Complete guide to retargeting ads and how to set them up

This is the ultimate guide to retargeting ads. From what they are, to how to use them, and everything in between.
man in black t shirt and black jeans on mobile


Want to start using retargeting ads for your brand? Here’s what you need to know.

According to Mailchimp, only 3% of the people who visit an e-commerce site for the first time will make a purchase that means 97% of potential buyers could be lost for good. You can reach out to these passers-by with retargeting ads, which are directed specifically at them with the aim of landing a sale, sign-up or whatever conversion you’re after. 

What are retargeting ads?

Retargeting ads are focused on people who’ve already shown an interest in your brand by visiting your website. Retargeting ads use codes to track these visitors and show them ads related to your brand that will hopefully encourage them to revisit your website. 

On average, it takes seven touchpoints to convert a cold lead into a customer, so retargeting ads are a way of amplifying your message to consumers and building visibility. 

Retargeting vs remarketing 

Retargeting ads focus on attracting new audiences or customers via adverts aimed at those who’ve already visited your website. Previous visitors see these ads on social media, e-mail or other platforms. Remarketing is a way of re-engaging those who’ve already converted, e.g. they’ve signed up to your newsletter or made a purchase. Remarketing is most often done in the form of e-mail messaging.

How do retargeting ads work?

Retargeting ads are powered in two ways; they’re either pixel-based or lead-based. A pixel-based remarketing ad campaign is the most common way of retargeting and works by placing a piece of JavaScript, also known as a ‘pixel’ on somebody’s browser when they visit your website. 

The pixel notifies retargeting platforms, which then deliver specific ads to that person once they’ve left your site and are browsing elsewhere on the internet.

Lead-based retargeting is done using lists of contact details that you already have on your database. The list is uploaded to a retargeting campaign, for instance on Facebook, and the platform then identifies users with those same e-mail addresses and shows them your ads.

Why use retargeting ads? 

According to HubSpot, you can use retargeting ads to achieve the following:

  • Reinforce awareness – re-engage website visitors and tell them about products, features, or other relevant information
  • Drive conversions – encourage people to take the next step in your conversion funnel 
  • Boost sales – use retargeting to turn warm leads into buyers or sign-ups, etc
  • Increase customer lifetime value – boost the value a customer represents during their entire relationship with your brand
  • Reduce cart abandonment – remind those who leave items in a cart what they’re missing out on
  • Introduce new products and services – share new products with those already engaged with your brand

According to Google, combining retargeting ads with your existing advertising strategy can help you achieve 50% more conversions

Social media analytics will help you better understand your audience, as will a customer journey map. Make sure you’re on top of your social media marketing with our social media calendar template and tips on how to boost your presence on social media.

Examples of retargeting ads 

This retargeting ad placed on Facebook by HubSpot is aimed at those already familiar with Hubspot who may have been put off by the thought that it takes a long time to set up. By addressing this mental block, the ad hits the mark.

hubspot retargeting ad

Best retargeting ads

According to WordStream, the best retargeting ads are those that are created to connect specifically with the retargeting audience – i.e. a great retargeting ad isn’t just a great ad full stop, it’s a great ad for a particular group of people. Wordstream’s top tips for retargeting ads are:

  • Overturn sales objections
  • Showcase products the audience will be interested in
  • Create a sense of urgency to spur people into action
  • Entice people with discount codes and coupons
  • Nudge buyers into completing the checkout process
  • Cross-sell to existing customers
  • Remind past customers why they loved your brand in the first place

What is a retargeting strategy? 

It’s a good idea to incorporate retargeting into your existing strategy and to use more than one marketing channel for your retargeting. Mailchimp recommends the following:

  1. Drive traffic to your website via a social media ad, influencer marketing or e-mail
  2. If they leave without buying/signing-up, retarget them with an ad
  3. When you collect their email at checkout, send them a welcome email

How to incorporate your influencer marketing into your retargeting ads

Your influencer marketing strategy and retargeting ads campaign should work in tandem. Use your influencer marketing to create brand awareness and direct people to your website so a cookie or pixel is added to their web browser.

Then use retargeting ads to attract them back. To take it to another level, you could produce content in collaboration with creators around specific web pages or products, and use that content as your retargeting ads. For example, if you’re a beauty brand and you have products for specific skin types, you could create tutorial-based content with relevant creators, and then use that as a retargeting ad creative for people who have viewed those products. 

If you need more inspiration or you’re just looking to get the most out of your social media, read our everything guide to Instagram marketing along with our guide to social media management tools.

retargeting ads flow adroll

Credit: adroll

How do I place a retargeting ad?

