How Retargeting Works: Understanding and Implementing Remarketing

What is Retargeting?

Retargeting is a marketing strategy that targets users who have previously interacted with your website or app to encourage them to return and complete a desired action. These users are targeted with ads as they browse other websites or social media platforms, with the goal of re-engaging them and encouraging them to return to your site to complete the desired action.

Not every visitor is prepared to make a purchase immediately upon arriving at your website. Factors such as time constraints or the need for further research or consultation with others can delay their decision.

This is where retargeting plays a crucial role. It’s a potent method for reconnecting with potential customers who did not convert during their initial visit to your site.

Let’s delve deeper into the concept of retargeting.

For instance, if a prospect searches for “kids footwear” on Google and then browses different shoe models on a footwear brand’s website without making a purchase, the brand can retarget them. Later, when the prospect is scrolling through Instagram stories, they might come across an ad from the same footwear store featuring the exact shoe model they viewed on the website.

Here’s what that process looks like:

Retargeting vs. Remarketing

Retargeting and remarketing are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings.

Retargeting involves reaching out to previous website visitors through ads to encourage them to return and complete a desired action. For example, a clothing company might show ads to users who previously visited their website but did not make a purchase, like the Instagram ad from The Normal Brand.

On the other hand, remarketing typically involves sending personalized, targeted messages to individuals who have already made a purchase. The goal of remarketing is to nurture relationships and encourage repeat purchases. Remarketing often leverages email, as seen in the example from Grammarly, where they offer special discounts to existing users to encourage them to upgrade or renew their subscription.

What Are the Advantages of Retargeting Campaigns?

Retargeting is advantageous because it enables you to reconnect with prospects who are already acquainted with your brand. Let’s delve deeper into the specific benefits of running retargeting campaigns:


 Retargeting ads generally yield better returns than ads that do not utilize retargeting. This is because they allow you to target customers who are already familiar with your brand, rather than starting from scratch.

For example, an Instagram ad offering a discount on shoes from Vivaia is more likely to resonate with people who have previously browsed the website for those shoes, increasing the likelihood of a purchase.

Enhancing Brand Recall:

Retargeting aids in brand recall by offering multiple touchpoints with your target audience. By delivering relevant ads based on users’ actions, you can gently remind them of your business and offerings. This is crucial because new prospects often require more encouragement to convert, as they may not be fully prepared to make a purchase during their initial interaction with your brand.

Promoting New or Popular Products:

Retargeting is a highly effective method for promoting new or popular products because it targets individuals who have already expressed interest in your brand. As a result, these visitors are more likely to make a purchase, which can have a positive impact on your campaign’s return on investment (ROI).

Reaching Prospects at Every Stage of the Buyer’s Journey:

Retargeting ads enable you to customize your messages based on the user’s position in their buyer’s journey. For instance, you can retarget users who only viewed specific products differently than those who abandoned their cart. This approach allows you to use more relevant and personalized ad creative, which can encourage the user to complete a purchase.

How Does Retargeting Work?

Retargeting works by using tracking pixels, also known as tags, to gather information about your website visitors and social media interactions with your brand. These pixels are code snippets provided by advertising platforms like Google Ads, which you place in your website’s header to load on every page.

When a user visits your website, the tracking pixel is stored in their browser. This allows the advertising platform to recognize the user when they visit other websites or social media platforms where your ads are displayed.

It’s important to note that pixels do not collect personal data like names or addresses. Instead, they record the user’s IP address, which is used to serve retargeting ads to that IP address in the future.

The tracking pixel can also provide insights into user actions such as page views, clicks, form submissions, video views, downloads, add-to-carts, and purchases. This information helps you tailor your ads to better align with users’ previous interactions with your brand.

Types of  Retargeting Campaigns

General website retargeting

General website retargeting is a common retargeting method that involves tracking users who have interacted with your website or app but have not completed a desired action, such as making a purchase. These actions might include viewing product pages, adding items to a cart, or initiating and abandoning the checkout process.

Retargeting ads for general website retargeting can appear on social media and other websites, reminding users to return to your site and complete a purchase.

Search Network Retargeting

Search network retargeting involves displaying ads to users based on specific keywords they have previously searched for. When a user searches for these keywords, your retargeting ads will appear on various platforms, including social media, other websites, and search engine results pages (SERPs).

