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A Beginner’s Guide to Retargeting

Retargeting is a useful part of every marketer’s life: and even if you haven’t used it yet, you have definitely experienced it. Ever browsed for something on an online store, only to see ads for it on your Facebook later? No, it’s not the same phenomenon where you learn a new word and start seeing it everywhere. You have just been a subject of a retargeting strategy!

If you’re running a business, we’re sure you’re already seeing the benefits of such a strategy. Around 96% of the people who visit your site are not ready to make an immediate purchase. Being able to track those who have left your site, and remind them of your store, and the purchase they were trying to make can have a huge impact. Retargeting strategies provide you with the opportunity to make multiple first impressions, and with the right strategy, you’ll be able to swim right into their hearts and convert them into a buyer!  

What is retargeting?

Simply put, retargeting is a method of advertising through which you use social media platforms to advertise your brand to the customers who bounced from your site.

Retargeting, as a strategy, helps businesses to reach out to a much larger customer base. It would be great if all out customers followed a single linear path: where they enter the site, browse around, pick a product/service, and immediately subscribe or purchase. But that’s called the ideal scenario for a reason. What mostly happens is that a customer might come to your site, browse around and just leave. Months later, they might be reminded of your site (maybe through a recommendation, or through a well placed ad), and probably visit the site again, and then make a purchase. 96% of the users (as we mentioned above) take this route: imagine how many more converts you’d get if you were able to engage with them over a longer period of time!

How does retargeting work?

“Okay, I’m sold on this retargeting idea, but how does it work?”

Retargeting uses a cookie-based technology, using a Javascript code that will anonymously track and follow your audiences. The code used is also called a ‘pixel’, and it will be an unobtrusive ad-on to your current site structure. It will not be visible to the visitors on your site either. Every time your site gets a new visitor, this code will drop an anonymous cookie. Later, when this cookied visitor visits other sites on the internet, your retargeting provider will be able to track their path, to know when and where to present targeted ads. Think of it as following the (cookie) crumbs left by your visitor!


This is the most popular way of retargeting potential customers, but not the only one. Some sites prefer to use list-based retargeting, where you can use the contact information from your database to reconnect with customers. This is a much more targeted method of advertising, as it only reaches out to those who have actively expressed interest in your site and your offers. On the other hand, the success rate cannot exactly been determined, so you would definitely need a large contact list to see an effective change.

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What can you achieve through retargeting?

Whether you’re following the pixel method or the list method, retargeting can achieve some very real goals for you. There’s a lot on the line, so before you put together your retargeting strategy, it’s necessary for you to identify what you wish to achieve through this process. It will help you understand what kind of advertising you should use to get through to your targeted audience, and also help you develop the necessary metrics to measure your success! After all, knowing why you want to do something is half the game!

  • Awareness: You can use retargeting strategies to raise awareness about your brand, products, offers, and more. This can be done through announcements, competitions and more. Awareness campaigns are usually driven through the pixel method, so as to reach a wider audience. This can be a goal in itself, or it can be a stepping stone to your actual goal: sales conversions.
  • Conversions: This is if you want the retargeting ad to make a person click on your site, and go to the next level (whether it is buying a product, or even clicking the subscribe option). To drive conversions, you can use both pixel and list-based retargeting.

A step by step guide to retargeting on Facebook

Facebook is extremely popular among businesses because of the direct access it provides to customers and potential customers (over 5 million businesses use Facebook to reach their target audience). It’s one of the most popular channels for retargeting ads, with 62% marketers claiming it to be the most important social media platform.

For a successful foray into the world of retargeting, you need to optimize your game for Facebook first. How do you do that? Let’s take a look!

Step 1: Create your custom audience

To get started, you need to have a Facebook Business account. When you log in to your account, click on ‘Business Manager’ on the top left of the screen, and in the next page, click on the ‘Audiences’ option under the Assets tab.


Here, you can choose the ‘Create Audience’ option, and create a Custom Audience for your retargeting strategy.


Step 2: Choose what customers you wish to track

When creating your custom audience, you can choose between the ‘Customer File’ or the ‘Website Activity’ or ‘App Activity’ options. You should note that the ‘website traffic’ audience is the most common option for those running retargeting ads.


The ‘Customer File’ option will allow you to choose how you’d like to add customers, and whether you’d want to create a ‘Lifetime Value’ or LTV metric for the customers.


If you choose the ‘Website Traffic’ option, you’ll be able to see different drop-down options, so you can choose the specific category of people you wish to target.


Step 3: Create a pixel for the audience

Once you’re done creating your custom audience, you can give it a name, so you can spot the exact custom audience elsewhere in your Business Manager. Now, all you have to do is create the pixel for that particular audience. In order to do this, you should go back to the ‘Audiences’ tab, where you’ll be able to see the Retargeting audience group. Select it, click on ‘Actions’ and ‘View Panel’.


