retargeting guide
14 minutes read

In the ever-changing digital marketing landscape, retargeting has emerged as one of the most effective tools for businesses to connect with their target audience. 

Retargeting is a versatile and powerful advertising technique aimed at consumers who have already interacted with your brand or visited your website. It allows you to reach out to potential customers who have shown interest in your product or service and encourage them to take action – typically to proceed with a purchase or fill out a form.

But first, we must clear things up around the terminology: while the terms retargeting and remarketing are often (mistakenly) used interchangeably, they’re not the same thing.

  • Retargeting refers specifically to the practice of targeting individuals with personalized ads based on their previous interactions with your brand or niche.
  • Remarketing is a broader term encompassing any form of marketing aimed at customers who have already engaged with your brand. 

While it can get confusing as both refer to doubling down on your efforts to squeeze out more conversions via reconnecting with potential customers, there is a trick to remembering the difference and making sure to use the correct term every time. When in doubt, think of the funnel: if you’re targeting new leads that are in the awareness or consideration phase, you use retargeting strategies. If you’re reintroducing your offer to existing clients –that you’ve marketed to before–you employ remarketing tactics.

Why Is Retargeting Important in 2023?

Retargeting has become a critical component of modern online marketing in recent years. As (even) more businesses are migrating their operations to the virtual space – not to mention the plethora of exclusively web-based businesses that have entered the mainstream since the pandemic – the competition for consumer attention is heating up with every passing day. 

Personalizing communication with your clients at every possible touchpoint is no longer a nice-to-have, but a crucial consideration in order to stay relevant and competitive. Retargeting is currently one of the most effective tricks up a marketer’s sleeve to increase conversion rates while building meaningful B2C relationships. 

Let’s delve deeper into the world of retargeting and explore every aspect from its meaning through the different strategies and best practices you can employ, all the way to some useful tips for creating effective campaigns. Whether you’re looking to refine your existing strategy or just exploring retargeting, this guide will give you all the tools you need to succeed.

What Is Retargeting?

In a nutshell, retargeting is a powerful, direct-response advertising tactic that uses browser cookies to track a user’s activity on a website and then serves them with personalized ads based on their behavior. 

How does retargeting work?

How does retargeting work

It’s perhaps easiest to understand through an example: if a user visits your eCommerce store and fills up their cart but does not complete the purchase, you can use retargeting to show them ads promoting the products they viewed or similar ones on other websites they visit. This allows you to re-engage with your high-intent customers and encourage them to return to the site to complete their purchase. 

What are the different types of retargeting?

Types of Retargeting

The beauty – and at the same time, the challenge – of retargeting is that there is an abundance of options when it comes to how you approach it and what types of ads you use to regain your potential customers’ attention.

There are two main kinds of retargeting: onsite and offsite. Onsite retargeting uses tracking algorithms to detect visitor behavior and reengage them with personalized content such as popups or exit-intent offers, with the goal of converting visitors into leads or even customers before they leave your site. Offsite retargeting, as the name suggests, continues to show them ads even after they leave, keeping your brand top-of-mind and creating a clear path back to your site. It can be further split into several types:

Pixel-based retargeting

Pixel-based retargeting involves adding a so-called ‘pixel’ – a piece of JavaScript – on your website, which will place cookies into the browser of your site visitors so that retargeting platforms can serve them specific ads based on the pages they visited on your website. It is timely, specific, and behavior-based, but it may reach a lower number of potential customers as it’s limited by unique visits, which can fluctuate.

And the nesting doll keeps going:

  • Dynamic retargeting allows you to personalize every ad impression to visitors, based on products or content they have previously viewed, and saves you time as it pulls data automatically from your product feed. This is especially useful for eCommerce, where you can serve ads featuring the exact product your visitor viewed.
  • Mobile retargeting, also known as cross-device retargeting, enables you to retarget users on their mobile devices through various ad formats and keeps your brand in front of customers throughout the day, even if they have previously visited your desktop website.

List-based retargeting

Also known as email or CRM retargeting, list-based retargeting is used when you already have verified contacts in your database. It’s what it says on the tin: you can upload your list of email addresses to a campaign, the platform can identify users on that network who have those addresses, and serve retargeting ads just to them. List-based retargeting opens up a lot of options for customization, but it’s less timely and more difficult to automate than pixel-based strategies.

Search retargeting

Search retargeting is a form of advertising that targets users who have searched for specific keywords. By creating a custom audience based on relevant keywords, you can display your ads to your target audience based on their activity on search engines and other online platforms.

