What is Retargeting & why should it be a focus of your PPC Campaigns?

10 min read
10-May-2019 9:41:00 AM

Comedian Steven Wright once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, then skydiving definitely is not for you.” That sounds about right! Some things are a do it once and do it right sort of thing—one shot deals.

That’s not the case with retargeting ads.

Retargeting is the art and science of advertising to the same person over and over again on purpose. It’s a powerful tool you can use to stay in front of your high-value clients and customers once they’ve engaged with your brand. It keeps your company top-of-mind by creating multiple touch points across a variety of platforms.

Retargeting works because familiarity removes anxiety and doubt from the buy button. Retargeting makes you relatable.

That’s how the human brain works. Most people need a little push to get them where you want them to go. The more someone sees your product or service, the cozier they get with it. The hurdles become smaller, and the benefits get bigger.

Potential customers see the value more than the price tag.

But! A full 98% of your visitors leave your website without converting. (—Marketing Sherpa). 98% is a really high number! But don’t throw in your towel, because this has always been the case with any marketing throughout history. People simply don’t buy something at first glance (except for those impulsive types who lose everything and end up on the street).

Rational spenders are naturally cautious. They don’t act the first time they get an opportunity to take action. The cautious second-guessing part of our mind likes to evaluate something and give that something several moments of consideration before purchasing.

Quick note: Retargeting gets lumped together with the term “remarketing,” but retargeting applies narrowly to PPC display advertising (making up the biggest chunk of remarketing). Remarketing applies more broadly, covering everything outside of online display ads too (email, phone, TV, sandwich boards, billboards etc.).

How is retargeting done?

As creatively and slyly as possible, like a whisper in the wind. Like an interesting “yoo-hoo!” at the side of the page. Like friendly stalking.

Why is retargeting done?

Because it boosts your digital marketing strategy. And because it has a bonkers-high return on investment (ROI).

Retargeting campaigns led to a 1046% increase in branded search and a 726% lift in site visitation after four weeks of retargeted ad exposure.

- Comscore

Those are pretty solid percentages right there. Retargeting ads are the place to spend your ad dollars because no other advertising strategy has ROI numbers like that.

Marketing is about pulling the right type of fish out the Google pond


Marketing is a many-parts-moving complicated machine. Broken down though, the front-end visibility part works roughly in two stages:

Step one: Get some fish (traffic)

It’s no good hooking a walrus if you’ve figured out that you’re fishing for walleye. So the first part is getting to know your fish. Step yourself through the buyer persona process.

When walleye is the winner (you’ve discovered your ideal client), that narrows things down quite a bit. For instance, you don’t need an ocean trawler; you need a 14’ aluminum boat with a freshwater engine. You need to launch that boat on the right lakes and use the right bait (lead generation tactics). Do this part correctly, and you’ll bring home a catch good enough for a brag-worthy cottage fish fry.

But how do you do step one correctly?

By implementing on-page Search Engine Optimization techniques (the organic side of marketing) and by running effective search ads and social media marketing (the paid side of marketing) to reel in your ideal customers (the big ass walleye).

Some of those fish will get away even though you’re fishing on the right lakes and using the right bait.

Those skeptical fish weren’t quite sure they liked your Uncle Len’s Lucky Lure the first time they saw it. Sure, it looked like a tasty twister tail, but the savvier walleye saw a worm wriggling around earlier in the bay across the way, so they decided to go check out that worm and maybe come back later to see if your line is still in the water.

That’s step two!

Step two: put your bait in front of those on-the-shoal fish again!

If every angler pulled out a big fish on the first cast, the entire end-game of marketing would be unnecessary (and everyone and her brother would go out fishing).

But the big fish are hard to find.

Sometimes you need to pay for a fish finder or take a pro angler out in your boat with you. And you absolutely need to keep at it and go out many times and cast your line from dawn til dusk. And then go back out night fishing.

You need to entice those fish with your amazing bait enough times that the fish decide they want to try Uncle Len’s Lucky Lure after all. That’s the nature of retargeting ads. Multiple touches that eventually encourage clicks.

Want the leads without the hassle? Learn more about our PPC and retargeting  services

Those multiple touches happen when you use Display Ads (the other kind of paid ad) and tracking cookies.

Be fly like Marty McFly

remarketing ads

When an ideal customer visits your site once, that’s a wonderful thing. Checkmark! And when that ideal customer likes what you have to say but isn’t yet ready to click the buy button, that’s okay! You set up retargeting ads so that site-jumper will get another chance to realize how awesome you are even though he was too cautious to know it the first time he visited your site.

You follow him around the internet for a while like Marty McFly on a skateboard holding onto the tailgate of a moving truck. That ideal customer left your site, but he took with him a little tracking code when he clicked away. Now wherever he goes, he will get helpful (slash sometimes annoying) reminders that you are awesome and your page deserves a second look.

So, great. Retargeting ads sound like something you’d like to learn how to set up.

Here’s how you pull off successful retargeting:

Add an invisible retargeting pixel (code snippet) to your website using Google Analytics or Google Adwords. This tracking code will gingerly place a crumb inside the visitor’s browser like a silent passenger who suddenly coughs 30 miles down the road.

These tracking codes are the reason you sometimes wonder if Google can see into your brain somehow, throwing up tiny neon billboards in sidebars about something you swear you were just thinking about.

On average, retargeting ads show a 10x increase in click-through rates (CTR), since people can already relate to your ad. You’re not a stranger anymore, trying to sell them something.  You’re a familiar name.

