5 Unknown Tips To Hack Your Retargeting

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We’ve all experienced our fair share of retargeting and there are good reasons for why marketers do it.

Retargeting ads have a 10x higher click-through rate than display ads – and visitors subject to retargeting are 70% more likely to complete a conversion compared to non-retargeted visitors.

All great stuff, but as you and I both know, retargeting ads can be as annoying as people who play music from their phone in public places (ugh).

If you’re not using your retargeting opportunities strategically to provide value to your visitors or solutions to their problems, then you’re no good. You’re just noise.

Here are five tactics you can start using today to get the most out of your retargeting efforts while still delivering value to your prospects.

Retargeting tactic #1: Unique segmentation

Again and again, I’ve seen companies serving the same retargeting ads to everyone, regardless of which page they visited, keyword they searched or device they’re coming from.

This is sloppy at best. Different people behave in different ways and that should call for different ads, different messaging and different creative.

Did someone find you from a non-branded search on Google or are they already on your email list? Each will be at a different stage of their relationship with you, and you should only hold hands when you need to and french kiss with the others.

I’m talking about segmentation.

An example of unique segmentation in action

Noah Kagan, former employee of Facebook and Mint and current CEO of AppSumo, has written extensively about his retargeting campaigns.

While some of his retargeting ads are a softer sell (asking people to opt in to a leads list in exchange for a freebie), people who visit his product page but don’t convert are given a harder sell: Noah runs his retargeting ads to bring them back to a product purchase landing page.

Note how Noah tells his own personal success story (to appeal to his target market of entrepreneurs who are chasing the dream) rather than throwing them generic ads about his product. Image source.

What kind of results does he see from his retargeting efforts?

In the example he writes about in this article, he spent $4,168.19 to make $9,365 through his Facebook retargeting – a 200% ROI.

Not too shabby.

Use unique segmentation in your retargeting campaigns

To get you started with segmentation, take a look at your Google Analytics and determine if there are more visitors on certain pages compared to others. Ask yourself why that is and then craft retargeting ads that speak directly to them.

Some of these audience segments may be small portions of your overall traffic, but they will have a higher chance of converting since you’re being more specific with your messaging.

Here’s some inspiration to get you started:

  • Do your visitors spend a lot of time on your “About Us” page? Why not show them a retargeting ad that offers a 15-minute, one-on-one consultation from your CEO or another prominent employee from your organization? The visitor wanted to get to know you better – here’s your chance to start that relationship.
  • Do you have different categories on your blog? Why not create a guide on your most popular subject and retarget it to frequent visitors to that category?

Bonus tip:
When users convert, be sure to use burn pixels to remove them from your retargeting audience so you don’t continue to show the same ad over and over again.

Retargeting tactic #2: Use old school marketing tactics

People were on your landing page for a reason, and hopefully, it was because they’re interested in what you have to offer.

But with your competitors just a click away, there’s no reason people shouldn’t take their time in making a decision.

This is when good ol’ urgency, scarcity and social proof can be used to supercharge your retargeting.

An example of old school marketing tactics in action

Here’s an example of how Birchbox uses social proof in their retargeting campaigns:


Don’t ask me what I was doing on Birchbox.com.

Birchbox’s ad is effective is because it teases you.

Maybe you visited the site, left and forgot all about it. But when you see this ad a week later, you may be more intrigued because “other people” are beaming about it.

So many people are focused on new and fancy ways of running successful retargeting ads, but sometimes it’s the easy-to-overlook old school methods that can make the biggest difference.

Use old school marketing tactics in your retargeting campaigns

  • Give people specific numbers: Only have a few left in stock? Tell people that! Or tell ’em that hundreds (if not thousands) of people are already using your service.
  • Show people countdowns: Why not add countdown timers to your retargeting ads? Creating urgency by telling people that there are only X days left in your sale is a surprisingly motivating force that can drive conversions.

Retargeting tactic #3: Reach your audience on a variety of retargeting channels

Retargeting on only one channel unnecessarily limits your reach.

Your retargeting ads might be following visitors around on the Google Display Network, but are they being shown on other channels where your audience hangs out?

Social media retargeting is a powerful tool that allows you to show your ads either directly in the newsfeed (Facebook or Twitter) or in the right-hand sidebar (Facebook).