The Benefits of Retargeting for Marketers

The Benefits of Retargeting for Marketers

Improved conversion rates and ROI

Retargeting campaigns increase your return on your investment by boosting your conversion rates. This is because this types of ads are served to people that already know your brand, making them more likely to convert than new visitors. In fact, retargeting ads can boost conversion rates by 147% compared to non-targeted ads, according to Kwanzoo.

Better audience engagement through dynamic ads

The contrast between a targeted message about a particular product and a generic brand statement can mean the difference between a ‘good effort’ and a successful conversion. Retargeting not only enables you to target users based on their recent behavior, but it also allows for further personalization by showing dynamic ads – presenting products or content that your visitors have already shown interest in, tailoring each impression to specific customers. This personalization helps increase engagement, but also improves user experience and can improve conversion rates.

Increased brand awareness and customer engagement

Retargeting is not only for immediate conversions, but also for increasing brand awareness and trust. It keeps your brand in front of a targeted audience by repeatedly displaying your brand to potential customers, increasing the likelihood of future actions like a web search or organic site visit. Even if a user doesn’t convert immediately, seeing your brand repeatedly through retargeting ads can increase their familiarity and trust in your brand over time. According to a comScore study, retargeting can result in a 1,046% branded search lift after four weeks of exposure to retargeted ads.

Higher customer lifetime value 

Customer lifetime value (CLTV) is an important business metric that refers to the total revenue a customer is expected to generate over the entire length of their relationship with your brand. With each purchase, the customer’s value to the business grows, so reminding customers of your brand and encouraging them to make more purchases is key to fostering CLTV.

Reduced cart abandonment

Cart abandonment occurs when a client adds items to their online shopping cart but leaves the website before buying your products. Retargeting is particularly effective at recovering these lost customers by reminding them of the items they were interested in and encouraging them to come back and finalize their purchase. Retargeted ads can help reduce cart abandonment rates, raising the overall efficiency of your campaigns and resulting in increased revenue for your business.

How to Set up a Retargeting Campaign in 2023

Now that you know the basics of how retargeting works and what benefits it can bring to your marketing strategy, you’re probably eager to set up your first retargeting ad campaign. In this section, we’ll walk you through how this is actually done and arm you with the knowledge necessary to create a complete retargeting strategy. 

We’ll start with the steps of setting up a retargeting campaign correctly for the best possible outset, give you useful advice to optimize your ads for maximum performance, and look at some of the best practices you should follow to ensure that you get the desired results on your 2023 campaigns.

First, let’s have a look at the initial steps of setting up a retargeting campaign:

1. Choose the right platform

You have plenty of options when it comes to where you want to launch a retargeting campaign, but it’s important to choose the solution that aligns best with your business goals and target audience. Here’s a collection of some of the most popular platforms among marketers:

  • Google Ads allows you to retarget not only visitors who have interacted with your website but also your viewers if you have a YouTube channel. Of course, it also enables you to filter for specific demographics.
  • Facebook Ads also allow you to create custom audiences based on user behavior, interests, and demographics, and with almost three billion monthly active users it offers quite a significant exposure.
  • AdRoll uses consumer data and behavior in a similar way to identify users with a good conversion potential, offering cross-device targeting, real-time bidding, and a broad range of ad formats. It also integrates with various eCommerce engines such as Shopify, BigCommerce, PrestaShop, and more.
  • Criteo is an AI-powered retargeting provider with clever dynamic ads capabilities, making it ideal if you have a webshop with many product types.
  • SharpSpring Ads enables you to create dynamic ads for news feeds, websites, and social media. You can measure the impact of your campaigns and use native analytics tools to track your key performance metrics.

2. Defining your target audience

One of the most critical steps to setting up a successful retargeting campaign is defining your target audience as accurately as possible. Most providers give you a wide variety of targeting options, such as demographics, interests, and behaviors to refine your audience and reach the right people.

Explore these suggestions to help define your target audience for retargeting:

  • Use data from your website analytics and customer relationship management (CRM) system to identify the behavior and preferences of your existing customers.
  • Use surveys or customer feedback forms to gather more information about your audience and their needs.
  • Create buyer personas, which are detailed descriptions of your ideal customer based on demographics, interests, behaviors, and pain points.

Defining – and refining – your target audience is crucial to create the right messaging that resonates with your audience. The more you personalize your ad copy and imagery, the better you can maximize the effectiveness of your retargeting efforts and increase your ROI.