Now, you will get the pixel base code. All you have to do is copy this base code and put it on the header code on your site (if you don’t know how to do this, your developer will be able to do it for you). And that’s all you have to do set up your retargeting campaign!


How to implement your retargeting strategy

Not all the users who come to your site use the same path, so you’ll have to engage with them differently as well. Here are some ideas on how you can use retargeting to further user engagement with your site and drive higher conversions.

Target visitors who are not converted yet with subscription ads

Now that you know how to set up your campaign, it’s time for you to understand what are the different kinds of retargeting ads you should be running on your page. The first category of people you should tackle are the visitors who have engaged with your site, but aren’t ready to make a purchase just yet. They might not be willing to invest immediately: but that doesn’t mean they are not interested. So, how do you coax them into converting?

  • First, using your audience tracker, identify those who have visited your site (or even specific pages), and bounced without making a purchase. Convert this into a custom audience using the steps above.
  • Create a Facebook lead ad, allowing people to subscribe to your page. This is a good way of reminding the user about your page, and gives you an opportunity to further engage with them through your newsletter.


  • Make sure that your ad is optimized, so that people actively want to click on the ‘subscribe’ button. People have become desensitized to general subscription messages thanks to the number of spam ads and advertisers, so you have to find a way to make an impact in the 2 seconds that it takes for a person to scroll past your ad on their timeline.
  • Keep the ‘Subscribe’ option simple. You’re trying to engage with people who are not ready to convert yet, but can be valuable future customers. If the ‘Subscribe’ option leads them to a page with 8-9 fields, they are definitely going to leave (having 4 or fewer form fields can increase your conversion rate by 160% after all).

Remind visitors to finish their order

Have people visited the site, put items in the cart and just left? You can use retargeting ads to remind them of the products they showed interest in: since it is a product they have already browsed, they’d be more likely to interact with your site again due to the familiarity.

Facebook’s Dynamic Retargeting Ads can be extremely handy in such situations. You can set up your campaign by going to your Ads account, and under the setting tab, choosing the ‘Assets’ category. Here, go to ‘Product Catalogue’, where you’ll be able to ‘Create a Catalogue’. Once the catalogue is created, you’ll be able to download a .CSV template, by clicking ‘Ad Products’. Fill out this template and submit to Facebook, which will start showing the targeted users the dynamic ads reminding them about their purchase!

Keep your users engaged with your brand

This is the best way of engaging with those who have already made a purchase on your site, or have been converted. You can create a custom audience of those who have visited your shop in the last few weeks, or have made purchases. Once this is done, you’ll be able to engage with these users about any updates, like new services or products, upcoming deals, and more.

Tools that can help with retargeting

Let’s face it: Retargeting can be quite complicated, what with the number of customizations possible. It can take you quite a while to just understand the sheer number of permutations and combinations possible with your existing client base. In such a situation, you definitely need all the help that you can get: which is why you need to know about the best remarketing tools in the market. (Note, these are not paid endorsements).

  • Google Re-marketing: There’s no doubt that Google’s remarketing tool is on top of the pyramid when it comes to personalization and diversity of ad campaigns. You can use this tool to run normal or dynamic remarketing campaigns, video ads and more. If you already use Google Adwords, you won’t have to pay extra.
  • AdRoll: AdRoll is an all-encompassing tool that can help you run your retargeting campaign on Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Bing and more. The user interface is simple and user-friendly, and there are various payment options, depending on the kind of campaign you wish to run.
  • Perfect Audience: If you’re a small business trying to explore the possibilities of retargeting, Perfect Audience is a great option for you. You’ll be able to engage in web and Facebook retargeting, identify potential audience lists, highlight brand partnerships, and do cross-platform retargeting as well.


A retargeting strategy can help you get the most out of the people that you have already reached out to, and in 2018, it would be unwise for you to ignore such a valuable tool. It’s a powerful way of raising brand awareness and driving conversion optimization. Of course, retargeting is best used as a part of a larger advertising campaign, as it only focuses on continued engagement and conversion, and not on increasing the traffic to your site. However, when used in tandem with web traffic campaigns, retargeting can definitely elevate your presence on social media, and drive your sales by a significant amount.

Author avatar
Shriya Garg
Shriya is the co-founder and CEO at ContentNinja. She started her first blog when she was 12 years old, and coded her first website by the time she was 14. An avid reader and writer, she published her first book when she was 16 years old and has sold over 10,000 copies since. When she's not fielding client calls, Shriya can be found cleaning cat hair from her clothes.