Using retargeting in digital marketing

Retargeting is a digital marketing term that has been getting a great deal of attention as of late. In short, the practice is the advertising equivalent of getting to re-hook the one that got away on the same line – albeit, with a different lure. Analogies aside, retargeting is proving to be one of the most useful tools in the digital marketing toolbox.

Using retargeting in digital marketing

Retargeting is something that digital marketers should know well.

We are all fairly familiar with the site-based retargeting that uses specific ads to remind prior visitors to your site of their interest in whatever it is that you have to offer. But what might surprise you is that there are several avenues for retargeting.

Here's a closer look at site retargeting, along with a selection of some of the other need-to-know retargeting methods.

Site retargeting

Site retargeting is probably the original form of retargeting. The practice has traditionally involved using a cookie to tailor ads to those who have visited your site and who have left before purchase. The concept is basically a way to pop back in and remind the consumer that they are interested in what your company has to offer.

There is a set of best practices that address privacy concerns surrounding retargeting, but the most important point is that sensitive private data is not bandied wantonly about by this type of marketing. Site retargeting is effectively the default retargeting practice, and is one that most businesses have been engaged in at one point or another.

Social media retargeting

Social media is where the curious term "retargeting pixel" comes into play. The best place for a retargeting pixel on Facebook, for example, is a custom tab that is highlighting a promo. If the visitor to the tabbed page does not convert, the targeting pixel can make sure that advertising nudges them later. Similar practices can occur across other social media outlets.

The concept is ideally used to target visitors who have in some way interacted with your brand's social media, which is not always a guaranteed conversion in and of its self. Social media retargeting is a great way to get your company's social fans and friends back on the purchasing path whenever they fall off.

More uses for retargeting pixels

We're all totally acquainted the old practice of working with webmasters through link sharing. The new take on the link building concept is sharing retargeting pixels. If, for example, you are in the business of trying to promote a cloud-storage service, you may be able to persuade a blogger who covers cloud computing to embed a retargeting pixel alongside a super relevant article.

As with the other methods of retargeting, the magic of retargeting pixels really happens after the visitor leaves the initial content. As they move onto other pages and websites, ads can begin to try to funnel the shopper back in.

Email retargeting

Email marketing can be used for retargeting. Several user actions can be captured in email and the data can be used to retarget the subscriber back into the sales funnel. If you send out a newsletter, you can actually tell if the recipient has opened and read the email, if they have clicked on a link within it, or if they have forwarded it to someone else. Keep in mind that these behaviours all demand subtly different actions.

  • The email reader who does nothing is the least interested – they may even want to opt-out.
  • The one who clicks on a link is the most likely to convert. Respond directly, and with vigour.
  • The subscriber who forwards the email can present you with something potentially very different: a new shopper.

Retargeting efforts for all of these situations should be adapted to suit the situation in all cases.


Retargeting is a key element in digital marketing. Just keep in mind that retargeting data and pixels should never be used to over-inundate (read spam) the shopper.

Subtlety is the key, as we do not want to scare anyone away. By observing some best practices relating to privacy and casualness, retargeting, in its various forms, can be a great tool to help you retain customers as well as grow your business by keeping your brand top-of-mind for those who have shown interest in the past.

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