3. Creating custom audiences

After identifying your target audience, the next step is to create custom audiences based on their behavior on your website. Social media platforms in particular, offer excellent tools for managing and launching retargeting ads. For example, you can create a custom audience of people who have visited your website in the last 30 days but haven’t made a purchase, and customize your ads and messaging for maximum impact.

Explore these suggestions for creating custom audiences:

  • Segment users based on the type of products or pages they have viewed using a direct sales funnel. This will provide valuable insight into the type of information or products visitors are searching for while browsing your site or store.
  • Target specific buyer personas based on age, gender, location, interests, and even previous online purchases. 
  • Use Facebook custom audiences to upload contact information and emails to include in any campaigns launched using the platform.

4. Setting up conversion tracking

Conversion tracking is a crucial aspect of any retargeting campaign. It allows you to measure the effectiveness of your ads and determine the ROI of your campaign. As mentioned above, setting up conversion tracking involves placing a piece of tracking code, also known as a pixel, on your website. Whenever someone visits your website or landing page, the pixel will place an anonymous browser cookie in their browser and trigger your retargeting platform of choice to start showing them your ads after they leave your site.

Facebook retargeting is a great place to start for many businesses, simply because of the platform’s enormous user base. To add a retargeting pixel for Facebook (Meta) to your website, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Firstly, create a Meta pixel by going to the Events Manager in Facebook’s Ads Manager. You can also check if there are any partner integrations available with your website or eCommerce platform if you use WooCommerce, Shopify, WordPress, Webflow, Squarespace, etc.
  2. Secondly, add the Pixel base code to your website either manually or through partner integration.
  3. Finally, include the Standard Event code to your Pixel base code, which will indicate to your campaign when to trigger the Meta Pixel. You can choose from a list of Standard Events or utilize the Event Setup Tool.

For list-based and search retargeting, conversion tracking simply relies on adding the correct UTM parameters to your landing page URLs, as you would when setting up any display ad campaign

Once you have set up your retargeting campaign correctly, the next step is to optimize it to ensure that you get the best possible results.

Optimizing a retargeting campaign

Optimizing a retargeting campaign involves testing and refining ad creative, adjusting targeting strategies, and measuring campaign performance and ROI. Discover these strategies to help optimize your retargeting campaigns:

1. Tweaking your ad creative

how to tweak an ad creative

Your ad creative has one job: it should capture your target audience’s attention with engaging, relevant, and visually appealing content. To make sure it does it well, keep this checklist at hand when building your display ads for retargeting:

  1. A headline that intrigues: Your headline should be relevant to visitors’ website experience and crafted in a way that sparks their interest.
  2. Relevant and appealing visual: Whether it’s an animation or a static image, the chosen media should match the offer presented in the ad copy.
  3. An irresistible CTA: Design a button with personalized, actionable copy and contrasting colors for readability.
  4. Concise, actionable copy: The space is limited, so create copy that quickly gets to the point and incentivizes users to click.

You can either stop here, if you’re really confident that your creative is as good as it can be, or you can further optimize it using A/B testing different ad variations to maximize your campaign’s potential.

2. Adjusting your targeting strategies

While on the subject of split testing, don’t forget that it’s not just for the creative – you can also target different segments of your audience with an A/B test. Try reaching different demographics, interests, and behaviors, with the same ad and see who it resonates with the most.

3. Measuring your campaign performance and ROI

After creating a retargeting ad, you can use the provider’s native platform or your CRM software to track click-through rate, conversion rate, and cost per conversion. You can view how your retargeting campaigns are performing and make adjustments based on data-driven conclusions, such as extending the budget or the schedule and adding new creative assets.

Best Practices for Retargeting in 2023

Best practices for retargeting

Retargeting is an effective way to bring customers back to your website, but it’s important to understand the best practices and keep up with the latest trends to maintain long-term success. 

So how do you retarget customers in a way that is relevant and not intrusive in today’s impulse-rich online space? Take a look at our list of recommendations for 2023:

1. Segment your audience

Segmenting your audience helps when creating custom audiences that you then target with personalized ads and messaging based on their behavior and interests, this way improving the relevance and effectiveness of your campaign.

One way to go about this is to segment your audience based on their stage in the sales funnel or the type of product they’ve shown interest in. This method allows you to retarget them with a highly relevant creative that is more likely to catch their attention.

A higher-level approach is creating buyer personas. Outlining the profile of a few typical customers can help you set up so-called look-alike audiences based on demographics like age, gender, location, interests, and previous online purchases, and can get more precise with your scoop.

2. Balance frequency and relevance

Finding the right balance between frequency and relevance is crucial to a successful retargeting campaign. You want to show your ads enough times to keep your brand top of mind but not so much that it becomes annoying or intrusive.