Social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook allow you to run retargeting ads and there are also a number of third-party platforms available, including:

  • Mailchimp – makes it easy to incorporate retargeting with your e-mail marketing and social campaigns 
  • Adroll uses customer data to boost your retargeting campaigns and integrates with HubSpot
  • ReTargeter helps you create customisable retargeting campaigns
  • Criterio – uses data from existing customers to work out the best channels for your retargeting ads

How effective are retargeting ads?

According to Wordstream, retargeting ads are 76% more likely to be clicked on than regular ads. 

What are the types of retargeting ads?

Impact Plus lists seven types of retargeting ads:

  • Buyer persona picture your ideal customer, their interests, income etc and target those who share the same characteristics
  • Sales funnel segment visitors create ads for each stage of your sales funnel
  • Account based for B2B strategies looking to target high-value accounts
  • Cross-channel create unique messages for each channel, such as one for Facebook and another for internet display ads
  • Facebook custom upload contact details and target those people via Facebook ads
  • Email retargeting use e-mail campaigns to increase engagement
  • Customer retargeting advertise to existing customers

To help with your retargeting campaign, take a look at our omni channel marketing guide.

woman in white dress in garden

When should you use retargeting ads?

Use retargeting ads when you want to convert some of the 97% of visitors to your website who don’t immediately convert. Retargeting ads should be part of any robust marketing campaign.

How much do retargeting ads cost?

Retargeting ad costs are in-line with other digital marketing costs. The average cost of a digital marketing campaign is £1,065, but you could spend as little as £5 a day and the sky is the limit if you have money to spare. 

How much to spend on retargeting ads?

Hawk Media suggests spending 60 – 90% on prospecting and putting 10 – 40% towards retargeting ads. 

Retargeting display ads

Display ads are the little boxes that pop up when you’re browsing the internet. They usually feature a photo and some text along with a link to buy/sign-up etc. It’s worth making sure your retargeting display ads are as good as you can make them. 

Images are the most important component of any display ad and you need to make sure they’re good quality and the right size. Check out Google’s image guidelines for display ads.

man wearing black and white top looking away from camera

How to set up retargeting ads on Facebook

To run a retargeting ad campaign on Facebook, you can either create a custom audience using leads that you upload or you can install the platform’s pixel onto your website. This will enable Facebook to track  your website users. This is best done by a website engineer or a digital advertising expert. 

Facebook will collect data from your website visitors and you can use this to create a custom audience by:

  1. Going to audiences,
  2. Choosing custom audience 
  3. Selecting website traffic.
  4. Then, when you go to run your ad campaign, switch retargeting on, so that Facebook can filter the right target audience for your ad  

How to set up retargeting ads on Google 

You can set up a retargeting campaign in Google AdWords using a pixel that’s installed on your website. It will mean you can target specific sets of visitors, such as those who visit a certain products page etc. 


To access the pixel:

  1. Log into Google AdWords,
  2. Select tools, and
  3. Go to audience source
  4. Set up an audience
  5. Once you’ve done this, click on set up tag in the Google Ads tag section
  6. You’ll be given two options, to collect general website data or more specific information about what people did on your website
  7. Click on install the tag yourself
  8. Go to global tag site and copy in your Google Ads ID.
  9. You’ll be given a chunk of code at this stage. Copy and paste it into your website, wherever you want to track and retarget visitors. Your web developer can do this easily
  10. Click continue and then done 
  11. Before running a campaign, add Google Tag Manager, as doing so will enable you to change or update tags with ease at any point. 


To set up a retargeting display ad campaign:

  1. Sign into your Google Ads account
  2. Create a new campaign
  3. Go to goals and pick the most relevant
  4. Select display as the campaign type
  5. Name the campaign, specify location, language, bidding and budget.
  6. Go to the targeting section and choose automated or manual for audience segments
  7. You can incorporate targeting expansion, which enables Google to target the highest performing segments for your ads
  8. Click done, make your display ads, and create the campaign. 

How to set up retargeting ads on LinkedIn 

  1. You’ll need to install a LinkedIn advertising pixel as part of your ad account, which needs to be pasted into your website, at the end of the <body> tag in the global footer
  2. The Insight Tag should then show under Account Assets in Campaign Manager, but it could take as long as 24 hours for it to appear
  3. Next, you’ll need to make sure your ads appear on Google Chrome, by making the SameSite attribute none and adding Secure label to your cookies you might need to ask your web developer to do this.


Now you’re ready to set up your audiences. When running retargeting ad campaigns on LinkedIn, make sure you:

  • Refine ad content over time
  • Create multiple ad formats and test them to see which works best
  • Be flexible. If something isn’t working, change it

Get started

Let Vamp help you get started with your digital marketing campaign. The platform is perfect for brands and businesses that want to get noticed, the pricing is transparent, and there’s a plan to suit all budgets


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