Facebook retargeting ads place your brand in front of prospects who’ve previously visited your website. Learn how experts use FB ads to re-engage potential customers and guide them to convert.

Facebook retargeting ads help you reach the right audiences with the right offers at the right time. They’re crucial for running cost-effective, high-ROAS campaigns.

We spoke with HawkSEM’s President, Rambod Yadegar, and CEO, Sam Yadegar, for expert insights on all things Facebook retargeting. Read on for expert optimization tips, learn how to set it up, and why you should start now.

What are Facebook retargeting ads?

Facebook ads retargeting is a method of promoting your business to people who have already interacted with your marketing. When you retarget these audiences, you encourage them to complete the next step in their buyer journey, such as:

  • Visiting a landing page on your website
  • Watching a customer story video ad
  • Joining your email list
  • Making a purchase from your online store

How does Facebook retargeting work?

As an advertiser, you can retarget prospects or customers using a wide range of data sources. For example, you can choose from several Meta-based data sources that let you retarget people who:

  • Liked your Facebook page
  • Recently engaged with your Instagram content
  • Watched a video you posted on Facebook or Instagram
  • Attended or expressed interest in an event you posted to Facebook
  • Viewed products or added something to their cart in your Facebook shop

However, this Facebook marketing tactic doesn’t limit you to Meta sources only. You can also use your own data to retarget people who:

  • Launched your mobile app
  • Visited a specific page on your website
  • Attended your lead generation webinar
  • Added an item from your product catalog to their shopping cart
  • Are on your customer list or in your customer relationship management (CRM)

To use these first-party data sources, you’ll need a custom audience. But you must supply the data by uploading a customer list or installing a Facebook pixel.

If you’re an ecommerce retailer, auto dealer, real estate agent, or hotelier, you have access to an advanced retargeting option. You can set up dynamic ads that retarget people based on their interaction with items in your product catalog.

How to set up Facebook advertising retargeting

To use retargeting successfully in a Facebook ad campaign, you need a data source and an audience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up a standard workflow:

Map out your marketing funnel

The ideal remarketing campaign strategy for your business depends on your funnel. Think about how you intend to guide prospects from awareness to conversion.

Here’s a simplified example of how your funnel could work:

  1. Awareness: Introduce your brand and capture the attention of new prospects with an engaging video. Cast a wide net by creating an interest-based or lookalike audience. Choose the engagement objective in Facebook Ads Manager to get as many people as possible to watch at least part of your video.
  2. Consideration: Retarget people who watched a certain percentage of your introductory video. Use the traffic objective in Ads Manager to generate as much website traffic as possible. Link the ad to a landing page with a customer story or case study that speaks to your target audience’s challenges and goals.
  3. Conversion: Retarget website visitors who clicked through to your landing page. Use the leads objective in Ads Manager to encourage prospects to book an appointment with your sales team. Use Meta’s built-in lead qualification questions to ensure your team only books appointments with your ideal customer.

As you can see, the first stage of this sample marketing funnel aims to increase brand awareness by targeting a cold audience. Then it delivers ads to engaged prospects by retargeting warm audiences at the consideration and conversion stages of the funnel.

Most marketing funnels use the basic principles above, but with more steps at each funnel stage. They often include multiple different ads to engage the target audience, educate potential customers, and guide those with purchase intent toward a conversion.

“When I approach retargeting, I start by mapping out the customer journey,” shares Stefan Valentin, Ads Specialist at Irresistible Me. “This helps me understand where the potential customer dropped off. Then, I create audience segments based on their interactions — like those who visited our website but didn’t purchase, or those who added items to the cart but didn’t check out.”

“Using Facebook’s tools, I tailor ads for each segment, making them relevant to their experience. For example, someone who left items in their cart may see an ad reminding them of what they left behind, possibly with a small discount or a compelling message to encourage a purchase.”

Configure a Facebook pixel

If your digital marketing funnel involves driving traffic to your website, the next thing you should do is set up conversion tracking. With a Facebook pixel, you can track clicks and click-through rates (CTRs) from your ads and then retarget people who visited your site.

To create a pixel that connects your ad account with your website, open Meta Events Manager. Double check that your ad account is selected, then press the “Connect Data” button. From the data source popup, select “Web” and click the “Connect” button.

configure a facebook pixel

Note that the workflow above creates a pixel and associates it with your ad account. To complete the setup process, you have to install the pixel on your website. From your Events Manager dashboard, click the “Setup Meta Pixel” button and follow the steps.


While you’re at it, configure Conversions API too. Although this step isn’t a strict requirement, Meta recommends doing it to improve data accuracy. Conversions API creates a direct connection to your website, making it easier to build reliable retargeting audiences.

