A Quick Guide to Retargeting

A Quick Guide to Retargeting

Retargeting is the marketing practice which aims to attract potential customers that have visited your website, but have not made a purchase. The conversion process can be very intricate, with various user segments behaving differently on a case by case basis. Some users, for example, might be interested in a product or service for a future purchase, so they visit a website, do some research, look through various goods, and then leave, with the intent to complete the purchase at a later date. It is the marketer’s job, through retargeting, to ensure that the user will make the purchase on your website.

How does it work?

Retargeting works by detecting anonymous users who spend a certain amount of time on your website and leave without making a purchase. These users are served ads across multiple channels, with the products they viewed on the website. Retargeting works across email, social media, and display ads.

In order to identify these anonymous website visitors, the retargeting campaign uses third-party cookies, supplied by the retargeting ad service which you have contracted. The cookies are saved in the user’s browser, and when the campaign is active, they serve the user ads related to their interests.

On a more technical note, retargeting works by using JavaScript  code, or a specialized 1x1 pixel image that is located in the footer of your website, where it is unnoticeable. When the user loads up your website, the small pixel is identified as an image by the user’s browser. In order to load up the image, the browser sends a request, and the third-party retargeting ad service which is installed on your server, returns a 1x1 pixel image that has a script tag within it. Once the image reaches the user, the script tag is run and a cookie is installed in the user’s browser. Then, when the user visits a website that is within the network of the retargeting service, a retargeting ad is shown.

The benefits of a retargeting campaign

Despite the convoluted process described above, setting up and running a retargeting campaign is very easy. All you have to do is add the retargeting tag to your website, and then set up the campaign with your third-party provider, after which, the whole process is automated.

The campaigns are also very effective, because you are targeting prospects that have already shown a heavy interest in your product or service. In fact, surveys have shown that retargeting ads are more visible to users, and they are more effective in generating conversions. Retargeted ads are also positively or neutrally received by 90% of users, partly due to their high relevance to the users’ interests. To top it off, retargeted ads have an average click-through rate of 0.7%, which is ten times higher than the 0.07% click-through rate of regular ads.


Hopefully this short guide will help you gain a basic understanding of the nature of retargeting. It is one of the most powerful marketing campaigns out there, and it can be used in combination with other channels to improve your conversion. However, there may be some legal considerations that can come into play, especially when retargeting citizens of the EU. The new GDPR legislation regulates the type of data that can be collected using cookies, and as such, you will have to ask users from the EU for their explicit consent, if you want to serve them marketing cookies.