Social media retargeting in action

If you’ve ever been on AdRoll’s site and then checked your Facebook, you’ve probably been the victim of a lot of pointing people.


Or maybe you went to Perfect Audience’s homepage and then were stalked on Twitter later with something like this:


Note that to be able to advertise on Facebook, you have to use a platform that is certified by Facebook’s Ad Exchange network (FBX). AdRoll or Perfect Audience (now part of Marin) are both safe bets.

Each social media network also has pretty specific creative guidelines that you should be aware of. For example:

  • On Facebook, only up to 20% of your ad image can be used for text. You can use this Facebook tool to make sure your ads comply with this policy.
  • Unlike the animated capabilities of ads on the Google Display Network, Facebook retargeting ads have to be static.
  • There is now only one Facebook ad size (1200 x 628 pixels) and one Twitter ad size (800 x 320 pixels) – Facebook will automatically adjust your ads to fit the newsfeed and right hand sidebar.

Retargeting tactic #4: Upselling and cross-selling

You got them to convert! That’s awesome. But what if you could sell more?

When a person has just converted, it’s because they like what you do. You now have a perfect chance to give them more value, and in return, get more money from them.

Image by Tom Fishburne.

Whether it’s a complementary offer or something to move them down another funnel, retargeting is the perfect tool for making that happen.

In fact, upselling through retargeting has been found to increase conversion rates by an additional 3-5%.

Upselling in your retargeting campaigns

Are you a SaaS company with a freemium user base? Why not use retargeting to explain your premium features (and hopefully score some upsells)?

Or you could create new audience segments for people who have converted through different offers and use regular display, email or social media retargeting to upsell relevant packages to them.

The possibilities are endless!

Retargeting tactic #5: Testing your ads

Retargeting ads are extremely effective, but only if you’re dedicated to constantly improving them. As with all things conversion rate optimization, you’ve got to work out a testing plan.

You’ve probably got tons of ideas around how you can test your ad creatives: your headline, CTA, hero shot and copy.

But consider going deeper and testing other things such as a completely differently offer and the frequency of your ads.

Maybe your first offer wasn’t the hook the visitor was looking for. Or maybe you’ve been bombarding your prospects with so many ads that you’re causing banner blindness.

A/B testing can help you find that “sweet spot.”

Testing as research

The beauty of A/B testing your retargeting ads is they give you insight into the preferences of each particular audience.

Once you see what works well through your retargeting, you’ll have more insight into what could be effective on your landing pages as well.

Think of retargeting as a way of bringing back lost sales, but also as a research tool.

A final word of warning

With so many different ideas and options for you, how do you even decide on where to begin?

Your best bet is to pick a tactic and start testing today.

No matter what you do, make sure you only use one retargeting vendor per retargeting channel so that you don’t compete against yourself and artificially drive up your costs.

What have you found works best for your retargeting? Let’s school each other in the comments!

— Johnathan Dane

Hear Johnathan on the Call to Action podcast:


About Johnathan Dane
Johnathan Dane is the founder of KlientBoost, a California-based PPC agency that's on a mission to grow companies. He's been interviewed by Google and has a German Shorthaired Pointer named Tanner. Connect with him on Twitter.
» More blog posts by Johnathan Dane


  1. Mark H

    Johnathan, the only limitation with burn pixels is they count form submit or website related conversions. Phone calls, that most of our clients need, are a big conversion that cannot be tracked via burn pixels. Sadly.

    Maybe I don’t know of an app that can do that, but maybe that’s an idea for someone to look into.

    • Johnathan Dane

      Great point Mark! Your comment reminds me of a similar challenge with attribution modeling and how building that bridge between forms and phone calls is so crucial.

      The good thing is that most sales calls aren’t closed on the first call. Having your different retargeting ads continue to emphasize the multiple benefits of working with you or your client could be a great idea!

      Btw, I think you and I have just started a new software together. When a certain phone number is called on a landing page, the software triggers a new page to be shown to the visitor with burn pixels, a fun bio of who the customer is talking to, or even a new upsell opportunity.

      50/50, you in?

      • Mark H

        Haha, yes I’m down. We’ve already started working on a tool internally that uses the Measurement Protocol to drop cookies into various ‘buckets’ (segments) that can be retargeted to. This new landing page you’re talking about is then shown.

        Still a long way to go, but I can welcome you into a beta in a few months if you like.

