The Remarketing Guide for Dummies

Elad Cheikha
Elad Cheikha

Have you ever visited a website, and then the next day, while browsing online, you saw an ad for the very same website? Or have you ever visited a webstore, added items to your cart, but didn’t check out? Then the next day, while browsing online, you saw an ad featuring the products you left in the cart?  Congratulations, you were “retargeted.”

What is Remarketing?

Remarketing, also known as retargeting, is a very common and popular form of digital marketing in which marketers serve ads to users who have visited their website, or a specific web page, and who have or have not taken a specific action. It’s an effective way to target people who have already shown some interest in your business or brand.

Because you are targeting past visitors or existing customers, it’s called “re”-marketing. Think of it as a second chance to convert, up-sell, or retain customers with online ads or campaigns. You can do remarketing in different ways and with different ad platforms, like Outbrain, Google ads, or Facebook ads.

Whichever way you use it, remarketing is an absolute MUST in every marketer’s playbook.

Remarketing vs Retargeting

While the words ‘retargeting’ and ‘remarketing’ are sometimes used interchangeably, they have some important differences.

When it comes to retargeting vs. remarketing, the main difference is in the strategy. Retargeting is mostly about serving ads to potential customers based on cookies while remarketing is usually based on email. Remarketing works by collecting the information of users and creating lists, which are used later to send sales emails.

Retargeting and remarketing are both effective methods in their own right, yet a combination of both may be the best strategy to boost your digital marketing activity and improve your bottom line.

A word about behavioral retargeting

If you’ve been hearing about “behavioral retargeting”, it’s actually another (longer!) way of saying “retargeting”.  Behavioral retargeting is when you target online customers based on their past behavior online, such as which web pages they visited, how long they spent on each page, and which links they clicked on. Retargeting is much the same, as it involves remarketing to people who have visited a certain page or clicked a certain link, or any other action you define. 

Today, digital marketing – and remarketing – is all about the customer’s interests and behaviors. After all, these are the best way for marketers to determine what their customers are really looking for and capture their mindshare.

If you are new to remarketing or you want to try it out for your business, we‘ve put together the ultimate beginner’s guide covering all the basics of the “what, how, why, where and when” of remarketing. Plus a few bonus pro tips as well. So don’t wait, start remarketing today!

Example of remarketing

Here’s a fictional example: Joan visits the “Shoes R’ Us” ecommerce site, looks at a particular pair of shoes, but doesn’t purchase them. Later, Joan visits another website – say, her favorite entertainment news site. Shoes R’ Us is running a remarketing campaign via an ad network that works with this entertainment site. Joan sees an ad by Shoes R ‘Us featuring the same or similar shoes to the ones she was looking at the other day.

The aim of the retargeting ad is to remind Joan of those shoes she was interested in, and maybe by seeing the ad, she will be convinced to click and make the purchase she didn’t make previously.

Pro tip: You can use first-party data lists from your DMP to create remarketing lists. Here is how to do it with Outbrain.

How Remarketing Works?

It’s not difficult to set up a remarketing campaign for your website. What it requires is pixel installation.

When you create a campaign with a particular ad network, the network will provide you with a small piece of code (called a pixel tag) to add to your website. Every time a new user visits your site, the code will drop an anonymous browser cookie and the user will be added to your retargeting list. When the same user visits another site that hosts display or native ads from your ad network provider, the system will serve your ad to this particular user. This will occur as long as you have an active campaign running.

Google’s move to shut down the use of third-party cookies will impact the ability of marketers to remarket. That’s why it is important to advertise on platforms based on the use of first-party data that allows tracking. Although the move to a cookieless world has been somewhat delayed, it is still important to start planning now for tools and tactics that will allow you to remarket in the future.

What are remarketing pixel tags?

Pixel tags are those small pieces of code on a webpage that enable websites to place cookies. Cookies are ‘crumbs’ left by website visitors. Every visitor has a unique yet anonymous ID, so their website activity can be tracked by their trail of cookies. In remarketing, the ad server can access the visitor’s ID and save it to the relevant remarketing lists.

Pro tip: Every time you start working with a new ad network, the first thing you should do is to add their pixel and start populating audience lists. Here’s how to set conversion tracking with Outbrain.

Remarketing pixel exampleExample of Outbrain pixel (code) to add to your website for remarketing campaigns

What is a remarketing list?

A remarketing list is a list of website visitors who perform a certain action or on your site. For example, a “Homepage” remarketing list comprises all the visitors to your homepage over a specified period. As the visitor lands on your homepage, their cookie is added to the remarketing list.

Then, you can remarket only to the list of people who visited your homepage.

You can create all sorts of remarketing lists, and tailor your ad messages to each list.

