Remarketing and Retargeting for Improved CRO

Remarketing and retargeting are often used interchangeably. Both focus on marketing to the same prospect multiple times for conversion rate optimization. The difference is in the how.

Remarketing can be used as an umbrella term covering both digital and traditional marketing efforts, but is most often used to describe re-engaging customers with email. Retargeting, on the other hand, is most often used to describe re-engaging potential customers through online ad placements. (Google likes to confuse people by calling its ad retargeting system a remarketing tool – we’ll assume they mean that as the umbrella term.)

Below, we dive into the benefits of retargeting. And yes, for the purposes of this article, that’s the term we’re going to use. Sorry, Google.


Remarketing is something nearly any online shopper is familiar with. You’ve put something in your cart at your favorite online retailer, you receive a text from a friend, pivot focus, and never look back. Sometime later, you get an email from said retailer reminding you about your cart items. “Hey! Lookie here! You forgot this!” That’s remarketing. Remarketing can be used to describe any effort to market again (“re” market) to the same consumer, but the above example is one most of us are most familiar with.

How it works. Most sites today use cookies to track user activity on a site – hence all the cookie pop-ups you see upon accessing a site these days. Remarketing campaigns leverage that information to automatically provide friendly, simple, and sometimes funny email reminders to re-engage users who take a pre-designated action on their site – adding an item to cart, downloading a form, etc. – without completing a transaction.

Retargeting does something similar, but with ads rather than emails. The other day I was doing some research for a client, and visited several travel sites (it was for work!). Subsequently, I could hardly turn on my computer without seeing specific ads for global travel opportunities. That is retargeting.

How it works. Just like remarketing, retargeting uses cookies to track and leverage user behavior on a site, with the goal of getting them to complete an action. But instead of being relegated to a user’s inbox, retargeting leverages third party ad networks like Google Display Network to let you reengage users on the internet and drive them back to your site. To maintain the privacy and integrity of users, retargeting uses IP addresses, rather than personal information like an email. At a basic level, a marketer tells an ad network to show specific ads to IP addresses that take a specific action on your site when they visit other places on the internet within that ad network. With hundreds of thousands of sites on Google Display Network alone, there’s significant opportunity micro-target your ad campaigns.

Using the example above, let’s say you are a travel agency, and I visit your site to browse African safaris. I scan the landing page, maybe click on a brochure link, but I ultimately close the site without reaching out for more information. Ideally, your cookies would have tracked my IP address’ activity. If you had a retargeting campaign set up, you could then leverage Google Display Network to instantly show me ads about safaris as I continue to browse the internet. Reminding me about your site, and improving the chance I will return to your specific site when I’m ready to do more research. “Hi! Remember how much you loved the safaris you saw on our site?! Come back!” Social media is in on the game too, with Facebook being a major player in retargeting campaigns.


The primary benefit of retargeting is that it allows marketers to create hyper-focused ad campaigns that target those who have already shown interest in their product or service. And serve them up wherever that prospect may be online – search engines, other websites, and even social media. Increasing visibility and awareness for qualified prospects.

There are additional benefits as well:

  • Increase Engagement. Retargeting campaigns typically have higher engagement rates than display ad campaigns, particularly within the first few views. That’s because unlike generic ad campaigns, you’re targeting specific individuals who have already shown interest in your service, product, and even your brand, with an ad developed just for them.
  • Optimize Conversion Rates. While the spike in engagement numbers has shown to decrease over time with retargeting, the real benefit is that conversion rates – the rate where people hit “buy” or complete a transaction – actually increase over time. So while fewer people may click on retargeted ads once they’ve seen them 3-4 times, those who do are significantly more likely to complete the sales circle.
  • Massive Reach. Google Display Network alone claims to cover more than 92% of sites on the web. In addition, social media networks like Facebook and Twitter enhance that reach while allowing you to get even more hyper-focused on audience demographics.
  • Get Personal. Oftentimes marketers refrain from spending budget on micro-campaigns geared toward a narrow audience because it can prove difficult to leverage for a high enough ROI. Retargeting campaigns enable marketers to widely leverage unique content at a highly granular level, in a way general campaigns cannot. In my example, using retargeting you could show me ads on safaris, while showing another user ads on the French Riviera.
  • Enhance Brand Recognition. It’s common for consumers to visit a handful of websites when searching for a service or product. Unless they bookmark your site, the chances are even if they loved your product, you may get lost in the crowd. Retargeting campaigns reinforce your brand to consumers who are already interested. Increasing the likelihood they will think of you first. In addition, you can bypass the initial pitch and focus your marketing campaign further down the funnel to motivate and incentivize them to reengage.

And the best part, is that the cost of a retargeting campaign is minimal compared to more traditional advertising.

Alongside PPC campaigns, DesignWorks is an expert in crafting and managing creative, engaging retargeting campaigns. Sound like something that could help your company increase visibility and top of mind awareness for qualified visitors? Give us a call today!

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