The essential guide to retargeting for your business

by Louise Blakely in Advertising
July 17, 2018 6 comments

Have you ever been online browsing products, gotten distracted and then seen that exact same product in front of you a few hours later?

How can that be?!

I get asked this all the time, usually followed by the statement “I want to do that!”. But what is it?

It’s called retargeting. Or Google likes to call it – remarketing. Retargeting, remarketing – it’s the same thing. For this blog post, I will refer to it as retargeting.

It’s one of the best (and most cost-efficient) ways to advertise your business on the internet. That’s because you’re engaging with those who already know you – the potential customers you should be focusing on the most.

How does retargeting work?

When you’re cruising the internet, data is being collected on your actions. This is because many websites have a piece of code (also often called a pixel). This is invisible to your website visitors and doesn’t affect website performance at all. In fact, you likely already have these codes on your website! You do if you are using Google Analytics for your website data.

When a website visitor loads a page on a website that has one of these pixels or code, the code collects data via an anonymous browser cookie that is placed on the visitors browser.

This cookie then builds an audience on the platform you’re using for retargeting, so that person is added to your audience. Remember this is anonymous and no personal information is held.

The most common codes and pixels used for retargeting are the Facebook pixel and the Google Remarketing Code.

You can also use retargeting within Facebook itself, where they collect data for you on who has interacted with your posts or watched a video. This then enables you to serve up ads to those people who you know have already shown an interest!

Another great way to use retargeting is to use ads to connect with your email list. These are your most important people! Simply upload your list of email subscribers to your Facebook Ads Manager or your Google Adwords account as an audience and you can then target them on these platforms. This is a great tool to keep front and centre with the people who already know you.

Why is retargeting so successful?

How many times have you been looking at a website and you get interrupted and you have to go?

Just because you get distracted, leave the website and get on with your day with that phone call or child who needs attention, doesn’t mean you’re not interested in what you’re looking at.

As a marketer, the way to ‘remind’ them about you is with remarketing.

In fact, remarketing is so successful because you’re literally reminding people who have already had an initial browse saying ‘hello, I’m still here…you know that pair of jeans you were looking at’.

For me, from a consumers point of view, I love this! I often look at websites and like what I see and I’m keen to buy. But for some reason I get taken away and can’t remember the URL for the life of me.

If a company then puts that product in front of me within the next day or two, I really appreciate it!

So it’s so successful because you’re marketing ONLY to people who have already shown interest. Way higher chance of them converting, right!

Who is retargeting for?

Retargeting is for any business that is online and has something to sell (that should be all of you).

In every business, there’s a process people go through before they buy. While we’d like to think that everyone will buy the minute they hit our website, this just isn’t the case! People get interrupted, but they also need time to think and research other options. In that time, they can also straight up forget!

Related post: How to know if you're ready for online advertising

If you’re not taking the buyer’s journey into consideration and are viewing every website visitor as a one-off event, you’re doing your business a disservice. Retargeting is a smart tool that’s going to get those people coming back, move them further down the path of consideration, and eventually you will nurture a great group of buyers for your business.

So are you wondering what these remarketing ads look like?

If so, the truth is, retargeting ads don’t look any different to any other ad. It’s up to you, the viewer, to realise that this is a website you recently visited. Sometimes the copy in the ad will call out that you’ve been looking at their site recently, but you definitely don’t need to be aggressive with your copy.

Google Display remarketing

If you’ve ever been followed around the internet by banner ads, you’ve been retargeted or advertised to via the Google Display Network (you can also do with retargeting tools like Adroll and Perfect Audience, but in my experience it’s better to use Google and keep it all under one roof).

The big advantage of Google Display is that it suits any kind of business. Some businesses, particularly those in more industrial niches, just don’t do that well on social media. Google is often the more effective way to get leads and new customers as it doesn’t rely on your social media presence at all.

Here is an example of a Google Display ad, showing to an audience of recent website visitors:

How do you set up Google remarketing?

First of all, you need a Google Adwords account and a Google Analytics account. It’s likely you already have these, but if you don’t, you’ll need them for this process. And you need to make sure they are linked to each other. To make sure they’re linked, simply go into Google Analytics, access the Admin section, find the Property column and choose Adwords Linking.

While you’re in Analytics, go to Admin > Property > Tracking Info > Data Collection and set ‘Remarketing & Advertising Features’ to On.

Whew! Now that you’ve got that set up, it’s time to create the remarketing audience.

With remarketing, the audience has to be created in order for the cookie data gathering process to begin. It’s a good idea to set this up as soon as possible, even if you’ve got no immediate plans on setting the retargeting ads up. This is so that you can start building your remarketing audience, as the more data you can gather, the bigger your audience will be.

Go to the Shared Library area in Google Adwords.

Make sure that you have the Remarketing tab selected and press the + button. You will now see this list.

As you can see, there are a number of options here. The most common you will use is the website visitors, the customer list when you upload your email list, or a custom combination.

For now, we’ll look at the ‘website visitors’ option.