To configure it, click the “Set Up Conversions API” button on your Events Manager dashboard. Then follow the step-by-step instructions.

Build a product catalog

If you plan to advertise ecommerce items, new or used vehicles, real estate listings, or hotel bookings, create a catalog next. With a catalog, you can promote inventory dynamically via single image or carousel ads. You can also leverage Meta’s dynamic retargeting audiences.

Build a product catalog

To get started, go to Business Manager and open Meta Commerce Manager. Click the “Add Catalog.” Then choose the correct catalog type for your business, using the options below as a guide.


Next, choose how to add items to your catalog. The right choice for your business depends on the kinds of items you sell and the size of your inventory.

The options include:

  • Manual, which is best for a small inventory that doesn’t change often
  • Pixel, which works for products only but can support a larger inventory
  • Partner platform, which works if you use a supported platform (e.g., Shopify)
  • Data feed, which works for all inventory types and sizes

No matter which option you choose, a catalog provides an easy way to advertise specific products without requiring you to create each ad manually. With dynamic product ads, you can develop templates to promote relevant items more efficiently.

Create a custom audience

After setting up data sources, you’re ready to build Facebook custom audiences. You can complete this step in Meta Audience Manager or at the ad set level of any campaign.

From either dashboard, choose from the list of available data sources (see below). Use your funnel map to pick the most relevant source for retargeting with Facebook ads.

custom audience

For example, say you want to target people based on website or app activity. You can retarget people who visited specific landing pages or completed certain actions that you promoted earlier in the funnel. Make sure the time frame aligns with your buyer’s journey.


When you opt to use Meta data sources like lead forms or videos, you can get just as specific. Not only can you retarget viewers of specific videos, but you can also target people who watched a certain percentage (e.g., 50%) to reach more engaged prospects.

engaged prospects

When you run bottom-of-funnel ads, you also have the option to retarget your customer list. Once you upload your lead list, Meta automatically matches names, email addresses, and phone numbers to Facebook users so you can get your ads in front of the right people.


Set up a dynamic retargeting audience

If you have a product catalog, you can create dynamic product ads that leverage Meta’s built-in retargeting tools. At the campaign level, switch on the “Use a Catalog” option.

retargeting audience

At the ad set level, select “Retarget ads to people who interacted with your products on and off Facebook.” Then choose the type of interaction you want to retarget.

Retarget ads

For example, you can create a cart abandonment workflow to prompt prospects to complete their purchases. Or create a cross-sell or upsell workflow to increase the lifetime value of your existing customers.

At the ad level, use dynamic tools to create ad copy more efficiently. These dynamic tools display details like product names and prices automatically, so that ads are as relevant as possible for each Facebook user.

Why should brands use Facebook retargeting strategies?

Facebook remarketing ads offer substantial benefits to brands. Use this campaign setup to reach the following goals:

Highly specific targeting

If Meta’s automated Advantage audiences and interest-based segments aren’t targeted enough for your needs, retargeting can get your ads in front of the right people. Retargeting uses behavior signals to deliver ads to people who’ve shown specific types of intent.

For example, say you’re in the market for new window coverings, and you visit The Shade Store’s website to browse. But you leave before making a purchase.

Highly specific targeting

The next time you scroll through your Facebook feed, you could see an ad like the one above. Retargeting ads could appear in your feed because you visited the company’s website or because you viewed certain products.

If you continue to interact with the brand’s ads by watching videos or clicking through to landing pages, you may see more conversion-focused Facebook ad examples promoting special offers, limited time sales, or promo codes.

More efficient advertising funnel

Most successful advertising strategies account for the entire funnel — from the awareness to the consideration to the conversion stage. Without retargeting, it’s challenging to move prospects through the funnel efficiently.

But with retargeting on Facebook, you can easily create segments with engaged prospects. Then you can add them to campaigns at relevant stages of the funnel to guide these audiences toward a conversion more effectively. We typically find that Facebook ads are worth it when retargeting is a key part of the strategy.

Improved conversion rate

Whether you run a B2C brand or a B2B company, you can’t expect prospects to convert the first time they learn about your business.

“Retargeting is an essential part of a marketing campaign and should be included as part of a comprehensive performance marketing strategy,” explains Sam. “On average, a buyer needs to see a product or ad about seven times before an action is taken. Retargeting allows for this.”

Think about it this way. If you stop targeting prospects after the first touchpoint, they may never convert. But when you run retargeting ads on Facebook, you can line up those seven touchpoints reliably. As a result, you can significantly improve your conversion rate.