Pro tip: Check out this video about how to install the Outbrain pixel and create custom remarketing lists:

Benefits of Remarketing

  • Capitalize on lost website traffic
  • Target people who have already visited your site and shown interest in your offering
  • Target audiences who are more likely to convert
  • Keep your brand at top of mind by strategically showing ads to interested audiences
  • Affordable marketing tactic available on a range of platforms and channels
  • Suitable for every industry and vertical
  • Comes in many ad formats, including display ad, search RLSA, dynamic carousel and more
  • For e-commerce – dynamic retargeting enables marketers to serve personalized ads for different users based on products or services they viewed on your website

Your website may be attracting lots of traffic, but the fact is, the average conversion rate for first-time visitors is low. According to research on ecommerce sites, the conversion rate is just 2.86 percent. What does this mean? Although you’re getting the traffic, you’re not getting the sales. Remarketing is your best option to capitalize on all that lost traffic.

Targeting people who have already shown an interest in your business is one of the most effective ways to remind them to come back to your site. Retargeting can be used in all verticals and industries, though it is obviously an important tactic in e-commerce. Check out this success story of a European fashion retail and e-commerce chain that saw a 66% increase in conversion rate by retargeting their customers on the Outbrain network.

Pro tip: Use remarketing ads to offer special deals that were not available on the first visit to your site, like a discount coupon, “buy one, get one free”, or some other offer to entice the customer.

When should I use remarketing?

When to remarket? That’s a great question – and a tricky one. Some marketers use the “always on” tactic, meaning they constantly run a remarketing campaign for all users who visit their website but don’t convert (ie. don’t make a purchase, or complete a form, or download an asset).

But many marketers opt for a more advanced and personalized approach to remarketing. You can focus your remarketing campaigns according to predefined criteria. For example, you may want to run remarketing campaigns only for visitors who land on certain pages, such as a particular product page, or only for users who visit your website at a certain time of day or year (for example, during a special sales period). It will really depend on your overall strategy, and what you’ve got going on at a given time.

Pro tip: With remarketing, it’s really important to avoid ‘overkill’. You don’t want to risk annoying potential customers by showing them too many ads. Put a cap on how many ads can be seen by each user – no more than two to three a day.

Where can I retarget my customers?

There are a number of different platforms and channels that you can use for remarketing. And here they are:

  • Simple display remarketing: The most simple and popular type of remarketing. Just display an ad to people on other sites after they have visited yours, on display ad networks like Google, Yahoo and Bing.
  • Native remarketing: Marketers can re-engage their website visitors with valuable content, recommended across premium publishers in native ad placements.
  • Search remarketing: Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) is a feature that lets you customize your search ads campaign for people who have previously visited your site.
  • Social media remarketing: Show your retargeting ads to people on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn after they’ve visited your website.

Remarketing is a great way to increase ROI on your ad spend. If your budget is limited, or if you already feel you’ve paid enough for that first click, you can experiment and finetune your approach for remarketing purposes.

Pro tip: Dig into your data and find out which devices, OS and even geo locations bring you the highest conversion rate. Create remarketing campaigns according to these segments, and see how they perform. You may well be able to reduce your costs and increase your conversion rate, at the same time.

The reason why visitors to your website didn’t convert is something you can never really know for sure. Maybe they became distracted and simply left. Maybe they didn’t like the offer. Maybe the offer was outside of their budget range. Maybe they are just browsing now, but plan to purchase in a few months. Whatever the reason, retargeting/remarketing is a great way to keep your business or brand at the front of their minds. Keep giving them reminders and reasons to come back. Eventually, they might! Then you’ll be on your way to generating more leads, conversions and sales for your business.

The Bottom Line: Remarketing Costs

Remarketing is an effective and cost-efficient way to attract customers. This is mainly due to the fact that you are targeting people who have already shown interest in what you have to offer. With the right targeting and budgeting, you can achieve good results with your KPIs.

Remarketing typically works on a cost-per-click (CPC) model, as well as CPM (cost per impression) and CPA (cost per acquisition). This gives you the control to manage your spend and adjust your bids according to the specific remarketing list or campaign.

Feeling more confident about retargeting now that you’ve read our “dummies” guide? Check out these advanced remarketing tips and take your retargeting campaigns a step further.

Elad Cheikha

Elad Cheikha

Elad is Outbrain's PPC Manager. He was previously a team leader at Ocean Media and PPC Manager at Perelview, specializing in performance marketing. At Outbrain, Elad drives acquisition of new, high-quality customers via paid advertising platforms. Elad lives in Israel with his wife, daughter and their dog. He loves to cook Italian food and to drink wine.