Best Practices for Retargeting Campaigns

Not everyone is ready to perform an action when they visit your site. However, some visitors might browse a few pages, start to fill out a form, or put something in their shopping cart. These are all signals of intent, and they help you understand who in your audience is most likely to take action. Retargeting is the practice of selectively advertising to these audiences with tailored messages. You bring window shoppers back to your site so that they can take a desired action. 

In this section, we’ll go through everything you need to know to successfully launch and optimize a Retargeting Campaign.

When to Launch

Before we get started, let’s make sure it’s the right time to kick off your Retargeting Campaign. Make sure you have:

  • Your own website

  • AdRoll works by tracking the behavior of every user on your site. If you don’t have a site or only have a social page, AdRoll is not the best fit for your business.

  • More than 500 monthly site visitors

  • Retargeting works best when you have at least 500 monthly site visitors. If you are unsure how many monthly site visitors you have, consider using the AdRoll Pixel to monitor your web traffic to determine your monthly visitors.

  • A site with structure and navigation

  • AdRoll can help you run top-performing campaigns, but if your site has no clear way for visitors to take actions (e.g. complete purchases, fill out forms) it’ll be difficult to see positive results.

Defining Success

We measure success through conversions at AdRoll. A conversion occurs when a visitor completes an action that is valuable to your business after interacting with an ad. Depending on your business, that might be a purchase, a lead form submission, a phone call, or any valuable action that helps your business grow.

By defining which conversions matter most to your business and how much each conversion is worth to you, we can help create campaigns that are best suited to address your specific business needs.

Pro Tips:

  • If you choose to measure your overall marketing success in a separate tool, make sure to define your conversion audience in AdRoll. Our intelligent platform can boost your performance if we know what you consider success.

  • If you are using different KPIs to evaluate each conversion, we recommend creating separate conversion audiences with their own specific rules.

Measuring Success

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are metrics used to measure the effectiveness of your advertising campaign. As you consider which KPIs to use, think about how retargeting will work as part of your entire marketing program.

For example, you might already be running search marketing, traditional display ads, and social posts to drive signups on your site. If you’re going to use retargeting to also drive signups, you can use the performance of these marketing initiatives as a baseline for measuring your performance with AdRoll.

AdRoll measures the following KPIs for Retargeting Campaigns:

  • Spend: The amount spent on delivering ads

  • Impressions: The number of times an ad has been displayed

  • Clicks: The number of times an ad has been clicked

  • Click-through rate (CTR): The percentage of impressions that resulted in a click

  • Cost per thousand impressions (CPM): Cost per mille(thousand in Latin), common way that ad displays are sold

  • Cost per click (CPC): Total spend divided by the number of clicks

  • Cost per acquisition (CPA): Total spend divided by the number of conversions

  • View-through conversion (VTC): Number of conversions completed after someone saw an ad, but did not click on it
  • Click-through conversion (CTC): Number of conversions completed after someone clicked on an ad

  • Return on ad spend (ROAS): Attributed revenue divided by spend

Focus your efforts on a single KPI that you can easily tie to business value. Also, make sure that any goals or baselines are based on historical data. If you don’t have any historical data, consider running a small test with AdRoll to understand your unique situation.

Set Your Budget

Setting the right budget can seem pretty difficult, especially if this is your first time running a Retargeting campaign. For help choosing the right budget, see our Budget Tips.

Pro Tips:

  • One-third of marketers spent over 50% of their total marketing budget on programmatic advertising, including retargeting, in 2015. (AdRoll State of the Industry, 2016)

  • 71% of marketers spend 10-50% of their entire online ad budget on retargeting (AdRoll State of the Industry, 2014) 

Prioritizing Goals

You’ve defined your success metrics and decided on an initial budget. Before you get started, what matters most to you: spending your entire budget or getting the best performance possible?

Why shouldn’t I prioritize both?

The simple reason is because they’re inversely related. Optimizing for performance is a great way to make sure that every ad dollar you spend is returning the highest yield possible. However, in order to get the best performance, you might end up limiting your audience to the most likely people to convert and avoid spending to reach anyone else. It’s great for ROAS, but can often limit your audience size and budget fulfillment.

On the other hand, optimizing for spend is a great way to reach the widest audience possible. Since you’re not strictly focused on performance, your campaigns have more flexibility to reach different segments of visitors you might have otherwise missed. By widening your audience, you’re better able to spend your intended budget and achieve greater reach.

