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What Is Retargeting?

What Is Retargeting

Retargeting is an industry term that’s been around for awhile now. It’s definition has changed and grown to mean something different over the years as well. Today the definition is broader and encompases lots of ways to work with “retargeted” visitors.

The traditional form of retargeting is defined as the action of dropping a tracking cookie on visitors to your site to build an “audience.” As the audience grows to an acceptable size the advertiser can begin to show display and social ads to these people on other people’s websites.

It’s simply a way to reconnect with those that have visited your site and didn’t optin or purchase what you have to offer. It’s smart marketing. Studies have shown that an average user needs to see an offer or brand several times before they decide to purchase.

Internal studies have also shown dramatic increase in branding capabilities. When advertisers include their brand logo and url in their banner ads, direct type in traffic increases significantly. This aspect of retargeting and media buying in general is often overlooked.

Types of Retargeting Available

#1 Site Retargeting – This is what most people think of when they think of retargeting. A visitor hits your site, you drop an audience cookie, and that person gets added to your overall audience for that site. From here you can follow them around with display ads on other sites. The types of sites / networks your ads show up on depend on the retargeting platform you use.

#2 Search Retargeting – This is a bit of a confusing form of retargeting. There is no prior relationship with the visitor you’re advertising to. Search retargeting works on keywords. It’s a way to buy display media via keyword searches. It does not rely on whether or not a visitor has hit your site.

#3 Social Retargeting – This form of retargeting doesn’t rely on a prior relationship with the visitor either. Instead you advertise to audiences that have displayed “social” interest in a topic or product via status updates, likes, and other social activity. Facebook is the most common social site to perform this type of retargeting with.

#4 Behavioral Targeting – This is an interesting targeting option for display media. It’s the similar to search and social in the sense that there’s not a prior relationship with the audience. An advertiser defines an audience to advertise to based on behavioral data points. For example If someone visits a red wine website they may be considered a “red wine enthusiast.” Because this data isn’t directly stated by the web / mobile user it’s can be considered less “targeted” than other traffic based on social data, keyword data, or site visit.


Retargeting spend is growing on a daily basis. It’s technology that’s going to continue to evolve and provide more options for the advertiser. Until then consider which type of targeting is right for your business. Starting with behavioral may not be the best route but site retargeting might be a no brainer (as it is for most).

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5 thoughts on “What Is Retargeting?

  1. I haven’t tried retargeting with Facebook yet, but I have a mortgage client that wants to do it. From my understanding you can take a list of email addresses that you have collected, upload it into Facebook’s Ad interface, and if they have Facebook accounts you can advertise to them.

    Looks very interesting

  2. Great article on facebook ad technique. I have never done this before, in fact this is the first time i have learned this technique, and i will sure to try it on one of my campaign.

    Thanks for the article.

  3. I have done a few very targeted ad campaigns on Facebook that have performed ok. Can you give us a network or platform that uses the first form of targeting where you place a cookie when the user visits your site and then your advertisements show on other sites?

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