Dart board retargeting
Digital Re-targeting

In this article we will take a birds eye view of retargeting, what it is and what platforms people use when implementing.

Retargeting is a term used to refer to the process of keeping your advertising in front of bounced traffic. Google refers to this process as re-marketing. Sometimes you may hear it being referred to as recycled traffic.

It is now standard practice for most online marketers, big and small. All online advertising platforms now offer some kind of tracking code to assist in retargeting.

Lets begin by defining some terms.


A pixel is a small bit of JavaScript or html code which fires a message back to the ad network, it also tags the user with a cookie. You can easily place the code on your own website, or if you are not so inclined, you can easily hire someone to do it.


This is a bit of code that gets saved in the users browser to identify them later. It doesn’t identify them personally. Users can erase cookies from their browsers by erasing browser data. This is different from a pixel, because you place the pixel on your own site.

Pixel Pool

This refers to a group of users that have been tagged with pixels and cookies. Basically it’s your retargeting audience. This may also include email lists uploaded to Facebook, Google or other networks.

Burn Pixel

These are pixels pools created to exclude users, people who you do not want to retarget. For example customers who have already bought or who want to unsubscribe.


This refers to people who are similar to the users in your pixel pool or email list. Sometimes referred to as similar audiences or close match audiences. Marketing platforms like Facebook will create lookalike audiences of fresh new people that you haven’t contacted before that are statistically very similar to people who have already bought into what you are offering. This is very powerful marketing.

Frequency Cap

A limit you can place on how many times ad networks will show your ads within a 24 hour period.

Campaign Flight Data

The time frame set to run an ad campaign within an ad network.

Retargeting Basics

The ad networks that have provided you the code place the cookie on your visitors browsers. Once you have an audience, they will then display your ads all over the internet, but only to people in the cookie pool. For example, providers like Google, they have established relationship with companies like USAToday, YouTube, Forbes, MTV, and thousands of smaller sites as well. That means you can have your ads on pages like Forbes, but only for the people who have your cookie on their browser. This means that you can potentially compete with huge brands like McDonalds, etc.

Why Retargeting is so Useful

Lets say someone clicked on your website, but all of sudden their phone rings and they get distracted, and later they forgot about your website. Well, with retargeting they may visit another site and be reminded of your product from a banner ad, or a Facebook ad etc.

It has often been postulated that someone needs to see your brand a minimum of five times before it begins to even register in their consciousness. With retargeting, you know you are showing your ad to people who have already shown an interest. You have heard the phrase ‘the money is in the list’? With retargeting, you essentially have an invisible list.

Many People Find it Creepy

The Nightmare is a 1781 oil painting by Anglo-Swiss artist Henry Fuseli.
The Nightmare is a 1781 oil painting by Anglo-Swiss artist Henry Fuseli.

Some people see it as an invasion of privacy. I do not see it that way. It must be said that no advertiser has any personal information of any kind. Cookies are how browsers remember your username and passwords. Cookies auto complete your address into forms. Cookies track affiliate links so that affiliates can get paid. Cookies are how websites like Twitter remember your password so that you don’t have to sign in every time. Cookies also track websites visitors and are used to show ads that might be of interest to them. Also remember, cookies can easily be erased and disabled. They are a very useful tool and you should not be creeped out by them, especially if you are a business owner.


I just want to say here that I think we should start advocating for these marketing tools. They are amazingly useful. Yes, you are being advertised to, but that is the exchange you are making to use powerful tools like Facebook, Google and Twitter for free.

Currently there is a zietgiest to come down on companies like Facebook, particularly after the Cambridge Analytica scandal (Google it). The vast amount of data that these companies have is similar to what governmental organizations like the NSA might have, but the difference is that you and I both have access to the power of this data. We can use it to grow our businesses. Why do people not like that? It’s because they don’t make the connection, they just expect Facebook, Google and Twitter to be free. If you understand these powerful tools you can have a super power. We should advocate for this tech not demean it, or we will lose it and only the government will have it.

Common Mistakes

  1. Don’t re-target to many people. It is best practice to only re-target high quality leads. For example, you could target only those who have reached your shopping cart page, but use a burn pixel to remove those who have made it as far as your thank you page.
  2. Don’t make your ads creepy. Don’t send a ‘remember me’ message, or a ‘You visited our page’ message. This scares people because they don’t realize that you don’t have their personal info.
  3. Don’t over do it. Don’t follow people around the internet with tons of ads. Though some networks save pixels for over a year, best practices show that following people for longer than 30 days isn’t worth it. Don’t do it.

Tools and Platforms

The following are the main tools and platforms:

  1. Google Tag Manager.
  2. Google Analytics.
  3. Facebook.
  4. Twitter.
  5. Google Ads.
  6. Taboola.

With these tools and platforms you will have all you need to have your retargeting appear everywhere all over 90% of the internet.

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is a free tool that is extremely powerful for marketers. With it you can place one bit of code on your website and use it to deploy or hide all the various pixels you will be using. You can also do advanced trigger rules. In this article we won’t be teaching you how to use GTM, but we can direct you to free online resources for learning this very important tool. There are many free resources online. This Jason Whaling YouTube video is an excellent place to start.

Jason Whaling

Google Analytics

Another free software from Google. This tool helps you create audiences that you then set up in Google Ads. If you would like to learn more about Google Analytics, Google itself has an excellent learning platform called Google Analytics Academy.

Google Analytics

Don’t Relay on Just One or Two Networks

If you are only using lets say Facebook and AdRoll, or just Google Ads, it is far less effective because you can ‘disappear’ from your potential customers view and they are left open to your competition. If your competitor is targeting all the internet and you are not, you will lose to them. With Facebook, Twitter, Google Ads and Taboola you can show up everywhere across the internet with a budget of $100 per day or less.

What is Taboola?

Taboola logo
Content Discovery and Native Advertising

According to Wikipedia:

Taboola is a private advertising company headquartered in New York City. It provides advertisements such as the “Around the Web” and “Recommended For You” boxes at the bottom of many online news articles. The company was founded in 2007. By 2015, it had raised more than $157 million in funding. After multiple acquisitions, including Commerce Sciences in 2017, Taboola’s current valuation is estimated between 1-10 billion USD.

This month, Oct 2019, Taboola has acquired Outbrain, which was it’s main competitor. This company will now truly rival Google and Facebook as an advertising platform and makes it the main company in this space. Taboola provides approximately 360 billion article recommendations each month. It is implemented on a website with a line of Javascript.

Let’s Talk Budget

Retargeting uses your budget in a different way from normal digital campaigns. On Facebook and Google you set a maximum bid and choose a daily or a lifetime budget. You are competing with other advertisers. The advertiser that wins has the best combination of click through rate, relevance and cost per click.

With retargeting you only advertise to those who have your pixel on their site. That means you may only have 1000 people- so you actually can’t spend a lot of money. Your budget is limited to how large you pixel pool is. This can mean that you may get better results, but you can’t scale.

Bidding still applies to re-targeting, but you may be more inclined to bid higher since it is a higher quality click.


If you are a business owner or an entrepreneur, you should not be negative about these advertising practices. They are very useful to you. If you are a consumer who has a negative feeling about these practices, just remember, you do get a huge benefit from being able to use powerful networks like Google, Twitter and Facebook for free and this is the exchange you are making for it.

Author: John Victor


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