It’s good to name the audience descriptively, so you can easily identify it in the future.

You simply add your website URL into the area where it says ‘URL contains’, choose the period of time you’d like this data gathered for, add a description if you like, and ‘Create Audience’.

When setting the period of time, think about how long you want to advertise to a web visitor after they hit your website. A good time period to start with would be 7 days, as you don’t want to keep remarketing to the same people over and over again. That way you will avoid experiencing ad fatigue with this group of people.

Over the next few days, check on your audience to make sure it’s growing in numbers. The more traffic your website gets, the bigger this audience will be.

Now to set up your remarketing ads!

With Google Display, you will need to have created your artwork in advance of this. If you have a designer, get them to do it, but you could also create them in Canva. There are a lot of different sizes for Google Display ads, so best to pick a few and get started!

Once you’ve done this, you set up a Google Display ad as per usual.

Facebook retargeting

Just like Google Display, retargeting on Facebook and Instagram is powered by creating audiences that collect the right data. This could be either via the Facebook pixel or getting Facebook to collect the data from within Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook is a little different than Google Display because you can retarget based on actions actually taken on your Facebook or Instagram page, as well as visitors to your website and your email list.

This page engagement could be anything from viewing a video, interacting with an event you have created, or filling in a lead ad form on your page.

How do you set up Facebook retargeting?

Retargeting with Facebook to show ads on both Facebook and Instagram is powered from the Facebook Ads Manager.

To get started, make sure your Facebook pixel is up and running. (If you don’t have that in place, do it today, even if you’re not going to run ads yet.

When you’re in the Facebook Ads Manager, you can select Audiences from within the hamburger menu.

After selecting Audiences, you will be taken to the Asset Library. Here, select ‘Create Audience’ and choose ‘Custom Audience’.

At this point, you have a myriad of options to choose from.

Choose Customer File if you would like to add your email list to target with ads. You could even look at adding your LinkedIn contacts if you export them first.

You can set up granulated ways to retarget website visitors based on whether you want to target those who have viewed any page on the website, or a combination of pages, or some pages but not others. You can even target people based on the time they’ve spent on your web page. This is also where you select how many days you want your website visitors to stay in this audience.

There are also options to set up audiences for those who have interacted with your app, had some kind of offline activity with your brand (especially useful if you’re in retail and have a physical store), and then of course there is engagement.

As you can see, there are a lot of options here. You can set up audiences to collect data on those who watch your videos for a certain period of time, or people who have filled in your lead form on your Facebook page. There are various ways you can create audiences of those people who have interacted with your Facebook page or Instagram profile, such as anyone who has engaged with a post or your ad, or sent a message to your page. The options are limitless!

Even if you’ve got no plans to advertise anything in the next while, I highly recommend that you go into your account and set up these audiences to start collecting data!

Once you’ve got the audiences rolling, it’s simply setting up a Facebook ad as per normal and choosing the correct audience in the targeting part at the adset level.

What kind of results can you expect from retargeting?

So know that we know how to set up retargeting audiences, you might be wondering why bother?

Retargeting ads are the ads that are likely to give you the best results. And they’re a great starting point if you’re just dipping your toe into ads and you want to make the most of the organic visitors to your website and social media profiles.

Here are the stats:

  • 70% of website visitors are more likely to convert after seeing a remarketing display ad.
  • The average clickthrough on a retargeting ad is 10x that of a normal ad!
  • Retargeting increases brand awareness and brand recall to the point where it’s been found to increase brand searches by 1046% in weeks after a retargeting campaign took place.
  • And the big one – 72% of online shoppers are likely to abandon their shopping carts and of this, only 8% will return to complete their purchase. By using retargeting, the percentage of users who will return and complete their purchase increases to 26%.

Source: Wishpond

I have also done my own testing with both Google Display remarketing and Facebook retargeting and it ALWAYS outperforms any other ads.

If this lifetime spend and return for one of my clients on a Facebook retargeting ad campaign doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will!

facebook ad results

That’s an ROI of 647%!!!

Here’s another example from one of the first online course launches of my SEO course. At this time, this was the only advertising I did. I spent hardly anything but look at the return!

facebook retargeting results

As you can see, using retargeting as part of your ad strategy is a total no-brainer. If you’re just getting started with online advertising, it is the obvious way to start to make the most of your existing efforts and plug any leaks in your current marketing. And if you’re already running ads but NOT doing retargeting, it’s time to get on it and plug those leaks in your sales funnel too.

If you're wondering if you should get started with retargeting on Facebook or Google Ads, check out this post.

  1. Irina says:

    Very useful post Louise! Google Display is new to me and I am keen to try it following the steps you outlined – seems easy to follow. Thank you!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Irina! Keen to hear how your Google Display adventures go 🙂

  2. Kat says:

    Great blogpost Louise!
    I have got FB retarketing setup, but not Google retargeting.
    *trots off to set it up…

    Haha thanks!

  3. Claudio Hidalgo Petraglia says:

    Create an audience of people who are part of ou interacted with your group?


    1. Do you mean a Facebook group?

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