Remarketing 101: A Beginner’s Guide

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Remarketing 101: A Beginner’s Guide

Have you surfed the web and felt like a company was following you everywhere you go? You skip from CNN, to Facebook, to your favorite celebrity gossip site, and everywhere you look you see a banner ad for one company?

Seems pretty impressive, right? That company must have a huge ad budget and be doing well if it can afford ads on all these major websites! If you’re not aware of what remarketing is, it can definitely be impressive.

But what if we were to pull the curtain back and show you who the Wizard of Oz is? Knowing what remarketing is and how it works may make it less impressive, but that doesn’t change its effectiveness. Even if you know the magic behind remarketing, it is a highly effective ad tactic for marketers.

You might be familiar with the term ‘remarketing’ and you may have read countless articles about the topic. If so, this isn’t the article for you. However, if you need a crash course, you are in the right place! This guide is designed for beginner-level audiences and to be your team’s tactical go-to.

What is Remarketing?

Remarketing, also known as retargeting, are banner ads that target you after you’ve visited a company’s website. So after you visit a site like (no affiliation) – and move on to a site like Gawker, you might see a banner ad. How this works is a bit more complicated. Let’s dive into how exactly remarketing works and how your company can start using it.

How Does Remarketing Work?

To set up remarketing for your website, you must first implement a small piece of code into your site. It’s a simple piece of JavaScript code and doesn’t affect the performance of your site. Your visitors will have no idea that it’s even there.

Every time you get a new web visitor, your site will drop an anonymous browser cookie. Now, when your “cookied” visitors another site, your remarketing ad service provider will know when to deliver an ad from your website. Think of it like your local coffee barista. After you’ve visited once, the barista will recognize you and remember to offer you a mocha Frappuccino.

How Is It Different Than Banner Ads?

The main difference between remarketing and traditional banner ads is the personalization based on your previous web history. Typical banner ads serve up ads based on your profile (i.e. age, sex, interests). You’re matched with ads that fit your specific user profile – what marketers call an “interest graph.”

So if I visit, I might be served ads for Kobe Bryant’s new shoes. I’m not really interested in Kobe’s new shoes, but I fit the ad’s profile. Remarketing only serves ads after I’ve visited a specific site, thus showing some type of interest in the company.

Why Should You Use Remarketing?

Like any other marketing or advertising investment, the primary reason is to make a sale – or many sales. Remarketing is an effective form of advertising – a small proportion users will think these ads are creepy, but others? They’ll respond to them.

For example, in a Google case study Loews Hotel Group shifted 70 percent of their offline ad spend to online last year. They started using Contextual Targeting and Retargeting on Google’s Display Network. The overall results were very promising. Revenue increased 10 percent, bookings were up 9 percent, and unique site visitors increased 5 percent. But the most interesting number might be the $60,000 in sales that their $800 from remarketing campaign produced.

Underwater Audio, a company that sells waterproofed iPods, is another company that incorporates remarketing into its strategy.

Why Does Remarketing Work?

Remarketing is effective because it offers several benefits:

  • Increases brand awareness and recognition with the constant exposure to brand ads.
  • Drives repeat traffic to your site. Sales aren’t typically made during the first visit. Of the visitors who didn’t make a purchase on the initial visit, 67 percent of visitors who visit a store again end up making a purchase.
  • Improves ROI based on increased user touch points.

Persistence pays off. In an era where our attention is diverted nearly every second to something new, it’s important to stay in the forefront of an individual’s thought. Remarketing is an effective tactic to do so.

What Are Different Types of Remarketing?

Site Remarketing – This is probably one of the most popular forms of remarketing because it is simple. Site remarketing displays an ad after an individual leaves your site.

Search Remarketing – Search remarketing targets users who are making specific keyword/phrase inquiries. These individuals are displaying an interest in your industry and are probably looking for more information or a solution.

Social Media Remarketing – Unlike the remarketing you might do through a Google Ad Network, social media remarketing focuses on displaying remarketed ads on your social networks. Go visit and then go to Facebook. You will instantly see ads for Zappos.

Email Remarketing – If you use an email client like Gmail, you’ll notice contextual ads, typically based on your email content. But you can also remarket to the ads within an individual’s email client.

What Are Some Segmentations of Remarketing?

Above, we discussed different types of remarketing. But within these types, there are different segmentation options an advertiser can use to increase their customization and conversion rates.

General Visitors – Anyone who visits your website.

Specific Product Visitors – These visitors have taken a deeper look at your site and visited a specific product.

Abandoned Shopping Cart Visitors – We’ve all done it, for some reason or another. We find a product we like, we put it in our shopping cart, but ultimately we don’t buy. This is a very strong indicator of intent and targeting this audience can lead to finalizing the sale at a later visit.

Previous Customers – If someone does pull the trigger and makes a purchase from your site, target them again. It’s much easier to get someone to buy from you again than it is to get a new customer.

How Do You Measure Success?

Like any digital ad spend, it’s important to measure your results. Remarketing has several different key metrics that are crucial for every marketer to keep an eye on.

CTR: The “click-through rate” is the number of times an ad was clicked on divided by the number of impressions served.

CPC: This is a pretty standard metric. The “cost per click” is calculated by taking the total budget spent and dividing it by the total number of clicks.

eCPM: The “effective cost per thousand impressions” is determined by taking the total earnings and dividing it by the total number of impressions served. This number is then multiplied by a thousand.

eCPA: The “effective cost per acquisition” is based on campaign spend divided by impressions served, multiplied by the CTR and then the conversion rate. This tells you what you might have paid for ads via a cost per action basis.

