What is retargeting

What is retargeting

What is retargeting

Sometimes it seems that somebody is watching you. For instance, if you visit a website to have a look at the new model of sneakers, corresponding ads start following you everywhere, on all devices from the home PC to phones that have been at least once connected to the same Wi-Fi network. 

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Retargeting is to blame here, i.e. a marketing mechanism developed to attract the attention of users that have already shown their interest in the product. 
Read further in the article how it works on different media platforms, about its peculiarities and disadvantages. 


How retargeting works 

Retargeting works using cookies – files thanks to which a page ‘holds onto’ a device. Cookies are designed to allow pages load quicker – the website does not have to recreate all elements all over again, as a part of them is already stored on the computer in the cookie file. On the other hand, cookie files, figuratively speaking, make a path of crumbs, by using which advertisers find their customers. 

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To adjust the display of ad banners to users that have already visited the page, developers embed a special code in the website. It triggers the mechanism of reverse advertisements – if a user clicks on a specific good or service on your website but does not fulfil the desired action (a purchase / order of the service), the ad will be haunting the user for some time until the action is fulfilled. 
Usually this process takes from 7 to 12 days even if the retargeting does not achieve the result and a purchase is not made. It is important not to push it too hard – if the ad is shown too often for a long time, the buyer can not only refuse from the advertiser’s services but also complain about the page. 

Sometimes retargeting scares potential customers, as not everyone understands the origin and the operation principle of this advertising mechanism. Some people think that they are being watched. Some services place a “Why can I see this ad?” field, where they explain the visitor why the ad appears on his or her feed or other websites. In addition, this field offers to turn off the ad, as it can happen that a user may have visited the website unintentionally, reconsidered the decision to make a purchase or has already made it in a physical store or on a rival website. 


Types of retargeting 

There are several types of retargeting. Each of them factors in the specifics of the good or service that has to be advertised.

1. Website retargeting.

This type is oriented towards users that visited the website and left their cookie files there. In such a case, the advertising mechanism will track the actions of the user and show the advertising banner on websites visited by the user. 

2. Search retargeting.

This mechanism is more difficult than the previous one.  It works basing on keywords that potential customers enter into the search field of the browser. In such a way, the ad will be displayed to all users that showed interest in the product or service by entering the corresponding keyword, irrespective of the fact whether they visited your website or not. 

3. Targeted retargeting.

This type works in the same way as search retargeting but in a somewhat constricted form. The code of the mechanism contains specific parameters of a user such as gender, age, location, less often – hobbies and social status. In such a way, retargeting focuses on a specific audience that is most interesting for advertisers. 

4. Social media retargeting.

It works in the same way as website retargeting but on social media. Whereas in website retargeting, a trigger that launches the display of an advertisement is the website attendance (a click on the link or adding the product to the cart), on social media, the advertising mechanism will work after a user likes, shares, or comments a post. 

5. Micro targeting.

A new type of retargeting that gained popularity after the scandal with Cambridge Analytica and the victory of Donald Trump.  This mechanism allows clustering the potential audience into the smallest and consequently most accurate groups of people with similar interests, social status, and even similar preferences in food and music. In such a way, every ad can be customized for a small group of users and the success of such advertising campaign is assured. 

It is possible to use several types of retargeting simultaneously. Usually two or three but not more as there is a risk to overload buyers with obtrusive advertising so that they will complain or block it. 

How retargeting works on social media 

Currently, Facebook uses the greatest variety of functions for retargeting. To start, you should specify the description of the audience in the advertising profile of Facebook – you can choose any characteristics there, up to user preferences. Then you should define the budget of your advertising campaign and specify the number of displays basing on the budget. 

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The setup of retargeting in Vkontakte consists of the following steps: 

• choose the Retargeting function in the advertising profile; 

• create a tracking pixel on the advertiser’s website;

• copy the pixel generated by the program and paste it in the header of your website;

• create a potential audience using retargeting settings.  

What is a retargeting pixel on social media 

Tracking of the potential customers using pixels works thanks to the JavaScript code (pixel) that is written on the website or landing page. Every pixel ‘throws’ an anonymous cookie file in the browser of the visitor. 

Even when a user leaves the page, the pixel reports to the advertising provider (Google AdWords or Facebook) that the user is added to the retargeting campaign. 

Peculiarities of retargeting on Google and Yandex 

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Retargeting can be set up using search engines. Google and Yandex are the most popular of them for the Russian-speaking audience. 


Google’s retargeting tool is called AdWords. Here, the advertising mechanism is called remarketing, but in fact, it is the same thing as retargeting. 

Google AdWords offers the following types of retargeting campaigns: 

• standard remarketing;

• dynamic remarketing;

• remarketing for mobile applications;

• remarketing lists for search ads;

• video remarketing;

• email remarketing. 


To conduct retargeting on Yandex, you need to install Yandex.Metrica Counter to your website. In addition, you should take into account that retargeting will work only for websites of the Yandex Advertising Network selected directly through Metrica. 


That is the main difference of Metrica from AdWords: in Yandex.Direct, retargeting is configured by targets set in Metrica. Whereas remarketing audiences are configured separately from targets in Adwords – Analytics, there is a sequential binding in Yandex.Direct.  

Advantages and disadvantages of retargeting 

Retargeting has its pros and cons. On the one hand, this marketing mechanism helps to direct the advertising message to the target audience of users that for some reason have not finished the desired actions on the website. In addition, retargeting is cheaper and more efficient than advertising on television or external advertising.  

On the other hand, retargeting can be rather obtrusive. The system does not factor in offline purchases on the website. A customer that, for instance, makes a purchase by phone continues to see ads that do not interest him or her anymore. 

Only the advertiser can assess advantages and disadvantages of retargeting for a specific case study. 



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