How to Set Up Boomerang Traffic to Retarget Your Digital Marketing Campaign - dummies

How to Set Up Boomerang Traffic to Retarget Your Digital Marketing Campaign

By Ryan Deiss, Russ Henneberry

Most digital marketers will be faced with retargeting at some point. Needless to say, not everyone who comes to your site will convert on the first visit; in fact, for most sites, only 2 percent of web traffic converts on the first visit. So how do you get the other 98 percent to “boomerang” and come back to your site? You do it through a strategy known as ad retargeting.

For instance, say that you go to the online shoe and clothing store Zappos. You look at a pair of shoes and then leave Zappos without buying. Next you visit the Huffington Post to read an article and notice an ad for the same pair of shoes that you were just considering on You are being retargeted. Check out more detail about what retargeting is and how to employ it.

Defining ad retargeting

After people have visited your site, sales page, or social media page, you can safely assume that they’re interested in learning more. Even if they left without buying, you can also assume that they didn’t say no; they just didn’t have time to take action right then or needed more time to think about your offer. To encourage people to return to your site (like a boomerang), you use the paid traffic strategy of retargeting.

The goal of retargeting (sometimes called remarketing) is to bring people back to your site and get them one step closer to converting. You do this by serving former visitors ads based on their prior engagement with your site. With retargeting, you don’t try to change prior visitors’ minds; rather, you remind them about your offer.

Although other forms of retargeting exist, most frequently used are site-based retargeting. Site-based retargeting uses tracking pixels and cookies to serve your ad to previous site visitors.

Setting cookies and pixels

A tracking pixel (simply referred to as a pixel) is a piece of code that you place on your website to trigger a cookie, which is the text file that stores information about the user’s visit to your site. The cookie uses a simple JavaScript code and allows ad networks and traffic platforms to identify users when they visit another site, and then serves them targeted ads based on your preferences as an advertiser.

Simply put, the tracking pixel delivers information to a server, and the cookie stores information in a user’s browser so that the server can read it again later. The cookie stores the site visit but does not store any sensitive information, such as the site visitor’s name, address, or any information that might personally identify the visitor.

When people come to your site, a cookie is placed, and eventually, users leave and visit other sites. The cookie lets your retargeting platform, such as Facebook or Google, know when one of these “cookied” visitors goes to a site where retargeting ads can be shown. If ad space is available, your retargeting ad may be shown. This entire process is automated and occurs within a fraction of a second.

When done right, retargeting allows you to make relevant offers to specific audiences, and the more specific and relevant the offer, the more likely the offer is to resonate with your audience and lead to a conversion.

Segmenting with content

The biggest mistake that a digital marketer can make with retargeting campaigns is to assume that all visitors are alike and show every visitor the same ad. The key to successful retargeting is audience segmentation. Failing to segment your visitors can lead to poor campaign results and the waste of many of your impressions (the views on your ads) and ad spend.

For instance, you wouldn’t want to retarget a user who has viewed vegan recipes with a banner ad for a steakhouse restaurant.

When you segment your audiences, you can identify and understand their intent. Segmentation allows you to retarget and send offers based on a person’s interests, thereby personalizing the retargeting experience and making the ad that much more compelling.

To segment your audience, examine your website or blog and divide its content into like categories or topics. For example, a food blog might separate its content by types of lifestyles such as vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian. When people visit content about vegetarian food, they are showing interest in vegetarian food. Do you have an offer that is relevant to a vegetarian? If so, retarget those that visit your vegetarian content with that relevant and specific offer.