Why Is That Ad Following Me Around the Internet? Breaking Down the Basics of Retargeting.

You’ve probably experienced it before. After looking at a pair of shoes on your favorite website, suddenly that pair of shoes is following your every step across the Internet.

It’s on the side of your Facebook page, floating on top of the news article you’re reading, and you might have even received an email reminding you about your desire to purchase them. So what’s going on here? How is that pair of shoes tracking your every move? It’s called retargeting.

What is Retargeting?

Retargeting is the practice of placing an invisible JavaScript tag in the footer of a website which leaves a cookie in the browser of every visitor to the site. This cookie can then track the visitor as they peruse through other sites and it enables the ads on those sites to display an ad specific to the site or product the visitor was originally looking at. For example, if you were to go to Zappos.com and look at a pair of high heels, a cookie from their site will be left in your browser that will then cause you to see ads for those heels on your Facebook page and on other sites you visit. If you clear your cookies and cache, these ads will no longer appear.

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(Above: Zappos retargeting ads on an article based website)

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(Above: Zappos retargeting ads on Facebook)


Different Types of Retargeting

There are a few different types of retargeting used by marketers to increase their brand awareness online and attempt to convince a potential customer to convert into an actual customer.

  • Site retargeting – As seen in the example above, site retargeting is the process of a specific site being visited, dropping a cookie, and then tracking the visitor across other sites.
  • Email retargeting – Email retargeting is an effective way to convince a customer that’s one click away from buying something to push “Complete Purchase.” Email retargeting occurs when someone adds items to their online shopping cart, but doesn’t follow through on the purchase before leaving the site. If they are a registered user of the site, after a few days, the company will send them an email reminding them of the items in their cart and might even offer a discount on those items to encourage the purchase.

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(Above: A retargeting email from DSW)

  • Search retargeting – Search retargeting, also known as SEM/SEO retargeting, is similar to site retargeting in that it’s based off of user behavior. However, with search targeting, the ads served to the user are based off their recent search queries, not recent site visits. For example, if someone were to search for “gold heels,” they could be served ads similar to the Zappos ads, without ever visiting the Zappos site.
  • Contextual retargeting – This type of retargeting can be thought of as partner retargeting. Essentially, websites with similar content can show ads for each other’s websites. The idea is that if you like the content from one website, you would probably like similar content found on the other website.
  • Engagement retargeting – Engagement retargeting is only used on sites that offer video or games. If a consumer clicks on these types of media, advertisers can use that insight to serve them related ads. For instance, if a visitor plays an online game, they might then be served ads for Playstation.


Why Use Retargeting?

Retargeting is great not only for increasing your brand awareness by continually getting your business in front of the eyes of potential consumers, but it is also effective in that it targets those who already have some interest in what you’re offering.

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With the average website conversion rate being just 2 percent, it’s important to find ways to encourage visitors to come back and make a purchase on your site. And according to CMO.com and reviews website, Software Advice, retargeting can boost ad response up to 400 percent and website visitors who are retargeted with display ads are 70 percent more likely to convert on your website, making it a pretty effective way to convert a visitor into a customer.

Have you ever purchased something because of retargeting? Or does retargeting kind of freak you out? Let us know in the comments below!

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