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Imagine that 99% of your visitors leave without completing a desired action like buying a product, downloading your whitepaper, signing up for a free trial or for your newsletter. Or that 68% of the visitors who add a product to their shopping cart abandon it without completing the purchase.

These percentages aren’t made up. They’re a reality. A study by SeeWhy showed that 99% of visitors won’t buy on their first visit, while 29 different studies report that 68.07% is the average online shopping cart abandonment rate. Scary, isn’t it? You’re spending all this time and effort to get people to your site and then they’re leaving without doing the things you want them to.

But what if there was a way to better connect with people who have previously visited your site, recapture their interest and turn them into customers?

You can do this with retargeting also known as remarketing. You can get people back to your site to convert, or at least to connect so you can nurture the lead and get it convert further down the line. The great news is that you don’t need to have fat pockets to use this powerful marketing tool.

Here are some other benefits of retargeting:

Boost in brand awareness – Displaying ads to prospects who don’t know much about you increases the likelihood of them remembering your brand name and associating it with a specific product or service. It can also help increase organic traffic coming from brand searches.

Greater engagement – If you notice that visitors’ average time on site is embarrassingly low (like less than one minute), a good retargeting campaign can help you reconnect in a meaningful way with people who were interested enough to visit your site in the first place.

Increased conversion – With retargeting you are targeting only those visitors who have already expressed interest by visiting one of your landing pages, reading your latest blog post or adding something to a shopping cart. This means that your chances of converting them from prospects into customers are higher. In fact, according to a study by retargeting vendor Criteo, website visitors who are retargeted with display ads are 70 percent more likely to convert on your website.

Ok, let’s get to the good stuff and see what retargeting is, how it works and how you can use it to bring lost visitors back to your site and turn them into paying customers.

What is retargeting?

Retargeting is a way to reach prospects who have already shown an interest in your business. It works by keeping track of people who visit your site and then displaying your retargeting ads to them as they are visiting other sites online.

You know how when you browse Amazon for a backpack and after you leave the site without purchasing you see all these banner ads on other sites with the exact backpacks you were looking at? That’s retargeting.

It gives you the opportunity to appear in front of people who have already expressed an interest in your brand as they go about their business on the web. They could be checking their email, reading the news, watching a video on YouTube, scrolling down their Facebook newsfeed and… boom, there you are! Reminding them of that product they were going to buy or that plumber with great reviews that were going to contact.

Here is a simple example. I’m on the 123-reg website looking to order my own .london domain. I add to the shopping cart but then I get distracted by a Twitter notification and leave the 123-reg site without finalising the purchase. Three minutes later this is what I see:

retargeting 123-reg

Another example comes from, a site I always catch trying to retarget me on Facebook. Last week I was looking to book a hotel in Naples but couldn’t decide which one was closer to the best pizzeria in town so I postponed the search. But of course,’s retargeting ads won’t let me forget that I need to book my hotel to Naples:

retargeting booking

How does retargeting work?

There are two main types of retargeting: pixel-based and list-based.

  1. Pixel-based retargeting for anonymous visitors

This is the most common type of retargeting. When users visitor your site, a retargeting cookie is placed on their browsers through a simple code that you add to your website. So, when they leave your site and visit other sites on the web, you are then able to serve them the retargeted ads.

Intimidated? Don’t be. There are so many tools that make the process incredibly simple and effortless.

Here is a simple breakdown of the retargeting process so you get a clearer picture:

  1. A user visits your site.
  2. Next, a tracking cookie is dropped on their browser.
  3. The user leaves your site without buying anything or taking any action.
  4. You then display your retargeting ads to that user as they continue to browse other websites throughout the web.
  5. Your ads entice the user to come back and take action – whether it’s to buy the product they’ve previously added to the shopping cart or to sign up for your newsletter.
  1. List-based retargeting for visitors whose contact information you already have in your database

Though it’s not as utilised as pixel-based retargeting, this method is useful for when you want to retarget your existing contacts. The way it works is you upload a list of your prospects’ email addresses to a retargeting campaign (usually on social platforms like Facebook or Twitter), and the platform will identify those users based on the email addresses you’ve provided. Then it will display your retargeting ads just to them.

This method is a bit more advanced as you’ll need to look into your prospects’ behaviour on your site in more detail in order to decide which ads to serve them. The downside with this method is that it’s possible that some of your prospects might not be using the same email address they gave you for their social media accounts which means they won’t see your ads.

Is retargeting for me?

While traditional advertising is mostly used to increase brand awareness, retargeting ads are great for driving conversions on your site, be it sales, newsletter subscribers, trial sign ups, downloads etc.

So, if the main goal of your campaign is to drive conversions and you already have a decent amount of traffic, then retargeting is right for you. However, a decent amount of traffic is necessary for your retargeting campaign to bring in results. That’s because retargeting involves targeting your current site audience. If your site has a very small amount of visitors per month, you will only have a small pool of prospects to target, which means that conversions will be very low.

So before you start your retargeting campaign it’s best to have a minimum of 3,000 unique visitors per month. If you currently have less than that, you can still add a retargeting tracking code to your site now, just don’t start retargeting until you can get more traffic to your site.

Check out these resources to learn how to attract more visitors to your site:

Another thing that I believe is important to look into before investing good money in retargeting is whether there’s a reason why your visitors are leaving your site without converting.

