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What is Retargeting and How Does it Work?

Retargeting is a form of marketing online in which you target users who have previously visited your website with banner ads on display networks across the web. 

Google uses the word 'remarketing' for AdWords’ ability to serve ads through the Google Display Network to anyone who lands on a page that has an audience tag.  Bing calls this same concept 'remessaging'.

Retargeting is very cost effective tool for small businesses as well because the spend can be so narrowly focused.  Creative marketers will also find retargeting as an effective way to segment customers and actions.  ValueClick Media found more than half (55%) of US marketers said retargeting was one of the most important forms of targeting.


For example you can retarget someone

  • who has clicked on a link on a link in an email

  • who visits a landing page from an ad

  • who buys one product and now is ready to hear about the upgrade

Recently Facebook has entered the arena with retargeting services.  Facebook Exchange (FBX) is a cookie-based ad targeting system that serves up ads related to a user's web browsing activity, in real time on Facebook.

Companies with retargeting advertising services online:

Google AdWords

When people search on Google using one of your keywords, your ad may appear next to the search results. Now you're advertising to an audience that's already interested in you.

Google Remarketing

Built into your existing Adwords account, Google makes it easy to begin remarketing on the Google Display Network, with very flexible pricing.


Set up a campaign in minutes and gain access to prime online real estate with AdRoll. They’ve been around since 2007 and they know what they’re doing.


ReTargeter offers a comprehensive starter package for just $500. Known for their stellar customer service, you even get a dedicated account manager working to make sure all of your needs are met.


Use Search Retargeting to find new customers based on their recent search behavior on Google, Yahoo! & Bing.

Full-service display advertising platform, built to excel in search retargeting, retargeting, contextual and demographically targeted display campaigns.


When a user visits a site the ad networks determine in real time, often through an auction, what ad to show you based on the profile that’s been built for you. RadiumOne builds a different profile for you than it’s competitors, though, and may grab ads that others leave untouched (or just pay more). The reason? They’ve built your profile based on what your friends like, too.



Win in a global and increasingly competitive marketplace with innovative advertising that engages consumers, drives revenue and builds brand loyalty.





How are the results from your retargeting campaign tracked?

You place a retargeting pixel on either (a) certain sections of your site or (b) across your entire site. As visitors visit the pages you have the pixel on they are added to what is called an "audience." This audience is cookied and as they visit other sites in the display networks you are running retargeting ads on, they are shown your ads. The size of your audience greatly affects the success of your retargeting campaigns. Even if you aren't ready to start testing retargeting, I highly suggest you start building your audience. The larger this qualified group of past visitors, the better!

How is it measured?

Unlike typical display advertising measurement, retargeting actually gives credit to both click-though, and view-through conversions. Often times if you work with an agency they will report both to you, as well as a total, and you will have to decide how you want to navigate the performance formula.

Click-through conversions are any conversions that happen as a direct result of someone clicking a retargeting ad they were served.

View-through conversions would be like assists. They are conversions that are attributed to another channel (on last click attribution tracking) but these conversions were at one point served a retargeting ad.

Types of Retargeting:

1. Search Retargeting

When using search retargeting, you’re essentially going after individuals on search engines who have searched using keywords or phrases relevant to your business.

2. Site Retargeting

Site retargeting could be considered as one step closer to contact, since the searcher has actually landed on and visited your site at this point.  Once they do so, you can tag them and follow them around the internet with your messages.

3. SEM/SEO Retargeting

SEM/SEO retargeting is closely related to site retargeting and has to do with the search terms used prior to clicking to or arriving on your site.  Couple someone’s search term used to land on your site with the actions they take on it and you have given yourself a whole new level of insight into their intent.  Use this to refine your creative and perfect your message to them.

4. Email Retargeting

As the names shows, it allows you to retarget people based on actions they have taken on your emails. 

5. Contextual Retargeting

In essence, this type of retargeting involves exchanging pixels between sites that are highly relevant to a searcher and targeting to each others’ visitors.  For example, think of an airline and local hotel site targeting each other’s audience based on destinations that were searched or booked.

6. Engagement Retargeting

This type of retargeting works exceptionally well with those who offer channels of engagement like videos, rich media, Flash games, etc.  Based on the type of action the user takes, advertisers can infer things like intent and level of engagement to serve highly targeted display ads.

Of the six types, 'Search Retargeting' is the fastest growing type of retargeting and has proven to have some of the highest returns.

Where do you start?  Start with your marketing strategy and marketing plan.  Then move to the tools and tactics.

Facebook Exchange (FBX) is a cookie-based ad targeting system that serves up ads related to a user's web browsing activity, in real time on Facebook. The system

Read more:

references: SEOMoz MarketingLand SearchEngineWatch

Topics: Retargeting Campaign Internet Marketing Inbound Marketing