ROI: This is the most important metric you can ultimately calculate. The formula for your return on investment (ROI) is your gain from the investment, minus your cost of investment, divided by cost of investment. ROI tells us how much money we’re generating from our ad spend.

Where Can I Set Up a Campaign?

 There are many different companies built to help you easily create and manage a remarketing campaign. Here are a few options to get you pointed in the right direction.

Google – We can’t talk about online ads without mentioning the biggest online advertiser out there. Google has a huge display ad network as well as products like Gmail. By logging into your Google Adwords account, you can easily create your first remarketing campaign.

AdRoll – AdRoll is a popular option for marketers because they have multiple advertising partners. With AdRoll, you can set up ads using Facebook Exchange, the Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft online ad platforms. This allows you to virtually reach every site on the Internet.

Perfect Audience – Perfect Audience is a strong option for small businesses because of its simplicity. You don’t need a huge budget to work with them and they’re compatible with eCommerce solutions like Wordpress, Magento, 3dcart, and Shopify.

Remarketing is a really effective strategy that more marketers should be integrating into their marketing mix. Remarketing will help you with potential customers at various points in the purchase cycle. Whether a person is reaching, actively shopping, or an existing customer, remarketing can add bring your company a little more attention that might be needed to make the sale.

What If My Store is Offline?

Online marketers are obsessed with – well, online marketing. What’s important to remember, however, is that so many transactions are still happening offline. Remarketing, as a tactic, can be applied to more than just online storefronts. You can think creatively about ways to move users through the funnel from your website to your store.

Let the power of mobile to help guide your analytics. One way to track performance data is by setting up an iPad kiosk area with a customer survey. Lilitab is a good company that can guide you through this process. For more ideas, check out this guide on their site.

Your Thoughts

Remarketing is a great way to repeatedly get your brand in front of interested eyeballs. It will help boost sales by driving people to your site. You can analyze several metrics, such as CPC or eCPM, to ensure that you are taking the best remarketing approach. Since not every type of remarketing will work for your brand, you need to test different approaches to figure out what works and continually look for ways to improve.

Now that you have been introduced to the concept of remarketing, what questions to you have? Let us know in the comments!

Want to learn more about how remarketing can help your business grow? Listen to our Marketing Nerds podcast with Pamela Lund where she discusses creating a comprehensive marketing plan including remarketing.

All screenshots taken 1/31
Featured Image: National Library of Ireland on the Commons Flickr page:

Chris Kilbourn

Chris Kilbourn

Director of Marketing at Eleventh Avenue
Chris Kilbourn is a Director of Marketing @ Eleventh Avenue, a premium handpicked boutique marketplace. In past lives, he was a professional rockstar (seriously), and... Read Full Bio
Chris Kilbourn
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  • James R. Halloran

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks so much for the introduction to Remarketing! I heard of it before and already had an idea of what it was, but this really helped me understand it a whole lot better. I honestly didn’t know it could generate that much in ROI!

    An investment of $800 in return for $60,000 is quite grand! You’d have to be a complete moron not to consider that. Thanks for sharing some of your resources, too! Perfect Audience looks like it could be promising for small businesses if it doesn’t cost too much.

    The only question I have for you is does remarketing work on a local level, too? Any examples of this so far?

    • Chris Kilbourn (@ChrisKilbourn)

      Hey James,

      That’s great! I’m glad this post helped you.
      It can work well for any business.
      Even if your website is local, remarketing can be extremely useful in branding and bringing users back to your website for useful content & information such as coupons, guides, event announcements, etc.

      Thanks for the comment.
      Feel free to ask me for advice on Twitter as well!


  • Rahul

    Remarketing is a smart strategy by Google to boost its Ad revenues and in future we may seen an upgraded version of it.

    • Chris Kilbourn (@ChrisKilbourn)

      Hey Rahul,

      Thanks for the comment!
      Yeah, it’s a fantastic strategy by Google. Hopefully they do upgrade it to be even more useful to marketers.

  • Peter

    Great article! I had no idea about Remarketing until I found this post. I would spend time on the internet and find that something I was looking at previously was an advertisement on another website. I had no idea that it was a JavaScript code which made the ads like they were. I am quite impressed with the statistics as well, $800 of advertising turned into $60,000 through the ads. This alone wants me to give remarketing a go!

    • Chris Kilbourn (@ChrisKilbourn)

      Yeah, it’s very interesting! I always find it amusing to see how shocked people get to know how these ads are being served to them after they’ve left a website. Let me know how your remarketing campaign goes!

  • Kumar Rajnikant

    It’s really a very helpful stuff about re-marketing I have ever seen. Very well explained with point to point examples. Thanks a lot Chris Kilbourn for your sincere effort.

    • Chris Kilbourn (@ChrisKilbourn)

      Thanks, Kumar! I really appreciate it.

  • liz


    Thanks for this interesting article. It was extremely clear and provided me with a very clear introduction to the world of Remarketing! I was wondering if there is an option to do faebook remarketing? With the changes on facebook, i’m not sure how this is or is not possible.


    • Chris Kilbourn (@ChrisKilbourn)

      Hey Liz,

      Thanks! Yes, you can do Facebook remarketing with tools like Adroll.
      I definitely recommend trying it out if your market likely to convert through Facebook ads.