For instance, if a user has searched for “online data degrees,” they may see a retargeting ad for online data degree programs the next time they browse a website or search for related keywords.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) is a feature offered by Google Ads that allows you to tailor your search ad campaigns to target individuals who have previously visited your website or app.

For example, if a user has previously viewed a specific page featuring ballet flats on a shoe store’s website and later searches for “comfortable ballet flats,” they may see an ad for those same shoes in the search results.

Top Platforms for Running Your Retargeting Ads

Here’s the most common platforms used for retargeting campaigns

Google Ads

Google Ads is a leading advertising platform known for its robust retargeting capabilities. It enables businesses to target potential customers who have interacted with their website through the Google Display Network and Google Search.

Meta Ads Manager

Meta Ads Manager, on the other hand, is a platform that allows you to create and manage ads across various Meta platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and the Meta Audience Network. Meta retargeting ads utilize a website tracking pixel to display ads on Meta’s apps to individuals who have previously engaged with your brand on your website or Facebook page.

Twitter (now X)

Retargeting ads on Twitter (now X) enable you to target individuals who have previously engaged with your website or tweets.

By incorporating the X pixel on your website, you can deliver tailored ads to this audience.

LinkedIn retargeting ads, on the other hand, allow you to customize your messaging based on users’ interactions with your website, ads, or company page on LinkedIn. By using the LinkedIn Insight Tag on your website, you can retarget users—including event attendees—who have not yet converted, helping to expedite their buyer’s journey.

Best Practices for Creating Retargeting Ads

Crafting highly specific ads

Crafting highly specific ads tailored to the user’s interests is crucial for effective retargeting. For instance, if your company sells sportswear and a customer has browsed your website for shoes, while another has shown interest in shorts, it’s best to create separate ads that cater to each individual’s browsing behavior. This approach ensures that the ads resonate with the users’ specific interests, increasing the likelihood of them engaging with your brand again.

Creating landing pages

Creating landing pages that match the ad is crucial for maintaining a cohesive user experience and increasing conversions. Align the look and message of your landing page with the ad to compel users to take action. Avoid sending users to your homepage or using landing pages with distracting elements. Instead, create welcoming, clear, and product-specific landing pages with a single, clear call to action.

Here’s an example.


Ad landing page:

Tools for Running a Successful Retargeting Campaign

Traffic Analytics

Using Traffic Analytics from Semrush can greatly enhance your retargeting campaigns by revealing how competitors drive traffic and which landing pages perform best. Start by adding up to five competitors and analyzing their strategies.

This tool provides insights into competitors’ top traffic sources and visitor demographics, helping you refine your retargeting efforts.

Pay special attention to the paid channels driving their traffic, as these may be lucrative options for your campaigns. Additionally, explore competitors’ top pages to glean ideas for your own landing pages.

This comprehensive approach can significantly boost the effectiveness of your retargeting efforts.


One2Target offers comprehensive insights into your target market, allowing you to create compelling ads that resonate with your audience. Simply input your domain and competitor domains, then click “Analyze” to generate a report.

This report provides valuable information about your audience’s demographics, socioeconomics, behavior, and the audience overlap between competitors.

Navigate to the “Behavior” tab to discover which social media platforms your audience frequents most and their top interests.

You can also analyze device usage to determine whether visits primarily come from mobile or desktop devices.

This data helps you tailor your messaging and ad placements to effectively reach your target audience.


Advertising Intelligence provides a deep dive into your competitors’ advertising strategies, allowing you to benchmark your spending and uncover profitable ad platforms and traffic sources for your next campaign.

To get started, sign up for a free trial and input a competitor’s domain. Select the channel, device type, time range, and country you want to analyze.

You’ll be presented with an overview of key metrics such as estimated expenditure and ad type distribution.

You can also compare metrics for multiple competitors or use the comparison view to analyze two competitors side by side.

Scrolling down, you can explore the “Top Ads” widget to see your competitors’ best-performing ads and their associated metrics.

This information can help you benchmark your performance and optimize your advertising strategy for better results.

Start Leveraging Retargeting for Your Business

Start leveraging retargeting for your business to reconnect with potential customers already familiar with your brand.

Begin by researching your competitors’ strategies to uncover what works for them. Use Traffic Analytics to delve into the specifics of their landing pages.

This will help you gain insights and apply effective tactics to your own campaigns.