How to Retarget Visitors

Retarget your prospectsMy post today will answer a question you’ve probably asked yourself: how come those ads are following me wherever I go on the web?!

It’s called retargeting and, if you spend any time online, you’ve almost certainly been retargeted. It’s when you visit a website and then, mysteriously, no matter where you go after that, you see ads for that website.

It’s very powerful, because of something called the “mere-exposure effect” which is a psychological phenomenon where people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. It’s sometimes called the “familiarity principle.”

You see, it’s much easier to advertise and sell to someone who recognizes you, rather than to a brand new customer. And studies show that, unlike most banner ads, a retargeted ad is more likely to be noticed – simply because of the repetition.

A good reason to consider a retargeting campaign for your business is that, not only is it a relatively low cost exercise but, because it’s completely online, the performance can be measured at every step.


There are two campaign types: pixel-based or list-based. Each works slightly differently, and each has its advantages.

1. Pixel-based retargeting is a way to reach an anonymous visitor to your website. When they arrive on your page a “cookie” – a hidden snippet of JavaScript (often called a pixel) – is placed on your visitors’ browser. When they leave your site then, as they surf the web, the cookie notifies retargeting platforms to show them your ads.

Pixel-based retargeting has the advantage of speed: visitors can be retargeted pretty much immediately after leaving your website. It’s also behavior-based i.e., it can even show different ads, based on specific pages which they visited on your site.

The downside to this method is that the volume of people in the campaign at any given time depends on how often people are visiting your website, viewing certain pages and leaving. In other words, the traffic depends on your marketing efforts to draw people to your website.

2. List-based retargeting works if you already have your prospects’ contact details in your database. That is, you know who they are, so it doesn’t matter whether or not they’ve visited your website.

The way it works is, you upload a list of email addresses into a retargeting campaign, usually on Facebook or Twitter, and the platform will match those addresses to their users. Then it shows your ads just to them.

So it’s based on more than their behavior — you’re choosing who gets retargeted.

The downside is that someone on your list might give you one email address, but use a different address to sign up for their social networks. This means they won’t see your retargeting ad.


Retargeting campaigns are wonderfully flexible. You can run them either for awareness or for conversion.

I recommend Awareness campaigns for when you want to re-engage with your website visitors and remind them about your product or service. These campaigns are usually pixel-based.

However, the drawback to an awareness campaign is that you’re serving less targeted content to people who may have only briefly visited your website. So they aren’t necessarily engaged with your brand, product or service.

Conversion campaigns are just that – you want someone to click on your ad and take an action step. You can offer a call-to-action incentive, such as a free trial.


For your pixel-based campaigns, use a third-party platform such as PerfectAudience, AdRoll, or Retargeter. Web retargeting works well, because the ads follow your targeted visitors across the web, not just to a few social media sites.

However, social media retargeting also has a place in your plan, because people are more likely to reply, share, or discuss your content. Facebook is especially valuable – because so many people have a Facebook account, then there’s a strong likelihood they can be matched to their email address. And social media users are also more trusting, because they can see your ads are posted from a real account.

Like any other online marketing technique, it’s often easier to have retargeting campaigns set up and managed for you, in which case you would expect to pay a monthly management fee on top of your ‘ad spend.’

Think about arranging a FREE ‘Situation Analysis’ call with me and we can look at whether or not retargeting would be a good idea for your business.


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