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A beginner’s guide to retargeting ads


Advertising is a multi-layered field, concerned not only with the creation and distribution of ads but also with the process in which these ads prompt the consumer to respond to the proposed call to action. Sometimes, it is not such a straightforward path. Ideally, the user would see your ad, click on it, explore its landing page, and instantaneously purchase whatever you are selling. However, things are rarely like this, and people’s shopping habits can be influenced by a multitude of factors; when viewing your page, for the time being, they might be simply researching and considering some items, looking for something undecided (for example, a gift), checking the site in a hurry, temporarily on a budget, or being influenced by other circumstances of that sort.

In short, the time is not right, and the potential client is not yet ready to buy.

Retargeting comes into play when the time is right. Retargeting ads are aimed at internet users who have once visited your website or who are already in your database as a result of past purchase from your business. These are also known as re-engagement campaigns, and they are divided into two major types.

Pixels and cookies

Most commonly, retargeting campaigns employ the so-called pixel-based ads. Simply put, these ads are re-displayed to any anonymous visitor of your page, after they have clicked away. This is achieved by putting a small piece of code (also called a ‘pixel’) on your website, which then goes on to place cookies on the visitor’s browser. Cookies allow your retargeting platform to follow the said user and exhibit your ads to them as they visit other sites. It is all quite unobtrusive, yet many web platforms nowadays do choose to inform their users about their implementation of cookies, with a small pop-up notification – a thing most internet users will definitely have encountered at some point.

The pros of pixel-based ads are that they can be retargeted instantly, segmented and adapted to a specific page on your site, and they are generally behaviour-based, thus reaching the audience most likely to be interested in their content. A well-known comparison in this field is that of window-shoppers being constantly reminded about the products relevant to their interest, till they finally decide to purchase them. Additionally, pixel ads can be used to persuade past clients to come back and make another purchase. The only downside that should be noted is that for an individual with no past experience in this area, it might be difficult to set all of this up. Therefore, hiring a pay per click agency for assistance could prove immensely useful. Other than that, what we have here is a great tool for targeting the right people at the right time, and letting the consumers be in the know about products and features relevant to them.

List-based ads

Another type worth mentioning is the list-based ad, which can be targeted towards people whose contact information is already in your database. Namely, they have converted (become customers) sometime in the past, so at this point, they are familiar with your brand. The positive thing about list-based ads is the fact that they are highly customizable, and the advertiser can manage the lists as they best see fit. However, the practice can take a lot of time, since it is less automated than the pixel ads. Also, it is often the case that the customer provides a different email address than the one they have on the social network you advertise on, and so the ads will not be visible for them.

Nevertheless, list ads can generate a lot of new conversions, if rightly adapted. Moreover, one should always make sure that a clear next step is presented for the potential customer in the purchase funnel, so they know exactly how to proceed.

Finding the right place

Now, having established how retargeting ads work, one should also decide where to put them and what they should look like. There are several third-party platforms and social media sites on which you can re-engage with your audience. Generally, social media is the best way to go. These sites are visited daily by the majority of their users, so the ad is highly visible and the target audience can be reached more quickly. Additionally, on social media one can see the actual account from which the ad is posted, thus boosting brand reliability. It is called ‘social’ for a reason, that is, your business can be accessed and engaged with more easily, having a presence on the same platform that your audience utilizes for their daily needs.

Appearances matter

As for the content and visuals of the advertisements, it is best to make them different than those of the basic introductory ads that aim to catch users’ attention. With retargeted ads, the people who see them are already familiar with your brand and some of its products or services, so instead of ‘attention-grabbing,’ you could try aiming for more ‘extensive.’ It is possible to, for example, expand on the pros of some specific product that you are selling, or to reassure the user about some doubts they would be likely to have about it. You can also play on the sense of urgency by displaying last-minute deal ads, discounts, coupon codes, and more – quite often, this is the last push a person needs in order to complete a previously considered conversion. Of course, it depends on the customer; for some, a simple reminder of the exact products they have viewed, or even put in their cart before abandoning it for some reason, can be the right type of motivation.

To sum up, a bit of psychology always comes into play in the field of advertising, so pay attention to user behaviours — consider when and what they have viewed, inquired about, or purchased before. Customization is the key to success, and in order to customize your retargeting ads effectively, you have to know your audience.

About Dita Sisene

Dita is from Northern Europe. She's a Digital Marketing junkie and is obsessed with helping businesses grow through internet marketing. Freelancer by day & blogger by night. Twitter:

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