The Pros and Cons of Retargeting in 2015

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The Pros and Cons of Retargeting in 2015

It’s still 2014, but a lot has changed since the beginning of the year. Retargeting is one of those marketing tactics that has gone through the ringer as Google, searchers, and the search space in general continue to evolve. This tactic’s reputation is now a little bit blurry. Some still stand by the benefits, so will these continue to grow or fade as we enter into 2015?

It’s tough to say, so decide for yourself with some of the following pros and cons.

client retargeting

A Quick Recap: How Retargeting Works

Retargeting is a marketing method that will track your audience’s behavior online so your ads show up to the most relevant audience. This also benefits consumers because they will only see ads that relate to them, so everyone wins. In fact, a study by AdRoll says marketers who use retargeting generally have higher ROIs.

Here is how it works: You place a small piece of code on your website and every time someone new visits your website, the code will drop an anonymous browser cookie. Now you have “cookied” visitors, so whenever those people surf the Internet the cookie will let your retargeting provider (most likely AdWords) know when to serve that person your ads.

Whenever I talk with my family or friends about retargeting, I tell them to go take a look at the ads that are being shown to them on the web right now. In the vast majority of cases, the ads are relevant. Did you look up engagement rings last week? Are you now seeing ads for wedding venues and wedding dresses? That’s retargeting.

It’s certainly a big topic so check out an additional post on SEJ here if you’re interested in learning more.

So what’s the difference between retargeting and remarketing?

The terms “retargeting” and “remarketing” essentially mean the same thing, which has been causing confusion amongst marketers for years. According to a Moz article, Google AdWords launched a form of retargeting in their display network back in 2010, which they called “remarketing.” In other words, “remarketing is specific to Google AdWords display network, and retargeting is the marketing approach behind remarketing.”

The Pros and Cons of Retargeting Explained

While there might be a few more bullet points under the pros section, that doesn’t mean the strategy is necessarily more positive than negative. Some of the points below are more significant than others, so the pros and cons are listed in order of importance:

The Pros of Retargeting

  • Previous visitors are reminded of your site. They may have clicked off quickly last time, but they still cared enough to click, so you want that second chance with that user specifically.
  • Google Analytics can track how many returning visitors you are getting as well as how “loyal” the customer is, which can work directly with a retargeting campaign for easier analysis.
  • You can personalize retargeting ads. Remember, people clicked your website but weren’t interested enough to convert. Try humor, facts, or a great call to action (CTA).
  • The data you gather from past user patterns can help you understand your audience better and improve your website in general.

Studies and statistics according to

  • Retargeted customers are 3 times more likely to click on your ad than people who haven’t interacted with your business before.
  • 59% of people have a neutral reaction to retargeted ads.
  • Retargeting can boost ad response up to 400%.

The Cons of Retargeting

  • It makes people feel uncomfortable and can seem creepy or weird.
  • Seeing your company’s ads all the time could annoy people, and they may assume “you” are following their every move.
  • Your retargeting campaign could show the same products to someone who has just bought the product elsewhere (or if you are not careful, from your actual company!).
  • You don’t want to show the same people the same ad over and over again (talk about annoying). This means you have to devote a lot of time into creating fresh ads.

Getting Started with Retargeting & Tips for Success

Whether or not you see the value in this practice depends on your audience and the type of company you run, However there are “correct” ways to retarget and devalue some of those cons. A few tips include:

  • Put a frequency cap on your retargeting campaign to make sure they aren’t seeing your ad too often or too little. A good estimate is about 15-20 ads per month.
  • Use something called “burning.” This means that if one of the people you are retargeting converts they will be removed from the campaign. This also refers to stopping the campaign for people who haven’t converted in a certain amount of time, usually 30 days.
  • Segment your ads. Retargeting is a form of segmentation already, but you can go even further to make sure you have customized ads for people at all levels of your marketing sales funnel and for each of your pages. For example, if someone visited your “office supplies” page and someone else visited “buy a fax machine,” you’ll want different ads.

You can learn how to create a retargeting campaign through AdWords by visiting their remarketing Support Page.

What are your thoughts on retargeting? Are there any more pros or cons that should be added to the list? Have you had personal experiences with retargeting campaign as a consumer?

Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comment section below.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Vector Icon via Shutterstock
Post Image: Be Good via Shutterstock

Amanda DiSilvestro

Amanda DiSilvestro

Online Content Editor/Writer at HigherVisibility
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for HigherVisibility, a... Read Full Bio
Amanda DiSilvestro
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  • Adam Lundquist

    Hi Amanda,
    Great article:-) I liked that you specifically talked about the difference between re-marketing and retargetting (which is essentially a network) because that really throws people off.

    I do have one trick that I used with retargetting that works well. You can use it for shopping cart abandonment on eCom sites. So for example, if someone is about to make a purchase and for whatever they leave you then have an ad follow them that offers them a discount to come back and make the purchase. My company did this and the ROAS was great! Specific segmentation like that makes retargetting so powerful.
    Adam Lundquist

    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      Ahh that’s a great idea, and great that you got the results you wanted! Putting myself in the place of the consumer I think that would definitely work for me. Everyone likes a deal (or feeling like they got a deal!).

    • Moin Shaikh

      That’s cool idea! Merging abandoned cart email and re-targeting ad campaign can show unprecedented ROIs.

      I would do run an abandoned cart system in my ecom shop that will fire an email with some offerings to customers who left their cart unprocessed and alongside, would also show them ad from re-targeting campaign. But of course, with the proper segmentation 🙂

  • John Bracamontes

    I’ve personally always thought those who acted confused by others using remarketing and retargeting interchangeably were a little high strung.