- Neil Patel

Do some tweaking:

Choose who you remarket to (and get specific): you can target all site visitors or only visitors who completed a specific conversion goal. You can target people who searched for you in Google or those who made it to your cart but then abandoned it. You can target someone who shared certain content on Facebook or someone who bought something similar to your product elsewhere (a competitor’s site).

You can set retargeting duration limits too (to a max. of 180 days) so that your tracking code expires after a certain amount of time. This is important because you don’t want to annoy the crap out of that potential buyer.

You can also set a retargeting frequency cap to limit the number of impressions, so your ad doesn’t pop up too often. If your ad pops up too often (say, more than 5-10 impressions per week), you run the risk of pushing too hard. Being pushy can push customers away.

retargeting frequency

Your most important tweak is the ad itself. Your retargeting campaign must have a fantastic display ad. Blow this part, and all of the rest of your retargeting measures are for naught.

Display Ads

Display ads feed your customers’ wants. They create a desire for your thing. They tap someone on the shoulder out of the blue to remind them about something they were looking at earlier...your product or service.

Display ads work on a psychological level, stimulating the part of your brain that persuades people, after multiple exposures, to consider your thing (just like old fashioned TV commercials).

Want the leads without the hassle? Learn more about our PPC and retargeting  services

The goal with retargeting ads is to get potential customers to want your thing enough that they come back to your page after they consider their other options. Coming back increases the odds that they will buy your product this time.

Studies show that the more someone sees your ad, the higher your chances are of converting that someone into a customer. And, thanks to Google’s Display Network (GDN) and Facebook’s Ad Retargeting options, your display ads can appear beside any content relevant to your target keyword.

The benefit to advertisers is that they can get their content in front of audiences that are aligned with their personas. These are typically image ads that draw users attention away from the content on the webpage.

- HubSpot

The point of retargeting ads: to get ideal customers back to your website using frequent display advertising (in sidebars and banners, in mobile apps, and beside YouTube videos), which builds brand awareness by being everywhere your potential customers are. That’s what we call a broad reach in the biz.

ThinkFuel went to town and created a two-part blog series that covers all the juicy bits of how to create an irresistible, creative, clickable display ad that passersby can’t refuse (high CTR). We also talk about how to carefully craft an ad-centred landing page that delivers on the thing your ad promised, and how to implement conversion optimization tactics to scooch those customers to the bottom of your sales funnel.

Retargeting, [in] Google Ads is a way to advertise to users who have previously interacted with you online but have not yet converted. Tracking cookies will follow users around the web and target these users with your ads. Remarketing is effective since prospects need to see your marketing at least seven times before they become a customer.

- HubSpot

 Retargeting with a brilliant display ad converts potential customers from tire kickers into product buyers.  

So! About that display ad: Make sure you nail it!

If you don’t think you can craft the #1 best message for your display ad that will reach the right target audience, then ask for help. But! If you have a marketing thumb, a creative side, and you’re AOK with monitoring trial-and-error, then put on your thinking cap and get your display ad out there (and optimize as you go).

We have nine tips to get you started (because we are awesome and we want you to nail your retargeting campaign):

  1. Put a button on your ad that gives anyone looking at it a reason to want to click it.
  2. Choose multiple ad sizes but keep your message the same on every ad.
  3. Create more than one remarketing list so you can play with different durations and frequencies. This is especially important for seasonal products and services when someone has had a full year to forget about your thing.
  4. If someone doesn’t want to pay you for your thing yet, build several focused display ads that demonstrate how your product can help them as your pixel follows them around the internet.
  5. Don’t cast a big net. Create retargeting display ads for one URL of your site. If you have three products, put those products on their own page and make three different URL-specific display ads, not one that tries to capture all three products.
  6. Make two versions of one ad (A and B) and test both (split-testing) to see which ad does better.
  7. Measure twice and cut once: Pay attention to the number of clicks an ad gets and look at an ad’s overall performance so you can tweak the good performers and delete the bad ones.
  8. Upsell. If someone purchases your thing, retarget that customer with an add-on, accessory, or bonus content relating to that thing.
  9. Special offers encourage checkout completion. Bring visitors back when they abandon your cart with a discount!

Conversions make your company money, and retargeting ads help with conversions. Ergo, retargeting makes you money.

Online marketing is a multi-floored thing. You aim to increase your traffic on one floor and improve your conversions on the next floor up. And you dedicate an entire floor to pixelling potential customers (retargeting them). Use Google Adwords and Facebook Ads to bring people back to your site when they were this close to converting last time but need one more clever push for the sale.

Retargeting is a friendly cloak-and-dagger affair. You want to make money, yes, but you actually want to help your potential customers solve their problems as well. So you tag around and get chummy with those customers who came to your site but left without a fist bump.

You go for that fist bump later by—hola!—casually stepping out of the bushes for a well-timed walk-by that triggers a feeling of “Hey, wait a minute… haven’t I seen you before?” and hopefully also triggers an immediate second thought of “and, you know what? I think I like what I see!”

Site jumper goes back to your site and clicks your buttons. Double fist bump!

fist bump

Word of advice: Spend your advertising dollars on getting that second chance because successful retargeting returns more to you than you originally invested in it (big time ROI). And get creative with display ads that prompt ad clicks. When you get that ad click (that hard-won fist bump), that’s retargeting working for you. And that’s money in the bank.

Queue confetti.

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