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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jan 8 , 2021

With the ability to track almost everything online these days, effective retargeting ads are a great marketing tool that can help grow your ROI.

Here you’ll find:

  • The slight difference between retargeting and remarketing
  • Steps to create a successful retargeting campaign 
  • Key elements for an effective retargeting ad
  • The benefits of running these ad types

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone who stumbled upon your ads or website for the first time was primed to buy? A marketer’s dream!

But the reality is that, for about 96% of visitors, it’s just not true. That’s why retargeting can be such a powerful tool.

As a highly effective way to turn window shoppers into eventual leads, retargeting ads that speak to the right people can be a game-changer for your business. These are ads that populate around the web for those who have visited or otherwise taken interest in your business, but haven’t yet become customers.

The difference between retargeting and remarketing

In recent years, the fine line between retargeting and remarketing has become blurry. This has led to many using the two terms interchangeably. While retargeting and remarketing are both tactics to re-engage consumers, there are a few slight differences between the two.

Remarketing focuses on one platform — such as email — to re-engage site visitors and, often, previous customers. On the other hand, retargeting uses ads through paid media, such as paid search or paid social ads, to re-engage consumers who showed an interest in your brand. 

Retargeting ads are shown to consumers who have recently taken certain actions on or off your site, but didn’t follow through with a sale.

Ever clicked on a product like a pair of shoes or headphones while scrolling on a website, then moved on without adding to cart? If you log onto another site like Facebook and see an ad pop up for that exact product, you’ve experienced retargeting. 

Retargeting is a proven way to increase visitors’ chances of following through with a purchase than first-time visitors. In fact, Search Engine Land states that retargeted website visitors are 43% more likely to convert. 

Now that we’ve cleared up the difference between retargeting and remarketing, let’s dive into the four steps for creating an effective retargeting ad.

retargeting ads blog

Retargeting an email list is another one of the best ways to connect with those already familiar with your brand, so you can continue building a lasting relationship. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Determine advertising platforms

As with any marketing strategy, you want to ensure your message resonates with your target audience. You also want it to show up where they spend their time online. The same concept is true for your retargeting ads. You should choose the advertising platforms that’ll be most effective for reaching the people you want to retarget.

Popular advertising platforms include Google, Microsoft, and social media platforms. Take a closer look at your audience’s demographics and habits to determine the most effective platform for running retargeting ads.

Understanding your targeted audience will ensure you’re reaching the right people in the right places with the right messaging. This way, you won’t have to worry that you’re blowing your advertising budget on ineffective ads. 

2. Collect data for retargeting campaigns

Retargeting ads are prompted when a user takes a specific action. So, how do you ensure these are the people who see your ads? Collecting data for your specified actions is essential to creating an effective retargeting campaign. 

Two common methods for collecting this data are through using pixels and creating manually gathered lists. Installing a tracking pixel may require a bit of technical knowledge. If necessary, sync up with your go-to tech or dev pros, or the marketing agency you partner with, to make sure this is set up properly. 

Retargeting an email list is another one of the best ways to connect with those already familiar with your brand, so you can continue building a lasting relationship.

Using a retargeting pixel

A pixel is a piece of code embedded into the HTML on your website, landing pages, online ads, or emails. Once added, it begins tracking different data about visitors through their browser and passes on the information to the preferred advertising platform. 

If a visitor leaves without completing the desired action, your chosen advertising platforms will be alerted that they should be served relevant retargeting ads. This method is an instant, ultimately hands-free option for ensuring the right people see your ads. 

Using retargeting lists

List-based targeting is a way to re-engage the customers or website visitors whose emails you’ve already collected, possibly via a sign-up or free-trial offer. A customer relationship management (CRM) tool is one of the most efficient ways to create an organized list of contacts to use for retargeting. 

Even for those who prefer the old-school way of collecting emails via in-person sign-ups, a CRM will help keep those emails organized. With your list of contacts in hand (or saved on your device), upload it to your advertising platform. Once added, this targeted audience should begin seeing your retargeting ads as they scroll online. 

3. Set your retargeting goal

As with any marketing strategy, you need to set goals before starting a retargeting campaign. Two common goals we see are increasing brand or product awareness and converting previous visitors.

An awareness campaign is beneficial for educating audiences about new product offerings or special announcements. This goal will usually have a larger audience of people who haven’t recently engaged with your business. This makes it ideal for running before a conversion campaign. 

With conversion campaigns, visitors have engaged with your company or products but haven’t made the commitment leap. These retargeting ads are created with the goal of convincing previous visitors to follow through with their purchase.

With your retargeting goal established, you can then segment your audience for a successful campaign. Some segment examples include:

  • Behavior
  • Time on page duration
  • Frequency of site visits
  • Existing customers 

Segmenting your targeted audience will ensure you’re speaking to the right people that will help you achieve your retargeting goals.

Pro tip: Forbes suggests that once a campaign is established, a business should try to allocate at least 20%-30% of their total ad spend on retargeting. 

retargeting ads - facebook ad

An example of a retargeting ad on the Facebook platform. (Image via Facebook)

4. Optimize your retargeting ads

You may know we’re not fans of the “set it and forget it” mindset. That’s because we know ensuring your ads are optimized is the key to a successful campaign, no matter which type.

An effective retargeting ad will have a combination of elements such as compelling photos, videos, and text relevant to the featured product or service that grabs the viewer’s attention. 

To optimize your retargeting ads for a lasting impression, keep these factors in mind:

  • Attention-grabbing headline – Ask yourself: Is the headline engaging? Does it relate to the action taken on your website? 
  • Eye-catching media – Whether you opt for a photograph, animation, or video, it’s essential to keep it relevant to the ad copy. 
  • Straightforward copy – Speaking of copy, you want to keep it short and sweet. If people can’t determine the incentive or reason for seeing your ad quickly, they’ll likely move on with their day and leave your ad clickless. 
  • Click-worthy call to action (CTA) – Ensure your audience can identify their next step with an action-oriented CTA button.

The takeaway

The benefits of retargeting ads are many. When done effectively, running retargeting campaigns is a way to grow your ROI with an audience that has already shown an interest in your brand or product. 

While users seeing retargeting ads can feel like they’re being followed when browsing online, it’s often the reminder needed to make the leap to your brand and become a loyal customer. 

Ready to implement retargeting ads in your marketing strategy but not sure where to begin? Connect with us to learn how we can help!

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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