Which should I focus on?

It’s a balance. Once you understand how much each customer action is worth to you, you can seek to drive as much reach as possible while staying below your specific targets. Here are a few questions that might help unlock what matters most to you:

  • Would you prefer to spend your total budget or hit a specific KPI in the first month?

  • How would your performance expectations change if you could double your budget?

  • Would you trade off not hitting your KPI goal if it meant a higher volume of conversions?

Based on your answers, you’ll have a good idea of whether you should focus on spend or performance. If you run Automated Campaigns, our intelligent platform optimizes 24/7 to help you achieve whichever goal you choose.

Pro Tips:

  • You have the option to set a specific CPA, CPC, CPM target with our platform. We recommend CPA as a KPI because it is more closely aligned with the action you are trying to drive.

Measure Retargeting's Impact

Retargeting can play several roles in your overall marketing strategy. Before building more complex campaigns, how will you measure campaign success and give credit where it is due?

One area to think about is attribution. Attribution is the process of assigning credit to different marketing initiatives and touch points based on their impact in driving your audience to conversion. In digital advertising, marketers track conversions in two ways: click-through conversions (CTC) and view-through conversions (VTC).

CTCs track users who click on an ad and convert as a direct result. VTCs track users who are shown an ad and do not click on it immediately, but convert at a later time either organically or after seeing an ad from a different channel. AdRoll recommends using both CTC and VTC when you evaluate the performance of your Retargeting campaigns.

Remember that retargeting ads are one of many marketing touch points that can lead to a conversion. Although the impact of VTCs is harder to quantify, the ads seen still help raise awareness and affinity for your brand for every new customer.

Pro Tips:

  • AdRoll follows the industry standards for lookback windows. We give AdRoll 100% credit if a user converts within 30 days after a click or 7 days after an impression. If you want to modify this default setting, you can either change the days in your lookback window or set a specific percentage of conversions within the window to attribute directly to AdRoll.

  • If you use Google Analytics for web analytics, you can see how retargeting contributes to conversion using Assisted Conversions. Note that this will only account for clicks, not views, and typically doesn't contain cross-device data. It will default to a 30-day lookback window.

Creative Best Practices 

Use your customer knowledge to create ad messaging and creative that resonates with your audience. By customizing ads to reflect the group you’re targeting, you can improve your performance and help build a stronger connection to your brand. Always test variables to see what works best, and use those learnings across all of your campaigns.

Here are a few ways you can test the most important variables in your ad creative:

General Best Practices

  • Create different versions of ad creative. Our platform will automatically test and optimize different versions of the same ad size to help you drive the best results.

  • Most of the largest ad inventory sources, including Google and Facebook, have strict guidelines about the ads that get approved for their networks. You need to meet these guidelines to maximize your exposure online. 

Ad Sizes

  • Make sure to create each ad creative in all of the most popular sizes. It will make sure you don’t miss out on the right audience because you didn’t have the right ad size.

  • For web: 300×250, 728×90, 160×600, 300x600, 320×50, and 970x250

  • For Facebook & Instagram: 600x315, 600x600, 1200x628, and 1200x1200

  • For Native web ads: 600x500 (Recommended), 600x600, and 600x315.


  • Try different color schemes for every items like buttons, backgrounds, and images.

  • Use clear and crisp images for products

 Ad Copy

  • Use copy to either inform customers or draw them to convert. Avoid trying to do both.

  • Make sure copy is legible over background images.

  • Keep copy short and clear.

 Call To Action (CTA)

  • Test multiple CTAs, because what works for one audience might not work for another

  • Make sure every CTA lets users know exactly what to expect if they click on the ad

  • For lower-intent audiences, consider CTAs that highlight your brand for awareness. As you move down the funnel, you should have stronger CTAs, such as “Learn More” or “Buy Now.”

 Landing Pages

  • Landing pages should be relevant to the message in the ad.

  • Make sure users are able to convert either directly on the landing page or within 1-2 clicks

  • If the ad features a promotion, position that promotion prominently on the landing page.

Get Started

Here are the first steps to take to launch your Retargeting Campaign:

  1. Create your AdRoll account

  2. Place and activate your AdRoll Pixel

  3. Complete your onboarding


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