Learning Hub | Digital Marketing Basics

Retargeting: The Basics For Small Businesses

February 22, 2015 | Jon Teodoro

Despite the fact that retargeting has been around for quite some time, I rarely see any small business owners taking advantage of it. Today, I’m going to discuss why you need to implement retargeting (also known as remarketing in the Google world).

What the heck is retargeting?

Retargeting is a method of marketing your products or services to users that have already interacted with your brand. If you have retargeting implemented on your website, and someone interacts with your website in a specific way, they are added to what is called an audience. An audience is simply a group of people that meet the criteria of your retargeting campaign.

Some examples of common audience criteria are visitors that have:

  • Added an item to their shopping cart but never completed the checkout process
  • Visited your quote page but never actually filled out a form
  • Clicked on your PPC ad and visited your landing page but never took any action
  • Read your blog post but did not subscribe to your feed or email list

Once you have an audience built, you can craft a custom message to this audience that is tailored to the specific part of the marketing funnel that they are currently in.

How does a retargeting platform know when to add visitors to an audience that I have defined?

The technology that retargeting relies on is called a cookie. A cookie is a small piece of data that is stored inside of your visitor’s browser after they have visited your website. Whenever a visitor revisits your website, the cookie sends the stored data back to your server which allows you the convenience of displaying information that would have otherwise been lost.

Let’s say that you were shopping on amazon.com and you added some Nike basketball shoes to your shopping cart. As you reach for your wallet, you realize that you left it in the car. You decide that you will continue your shopping later since you don’t feel like running out to your car at the moment.

When you revisit amazon.com later, you notice that your items are still saved in your cart! That, ladies and gentlemen, is a basic example of how cookies work, and a model of how retargeting can collect data about your visitors in order to build specific audiences.

What kind of ads can I show to my audiences?

The beautiful thing about retargeting is that unlike typical display ad buys that are geared towards the top-of-funnel visitors, you can also create special ads for people based on where they are at in your marketing funnel. Basically, the type of ads you display are only limited to how creative you choose to be in crafting your message to your particular audience.


With retargeting, you can make better use of paid display advertising to cater to potential customers in specific parts of your marketing funnel. What are some creative ways you have seen advertisers utilize retargeting for businesses?