Frequency capping, sometimes also referred to as impression capping, is one way to limit the number of times a banner ad is shown to a single user. It’s best to set such caps with a low frequency at first and gradually increase it while measuring performance to fine-tune it for the peak CTR.

3. Create a consistent brand message across channels

One of the most critical aspects of any marketing campaign is creating a consistent brand message. This is especially true when it comes to retargeting, the very mission of these ads being to reignite interest that already exists at some level. To achieve this, your ads must invoke a déjà vu feeling spiced up with a strong incentive to revisit your pages. Thus, both the messaging and the visual elements of your retargeting ads must be consistent with your overall brand identity, and especially the landing pages they lead to.

4. Use retargeting in conjunction with other marketing tactics

While it can be plenty powerful on its own, retargeting is most effective when used in tandem with other marketing tactics, and it works best when used as part of an overall marketing strategy.

For example, you can use retargeting ads to promote a specific product or service to users who have already shown interest in that product or service. You can then use email marketing to follow up with those users and provide more information about the product or service.

Retargeting campaigns can also be leveraged to attract more engagement and following by channeling the traffic to your social media. Once you get the ball rolling on your social pages, you can further promote your brand there with less intrusive content.

Another chapter where retargeting shines is cross-channel marketing, as you can connect with users across multiple platforms, giving your visibility and brand awareness a welcome boost.

5. Review and adjust your campaigns on a regular basis

Keep in mind that retargeting is not a set-and-forget kind of thing – continuously monitoring and adjusting your targeting strategies based on the performance of your retargeting campaigns is important to keep the flywheel spinning.

Challenges and Limitations of Retargeting

Despite its many benefits, retargeting also comes with some limitations you need to bear in mind. Here are some of the most significant challenges you may face:

Privacy concerns and regulations

Privacy concerns are becoming an increasingly significant issue not just in retargeting, but in marketing in general. Retargeting relies on tracking user behavior across the web, which obviously raises concerns about data privacy and security.

To address these concerns, many countries have introduced privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States. You must always obtain explicit consent from your website users before collecting and using their data, as failure to comply with these regulations can cause a world of trouble.

Ad fatigue and banner blindness

Ad fatigue is a serious and often overlooked pitfall in digital marketing. When users are exposed to the same ads over and over, they can get desensitized to the point of not only consciously ignoring it but literally not noticing it at all. As mentioned above, balancing frequency and relevance is key, but you should also test different ad formats and creatives to keep your campaigns fresh and engaging.

High costs for poorly managed campaigns

Retargeting can be an expensive advertising tactic, and poorly managed campaigns can quickly rack up costs without delivering results. Always make sure your creatives are easy to understand and to the point before launching your remarketing campaigns, keep a close eye on your CTR and think of the time spent A/B testing as an investment rather than a chore.


It’s important to remember that not every visitor to your website is a potential customer. Some visitors may have stumbled upon your site accidentally or may not be interested in your product or service. 

To avoid annoying them with irrelevant ads (and wasting ad spend), it’s best to exclude certain audiences or behaviors that indicate disinterest in your brand. For example, if someone visited your site but spent less than 30 seconds on it and didn’t visit any other pages, it‘s probably safe to assume they’re not a potential customer. 

It’s also important to avoid bombarding your audience with too many ads. While retargeting is effective, seeing the same ad repeatedly can be off-putting and may end up delivering the opposite result.


In this guide, we’ve explored all the essentials you need to know about retargeting to get started, from its very definition through the different types of retargeting campaigns, their benefits, and even some best practices for setting up and optimizing campaigns to reengage with your audiences. To make sure you’re fully prepared, we didn’t skip the challenges and limitations either, as retargeting campaigns do carry a number of concerns from privacy considerations to the dangers of over-targeting and the notorious slippery slope that is ad fatigue.

In spite of all that, retargeting remains an extremely powerful and effective marketing strategy that can help your business establish a closer connection with your audience. As competition for consumer attention is increasing, so does the importance of personalizing communication with clients at every touchpoint. Retargeting offers a way to both increase your brand’s ‘face-time’ with your clients and make your messaging more compelling for each of your potential clients.

If you’re not already using retargeting as part of your marketing strategy, now is the time to start. With the right approach, retargeting can help you engage with your audience and drive conversions like never before.

Ana Darstaru
Content Marketing Manager by day // avid foodie by night. Passionate about content creation, advertising, human psychology, carbs, and TV shows. Still obsessed with Sherlock (the TV show). Patient, yet impulsive.

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