an article on forbes.com, and on that site sees your ad for the exact drill she saw on your site previously. This ad reminds her about the drill and your company, and she clicks through the ad and buys the drill from you. Google Dynamic Remarketing success!

Google “Static” Remarketing

We call this form of remarketing “static” remarketing to differentiate it from dynamically-generated ads, but it can still be very customized. Instead of customizing code on your pages, you install a single remarketing code across your entire website. You can then create lists of people to target based upon the pages they visited on your website.

Example: Jane Googles “home inspection” and clicks your ad to view your home inspection landing page. She moves on to a couple of other competitor websites and makes a mental note to talk to her husband, Bob, about their options that night. Later that afternoon she browses a baking site for a dinner recipe and sees your ad offering a 10% discount off a home inspection. Your “static” remarketing ad reminds her to discuss your service with Bob, and now she is extra motivated in response to your special offer.

Google Search Remarketing

You can also use Remarketing lists in your Search campaigns. There are two primary strategies:

  1. Bid based on whether the person seeing your Search ad has been to your website. People who have already engaged with your company online are usually more likely to buy from you than people who don’t know you, so typically you will want to increase your normal bid (on average by at least 20%) when you’re targeting people who have previously visited your site.
  2. Advertise on broader keywords than you usually target if the people triggering those broader keywords have been to your website. For example, if you only sell women’s shoes, it’s probably not profitable to target the keyword shoes. But, if someone has been to your website and is now searching for shoes, it may be reasonable to assume they are interested in women’s shoes. So it may be profitable to show your ad to that person when they search for shoes, even though typically you would not bid on such a broad keyword.

Facebook Remarketing

Most of the people visiting your website use Facebook, and they probably spend lots of time looking through their Facebook News Feed. You can turn their personalized News Feed browsing into a reminder to come back and purchase your product or service.

Facebook Dynamic Product Ads

Facebook’s Dynamic Product Ads work similarly to Google Dynamic Remarketing. You use custom code on your website and a product feed uploaded to Facebook to dynamically show product ads to previous visitors based on the specific products those people have viewed on your website, as well as related products.

Facebook “Static” Remarketing

Facebook “static” remarketing is also similar to Google “static” remarketing. By placing a single piece of code called the Facebook pixel on your website, you can remarket to anyone who has visited your site, to people who have reached specific pages on your site, to people who have spent a specified amount of time viewing your website, etc.

Using Customer Emails to Remarket on Google and Facebook

Advanced advertisers go a step beyond just tracking people who have been to their websites.

You can also use your list of customer email addresses to remarket to people on the Google Display Network and Facebook.

Facebook Custom Audiences

You can upload a list of your customers’ email addresses or phone numbers to Facebook and Facebook will match that information to Facebook users. You can use that list in multiple ways:

  • Upsell new products or services to your customers
  • Remind customers to purchase your product when you know they’re about to run out, or when the season/holiday is right
  • Reach “lookalike” audiences of people who haven’t purchased from you, but who Facebook thinks are similar to your customers

Google AdWords Customer Match

Google’s Customer Match feature is similar to Facebook’s custom audiences, although not as flexible.

You can upload a list of customer email addresses to use for YouTube, Gmail, and Search targeting. Unfortunately, you can’t yet use Customer Match for targeting on the Google Display Network, which is a limitation we hope Google eventually removes.

You can use your email list to:

  • Upsell products/services to your customers via YouTube ads, or show them video customer testimonials to keep them loyal to your subscription service
  • Create streamlined versions of your best-performing email campaigns and serve your clients Gmail ads at the top of their Promotions tab in Gmail
  • Tweak your bids in Search campaigns when you know that an existing customer is seeing your ad

Don’t Be Creepy

The #1 rule to remarketing is: Don’t be creepy.

People are getting more accustomed to seeing remarketing ads, but there can still be a certain level of “freak out” if someone feels like everything they do online is tracked and exploited.

You can prevent the potential creep factor and/or prevent your audience from being annoyed by:

  • Being smart about how many days or weeks in a row you continue remarketing to the same person
  • Limiting frequency caps so that you control how often in a day or week people see your ads

In summary, remarketing (or retargeting) is an effective way to maximize your digital ad dollars. If you’re not already doing it, and doing it the right way, you probably should be!