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Research suggests that 47% of consumers are willing to sacrifice privacy to get a better deal and 70% website visitors are more likely to convert with retargeting ads. Over 90% digital marketing consultants worldwide agree that retargeting is equally or more effective than email, search or other display ads.

Let’s find out more about retargeting and using it to drive your sales.

What is ad retargeting?

Retargeting is a form of paid online advertisement that allows you to show your ads to web users that have previously visited your website or have engaged with your content on other platforms.

On average, only about 4% of your website visitors are ready to make a purchase. So with retargeting ads, your brand will be in front of your potential customers even after they have left your website with the goal of converting them. By showing these ads to people who have already expressed interest in your business, you are more likely to convince them to buy.

How does retargeting work?

Marketers often use two types of retargeting – pixel-based and list-based retargeting. Depending on your campaign goal, each one has different advantages and works differently.

Pixel-based Retargeting

Pixel-based retargeting helps you display your ads to any anonymous site visitor by collecting data with the help of a pixel (JavaScript code) that is placed in on your website code. The pixel drops an anonymous browser cookie every time a visitor lands on your website.

Even after they leave your website, the pixel lets retargeting platforms know that your ads should be displayed to these web visitors on other websites they visit. Specific cookies can be set up for specific webpages and you can also create segmented lists based on specific user behaviours.

The advantage of pixel-based retargeting is that your ads get seen by people who are aware of your business and have visited your website. With pixel-based retargeting, you can retarget visitors as soon as they leave your site. This type of retargeting is specific to a particular page on your site, and it is based on visitor behaviour.

List-based Retargeting

With list-based retargeting, you can show specific ads to existing customers or website visitors with their contact information from your database.

You can upload a list of existing contacts for your retargeting ads campaign on social media or retargeting platforms. The platform will then match and identify the users on their network with the same contact details and serve your ads only to them.

List-based retargeting allows you the flexibility of customising your ads. Unlike pixel-based retargeting, it’s not anonymous or solely based on user behaviour. You know exactly who you are retargeting.

A likely disadvantage of it is that the email on your database might not match the visitor’s email address on those retargeting platforms.

What are the goals of the retargeting campaign?

There are two main goals of a retargeting campaign – generate brand awareness and drive conversion.

  • Generate brand awareness: Awareness campaigns will allow your brand to re-engage website visitors by informing them about product features and new product announcements. It is a less targeted approach since the content is being served to visitors that haven’t heavily engaged with your brand. However, the goal is to just generate awareness amongst prospects. To measure success, track metrics like impressions and engagement. Campaigns with awareness objectives are often precursors to conversion goal campaigns.
  • Drive conversion: Create conversion campaigns for visitors who are more familiar with your brand and your offering. These campaigns are targeted towards website visitors who still haven’t committed to making a purchase. The goal is to make them click on your ad, direct them to a dedicated landing page, and convert them.

What are the types of retargeting ads?

There are 4 types of retargeting ads – website retargeting, social media retargeting, search retargeting, and email retargeting.

1. Website Retargeting Ads

It is a form of online advertising to retarget potential customers who visited your website but didn’t convert. This allows you to retarget those who previously visited your website immediately by showing ads on other websites they visit after leaving your site.

Having a well-defined retargeting strategy in place is important when retargeting these people. The same type of ad and messaging may not be effective to retarget all types of visitors.

It’s essential to have different messaging based on what the visitor wanted from your website and segmenting visitors based on the specific page of your website they visited. This will ensure that your retargeting campaign gives you a higher return than just running a retargeting ad with a generic message.

2. Social Media Retargeting Ads

Platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram have made it easier for marketers to retarget potential customers with various ad formats. Every time a user visits your website, views a product, adds something to their cart, or purchases something, your retargeting partner platform drops a cookie to report this action.

The cookie then lets the retargeting partner know when one of your bounced visitors visit another site or social media platform and serves them an ad based on their prior engagement and purchase intent.

Your retargeting partner will have better insights as more action happens on your website. This will ensure that the ads are displayed to the right person at the right time.

You can also use a list-based retargeting approach for your social-media retargeting campaign.

3. Search Retargeting Ads

Search retargeting shows an ad to users on search engines that are making a search with keywords or phrases relevant to your business. If you are an Adwords expert in charge of setting up a search retargeting campaign, be sure to choose specific keywords related to the business or its offerings.

The advantage of using search retargeting is that it uses intent to identify users and serve ads accordingly. It allows you to connect with users that are unaware of your business, but are searching for something similar to what you offer. It then gets easy to target such users that are using a particular keyword. It also helps you retarget potential customers that have searched for your competitors after visiting your website.

4. Email retargeting ads

Email retargeting ads allow you to improve the effectiveness of your email campaigns by re-engaging potential customers that have opened your email. Add retargeting code to your email signature or HTML to ensure that once a lead opens your email, they automatically start seeing your ads across the internet.

Email retargeting will help you nurture, and re-engage your existing leads and drive sales from your existing customer base.


Retargeting is an effective way to boost your conversion. Due to its highly contextual nature, you can channel your advertising budget into much more effective overheads such as Facebook ads cost. A retargeting campaign accelerates your customer journey by only targeting people that are aware of your business and have engaged in the past.

Stefan Bardega is Co-Founder at in London, helping businesses hire the best marketing talent. As well as 15 years’ experience working for clients including Square, Next, Apple, Microsoft, Sonos, Intel and Sky; Stefan has worked in an advisory capacity for Facebook, Google and IAB, and has been featured in Google Think With Innovators, Business Insider, Campaign, Yahoo! and the BBC.

Connect with Stefan on LinkedIn or via

Henri Groues

Henri Groues