    This is a great intro into remarketing, but you can get very complex when creating strategies that involve traditional demographic segmentation mixed with behavioral segmentation (even mixed with source segmentation) that include burn tactics to highly focus ads for each segmented segment.

    Another way I have used remarketing in the past is to literally track individuals website visiting habits to best determine content and placement for other marketing. So simply using as a tool for research and intelligence gathering (AdWords allows you to view where remarketing ads are populating).

    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      I think you make a great point–remarketing can get complex. I really like your idea about using remarketing as a way to place content, etc. because so many companies miss that (as did my article). It CAN be used for more so thank you for bringing that up! Great comment.

  • Rank Watch

    Retargeting shows a significant rise in ad response rate. We have done several experiments regarding retargeting and have received significant user insights regarding the same.

  • Tom

    Seeing these ads after searching for something specific is a little unsettling, but I don’t doubt their effectiveness. Strange new world we are in right now…!

  • Malcolm Galt

    awesome article, I didn’t realise re targeting was a term. We do it quite a lot, especially if we are not seeing decent results. I really found your article informative and because we are new to the SEO game, this is really going to help us going forward.

    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      Happy to hear that Malcolm and welcome to the SEO game as you say! It’s definitely an interesting one, lot’s to figure out and retargeting is a good place to start.

  • Dipesh Shah

    Hi, Excellent article. I have seen retargeting can work great with excellent results and when worked with attribution it looks even better.

    What is the next step for retargeting in the world of mutli devices and for websites that do not have a user ID to track against the customer. Even with the user ID it is still going to be hard as all users may not log-in to the site across all devices / browsers.

    Just couple of thoughts but each business will be different and have it’s own ways of making retargeting work for them:

    – Do we go the route of having retargeting stratagies for each device

    – Do we look at advanced modeling techniques (if resources allows it) and look at how the users who have logged in and how they have interacted across different devices and use that data ( may be a small sample of data ) to inform our retargeting stratagies



    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      Hi Dipesh,

      Great questions. Do don’t need to have a certain retargeting strategy for certain devices, but it does help to know what people are searching for where. If you are focusing on mobile for a certain period of time, start a retargeting campaign about a topic that gets a lot of mobile traction for you guys. Does that make sense?

      You are also right about people potentially not being tracked because they opted out, etc., and to my knowledge there isn’t anything we can do about that. If I’m wrong someone please do let me know!

      Hope that helps Dipesh and I LOVE that you’re thinking about strategies for different devices. This is the way online marketing is moving, so getting a head-start is the right move!

  • Travis Wright

    Yes. If someone buys from you, please stop retargeting them. I still get ads occasionally from Overstock from something that I bought from them 6 months ago.

  • Afzaal

    Hi Amanda,

    Very well written article. It is very interesting to first differentiate between re-marketing and re-targeting. In my point of view re-marketing should be done to the new customers and surely if a person already knowing about a certain product or already using it will surely get offended. So while re-marketing a product, one should try to target new audience. While re-targeting will be worth if your product or services are more valuable than before.

  • Erno Horvath

    A great con of retargeting/remarketing is easily exploited by fraudsters. They visit your page with bots and just after visit their page and click your banner on it. Because you use higher bids for retargeting than usual it’s easy money for them. A bigger retargeting campaign can contain clicks from hundreds or thousands of domains and manually you can’t check all if they are ‘valid’ or not.

    Nowadays I see even more fraud clicks for these type of campaigns 🙁 Saidly, Google refunded $0 about the fraud clicks no matter how many ‘proof’ we provided.

    Said to see this great ‘feature’ of marketing is ruined by crooks.

    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      That’s very interesting Erno and something I did not consider. So glad you mentioned this.

      Has anyone else had similar experiences?

  • Ahmet ARSLAN

    Hi Amanda,
    Thx for the story, this kind of posts very important for “right-sized” advertisers.

    We launched a self service retargeting platform 2 months ago, called Adsuit. We built a Google Analytics integration to solve real-time optimization problem. Because nearly all retargeting platforms (including ours) bidding 2.000 placement per campaign (4-6 million impressions) and the advertisers only have a summary about this placements. Which is not cost-effective, because most of this placements has fake clicks or impressions. But when advertiser use Google Analytics integration we are checking all placements based on Google Analytics data and able to optimize campaign in a better way.

    Let me make it clear with an example;
    As an advertiser you can say “Exclude all placements whose -average time on site- is less than 10 seconds”
    When you setup a rule based on Google Analytics metrics we able to optimize your campaign in realtime, which means you will reach more people for same budget.

    Please try to check our blog, we have 2 article about this integration. Also please check Google’s tweet about this integration;

    Sorry for long comment 🙂

  • Casey Carey

    Amanda –

    A great and succinct summary of retargeting. I like the recommendations and basically, if you are not doing these things you are throwing money away. And, the retargeting vendors won’t tell you as it is in their interest to show more ads to more people.

    A couple additional thoughts:
    * Measure your frequency cap – find the frequency where on average, you have received 90-95% of your CTRs – that is your cap. We see numbers in the 8-12 range for retargeting.
    * Absolutely remove existing customers from your lists, especially if you offer a subscription service where they continually visit your site to login. I can’t believe how many of the services I use continue to retarget me – so much money wasted.
    * Drop pages where it is clear they are not interested in buying what you sell including customer service pages, company info and press pages, career pages, and other non-product content.

    Casey Carey
    Head of Marketing, Adometry

    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      This is an excellent comment that I am just now seeing. I especially like your point about measuring your frequency cap. Thanks so much for commenting!