Increased return on ad spend (ROAS)

If you only target potential customers based on their interests, you’ll probably spend a lot of money on ads without generating many conversions. Retargeting audiences go beyond interests and use behavior-based signals — ideally, those that show purchase intent.

As a result, retargeting campaigns tend to be more cost-effective with higher ROAS. That means they can improve your conversion rate without requiring you to increase your budget.

What kind of ROAS goals can you achieve with retargeting ads? HawkSEM helped Apotheke Co. increase ROAS by 62% year over year using a combination of social media ads and retargeting efforts. Reach out to learn how our Facebook ads agency can partner with your team on retargeting campaigns.

Expert tips for optimizing Facebook retargeting ads

Ads Manager offers a wide range of retargeting options. How do you ensure you’re using the best ones for your funnel, audience, and objective? Use these expert tips to optimize your retargeting ads:

Level up your conversion tracking

Above, we covered the process for configuring native conversion tools like the Meta pixel and Conversions API. But when you’re serious about optimizing your ads, you’ll want to validate this data with a third-party tool. As a PPC ad agency, we’ve found that this is especially true when running cross-channel campaigns.

“Tracking is an essential part of any campaign. We use ConversionIQ to ensure we’re tracking all aspects of a campaign, including retargeting ads. With this proprietary tool, we can see precisely where sales are coming from and how we can drive more,” explains Rambod.

Consider intent signals

Not every retargeting audience is the same. Ensure your creative, copy, and offer are designed for a specific audience.

“The biggest mistake with retargeting ads isn’t leveraging enough visitor behavior and intent signals to customize messaging,” explains Robert Brandl, Founder and CEO of Email Tool Tester.

“Just blasting someone who casually browsed once with a generic ‘Come Back Soon!’ fails to move the needle. Speaking to their specific use case and interests grabs attention amongst distraction.”

Exclude audiences to optimize ad spend

One of the downsides of retargeting audiences is they don’t automatically remove prospects who’ve already converted. If you don’t take action to remove them yourself, you could waste ad spend on current customers who completed the actions you’re targeting.

optimize ad spend

Meta makes exclusions relatively easy. At the ad set level of any retargeting campaign, select the custom audience you want to reach. Then use the “Exclude” dropdown to choose the custom audience you don’t want to target.

Avoid hyper-targeting audiences

Using Ads Manager’s retargeting tools, it’s possible to create very specific audiences. Although that may seem like a good thing, in practice, it isn’t. Instead, hyper-targeting restricts delivery options and compromises the results of most campaigns.


How do you know when your audiences are too targeted? In Ads Manager, you’ll see a “Your custom audience is too small” warning. Take it as a sign that you should dial back your targeting or add more prospects to the previous stage of your funnel first.

Watch for ad fatigue

When retargeting audiences are too small, ad fatigue can also result. It happens when the same audience sees your ad copy or creative too often, causing it to be less effective.

“With small remarketing audiences, ad fatigue is inevitable,” explains Meara McNitt, Senior Social Media Director at Online Optimism.

“The best way to combat this is rotating out the creative at a faster pace, keeping the message fresh and providing new considerations and offers. The value of remarketing is to stay top of mind, but if your creative is fatiguing or your frequency is too high, you’ll become a nuisance more than a reminder.”

Know when not to use retargeting

Meta’s retargeting tools can be powerful for advertisers. But they aren’t the right fit for every campaign — far from it.

So when should you avoid creating retargeting audiences? Don’t use them when your main goal is expanding your audience and getting your ads in front of completely new prospects.

On their own, retargeting audiences can’t help you reach new prospects. However, they make great data sources for lookalike audiences, which can help you reach new prospects.

use retargeting

To create a lookalike audience, identify the custom audiences that have generated the most value for your brand. Then select the size for your audience. Because 1% of audiences are the most similar to the seed audiences, they’re typically the best place to start with lookalikes.

Facebook retargeting ads checklist

Map out your marketing funnel

Configure a Facebook pixel

Create a product catalog

Choose a custom audience

Set up a dynamic retargeting audience

The takeaway

From increased conversions to improved ROAS to a more efficient advertising funnel, Facebook retargeting campaigns offer a long list of benefits. But if you’re new to retargeting, this tactic isn’t always easy to get right.

Whether you need ad strategy advice or you want to level up your retargeting segments with conversion tracking data, our Facebook ads consultants are here to help. Contact HawkSEM to book a free Facebook advertising consultation.

Anna Sonnenberg

Anna Sonnenberg

Anna Sonnenberg is a writer for B2B SaaS companies. She specializes in product-led and strategic content for marketing technology, sales automation, and productivity tools.