  2. Luke Alley

    Another solid article by Johnathan. Covered the best remarketing strategies in one easy to read post.

  3. Sarah


    I don’t think that Noah’s success is about driving the traffic back to a product purchase landing page.

    Rather, Noah has a very high understanding of understanding how Facebook and other social media works.

    He knows that people don’t use Facebook to research products or see ads. They use Facebook to keep up with their friend’s stories. So by repositioning a traditional advertisement as a personal story about Noah himself, he’s fitting into the platform. That’s really why his ROI is so high.

    Yeah, he can segment like a beast. But no matter how targeted an ad is on Facebook, if it’s pitched as an ad, chances are that I’m in buying mode is very low.

    • Johnathan Dane

      Hey Sarah :)

      I agree with you on Noah’s understanding of how things work, but I couldn’t disagree with you more on the point of using Facebook for retargeting.

      The reason why those specific ads from Noah were used, was because of AppSumo, where he’s trying to sell his software solutions. But also, and this is critical, using his own personal story because he has done what so many other people want to do.

      Remember that a retargeting ad on Facebook is only shown to you if you’ve already shown interest (by being on a specific site) before.

  4. Joe Murfin

    You want to use google tag manager with your re-marketing efforts…Makes things much easier.

    Great post.

  5. ROI Marketing

    If you are an eCommerce website then Dynamic Remarketing based on products the person has viewed is a must and will take things to the next level. This can be setup on Adwords using product feeds or on Facebook via third parties such as Adroll.com, The ROI you can get on these ads is far better than normal static remarketing.

  6. David

    Sweet article Johnathan, but am I missing something with this line: “Note that to be able to advertise on Facebook, you have need to use a platform that is certified by Facebook’s Ad Exchange network (FBX). AdRoll or Perfect Audience”
    Anyone can setup FB ads, including remarketing, directly via the FB Ads platform,

    • Johnathan Dane

      Thanks David :) Not only did you enlighten us all, but you also pointed out a sweet typo in that snippet lol.

      Could you let us know how to go about retargeting inside of Facebook?

      And does Facebook allow outside retargeting through other channels like AdRoll (for example) does?


  7. Arshad

    I have plan to run FB retargeting but i don’t see any options in my ad manager account is there any way i can do from my ad manager account itself.


  8. Ricky

    Great article Jonathan! I have been using a few ads on facebook directing people to a targeted page on my site and my ctr is about 3.5-4%. My conversions on sales is not that great yet from this ad but I am planning to retarget this group via a facebook pixle on that page from the first ad. This being my first dabble in this realm should I expect my conversions on the retargeted add higher than the original ad?



    • Johnathan Dane

      Great question Ricky! It depends on your offer.

      Most of the time you’ll do better offering something educational that requires less threat for the visitor to convert with your new remarketing campaigns.

      Since the visitors already showed an interest, there’s a good chance they weren’t ready to convert. So try a different, but just as relevant offer, like an ebook or white paper so they can get in your funnel.

  9. Daniel Daines-Hutt

    Hey Dane

    Custom retargeting with old school marketing/sales methods works like crazy. We recently ran a campaign on just FB (no 3rd party software) and its running over 7,245%.

    We decided to test it for a flash sale for an ecommerce company and they saw over $18,000 in sales for only $114 spend. Seriously underutilised (its all im working on now!)

    Still running more tests as those numbers are insane but im pretty happy with the costs so far!


    • Johnathan Dane

      That. Is. Insane.

      Glad it’s working for you! Seriously impressive (to say the least).

      • Daniel Daines-Hutt

        Hey Johnathon,

        I know its just ….actually madness!

        I’m testing a lot more on a few other sites and for other goals but I think it might be what I focus on for a bit!

        Sorry for calling you Dane before! The sun through my window is telling me to stop work for now!


  10. Lou Dalo

    ok, not to get picky but ROI is NET profit divided by cost of investment, or 124%, not 200%

    I know, I know – still a return I’d take any day (I didn’t say ONLY 124% did I? Just sayin’)

  11. Retargeting

    Retargeting can be annoying if it’s not done correctly. But if you make a proper audience segmentation, use A/B testing and a decent algorithm for not harassing people with your personalized message, I think retargeting can be a very powerful marketing automation tool to retract those lost visitors and help hem convert into happy customers.

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