Website Retargeting: What It Is, How It Works, and Why You Need It

If you’ve used the internet, you’ve been retargeted. You may have been browsing Amazon looking at a 48-pack of socks, and then the next day, you’re checking the weather and there’s an ad for a 48-pack of socks! How did they know? It’s called retargeting, or remarketing.

It’s a method of digital advertising that lets you serve ads to people who have visited your website. By placing a pixel, or a snippet of code, on all pages of your site, you can track website visitors and their behavior on your site and then “follow” them around with ads for up to 90 days. Like many other digital advertising channels, you set daily or weekly budgets for each campaign based on your overall marketing mix and budget.

This is often a good use of advertising budget, since you are paying for exposure to people who have demonstrated a level of interest in your business specifically, as opposed to other methods of digital advertising where to pay to get in front of someone who has listed certain interests on their social media profile or has searched for certain terms that are relevant to your business. Dollars spent on retargeting aren’t trying to educate prospective customers on your business, it’s trying to get them to come back to a site they recognize and close the deal.

While you can set up general retargeting campaigns so that anyone who visits your site is shown a general ad for your business, you can also get more sophisticated. For example, if a visitor viewed a page for Product A, you can then retarget them with an ad specifically for Product A. If you’re site has ecommerce you can use the action of a purchase as a suppression action so that if they visit a page for Product B and then go through the checkout process, they won’t be shown an ad. Best practice is to use a combination of general campaigns (general ad to someone who just visited your homepage) and specific campaigns (unique to products, services, etc.) to ensure you are making the most out of the visitors to your site, regardless of how they found you in the first place (organically, paid search, other digital ad, etc.)

Below are few of the most common retargeting platforms out there:

Google AdWords – In addition to Search and Display advertising, Google calls this Remarketing Display. This is a good option if most of your traffic comes from Google (check Google Analytics if you’re not sure!)

AdRoll – Simple and easy to use platform, with cost structure limited to CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) rather than CPC (cost per click). Well suited to smaller sites with lower traffic.

Retargeter – Known for their customer service with each account having access to their own account manager, their service is built for high-traffic sites and large retargeting budgets.

Criteo – Well suited for ecommerce sites due to their Dynamic Retargeting feature which makes accurate recommendations on which product from an entire product catalog to show in ads. They are also better suited for sites with high traffic.