If your website is below par, it doesn’t matter how much money you’re willing to spend on retargeting as you efforts are sure to be futile. Think of it like this: if your products or services are low-quality, if the content on your site doesn’t clearly explain what you do, if there are hidden costs in the shopping cart, then the problem is with your business, not your advertising.

So, first you need to make sure there isn’t any underlying problem with your business before you spend money to send users back to your site. Look at your Google Analytics data to see if people spend a lot of time on your site or if they leave quickly because they can’t find what they’re looking for, read customer reviews and look at what people are saying online about your brand etc.

I don’t want to stray too far from the topic of retargeting, but the main idea is simple. Before you consider starting a retargeting campaign, make sure that your audience is worth targeting a second time.

What do I need to get started?

lists get started

If you’ve decided that you want to give retargeting a try, here is what you need to get started:

A retargeting platform and tool: There are quite a few options for implementing your retargeting. You can go with Google Display Network, third-party platforms for web and social retargeting such as PerfectAudience, AdRoll, Retargeter, Bizo, and many more. You can also do retargeting through specific platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Retargeting code: This is a snippet of Javascript code that is generated and provided to you by the ad platform of your choice. You will need to add this to your website or to specific web pages that you’d like to track.

Targeting audiences: You will have to build one or several lists that will define which visitors you wish to follow around with ads. These could be visitors who have abandoned their shopping cart or visitors who visited several pages on your site and then left the site on your contact form page. For more information on how to target audiences, keep reading…

Budget: If you’re new to retargeting, start with a smaller budget and scale up as needed. Also, make sure you’re investing it wisely into targeting prospects who were closer to purchasing. So, for example, you should target visitors who have landed on your site through a transactional search query like “need London plumber” and not those who were searching for information about how to fix a leaky toilet tank. The second group is obviously more interested in saving money and repairing it themselves than paying someone to do it for them, so if you have a small budget there’s no point in targeting the second group.

Ad creative: You’ll need to make sure that your ads are not only relevant to your audience but also enticing. You need creative that gets right to the point with compelling copy and a strong call-to-action. Also, don’t hesitate to test a variety of designs, sizes and placements.

More importantly, if you hope to see any conversions, you need to ensure that the landing page you’re sending users to is simple and straightforward. Check out these useful resources that explain what elements a landing page needs to have to convert:

Which visitors should I target

When you start your retargeting campaign, you’ll need to define the audience of users you’re interested to remarket to.

For example, you could create audiences for people who:

  • Have added products to the shopping cart only to abandon it minutes later – Follow up with an ad that offers them an incentive to complete the purchase – like a discount, a free trials, free delivery.
  • Have visited a product page – Follow up with ads that include similar products.
  • Have visited your blog – Follow up with an ad that promotes a blog post on a related topic where you also mention your products or services.
  • Have already purchased from you – You could up-sell or cross-sell existing customers based on their past purchases or season interests (e.g. Valentine’s Day, Christmas).

You can segment your audience even further by creating different lists and showing them different ads based on which section of your site they visited. There is no magic number of lists that you have to create, just make sure that every single one serves a purpose.

Also, make sure you bid more aggressively for visitors who are more likely to convert. For example, visitors who landed on your pricing or contact form page are more valuable than blog visitors.

Where should I display my ads?

Some of the most popular places for retargeting on the web are:

  1. Facebook newsfeed
  2. Facebook sidebar
  3. Google images ads
  4. Google text ads
  5. Twitter feed

Don’t spend your time and budget by overwhelming yourself with too many channels. If you’ve had success with Facebook ads in the past, then this may be the right channel for you to start with. However, if your audience isn’t on Facebook, then your ads shouldn’t be either. Use Google Analytics to find out more about your visitors and determine if it’s worth retargeting on Facebook, Twitter or Google.

Don’t forget to optimise your campaign

Retargeting requires constant tweaking and optimisation. After the first month, you will see a decent amount of data that you can use to improve your campaign. However, you should schedule in your calendar a weekly review of your ads so you don’t forget to tweak them.

As you collect more data, you can make more informed decisions to improve your campaign. Also, don’t get discouraged if your retargeting ads don’t deliver results straight away. Have some patience and optimise your campaign as soon as you have enough valuable data.

Time to discuss some retargeting etiquette

When done right, retargeting can produce great results. However, if it’s done improperly it can have adverse effects. That being said, it’s time to discuss some retargeting etiquette.

Choosing to display your ads hundreds of times a month and everywhere to the point of exhaustion won’t get you better results. Don’t overwhelm people with retargeting ads on Facebook, then on Twitter, then on YouTube, then on any other site they visit. Your visitors will feel like they’re being stalked and might choose to ignore your brand altogether.

So, while retargeting can help increase your brand’s exposure, overexposure can be annoying which is counterproductive to your marketing efforts. Focus on achieving your goals but be respectful, be subtle, market intelligently.

Wrapping up

Retargeting is a powerful way to increase brand awareness and turn visitors into paying customers. Even if you don’t intend to start a campaign today, that doesn’t mean you can’t start building your remarketing lists now. In fact do that now. This allows you to build a pool of users to target when you feel ready to start a retargeting campaign.

I’d love to know what you think, if you found this guide useful or if there’s any important information missing. And if you’re already run a retargeting campaign, I’d love to read your best tips and advice because isn’t that how we all learn?

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