Using retargeting for cost effective brand building

6 minute read

This is the first of many posts we’ll be writing which look at wider business and marketing tactics that we use here at and which we hope will be of use to you.

To give some context, we’re a small business ourselves (now around 30 of us in the UK and Australia), which started with three of us working from my house nearly 10 years ago and bootstrapped from there. We’ve never raised finance and never taken on debt, so we’ve had to be clever about how we’ve built the business. Along the way we discovered lots of things and made plenty of mistakes. This is our attempt to share some of our experiences and by doing so hopefully help some people out.

So, without further ado, on to the first post – the topic of which has been chosen purely because I’ve been asked about it three times in the last week! If you’ve any topics you’d like us to cover then drop a comment below.



Have you ever noticed as you browse the web that you keep seeing adverts for a brand whose site you visited recently? Think that they must be spending a fortune because they seem to be advertising everywhere?

That’s ad retargeting, a powerful marketing tool that can be a lot more cost effective than you think. What’s happening is that you are being shown ads precisely because you’ve previously visited that particular website. It’s a middle ground between true permission marketing and blanket, untargeted display advertising.


How does it work?

In short, a site owner places a snippet of code (a tag) on their site, which sets a cookie on your computer that allows an advertising network to identify you (anonymously) when you browse other websites which also use the same advertising network to run their adverts.

This means that the site owner can then bid to show adverts only to people who have already visited their site, rather than paying to show adverts to everyone.

There are benefits for everyone involved. You should see adverts that are more relevant to you as they’re based on your previous activity; the advertiser spends less as they can target their ads towards their best prospects (people who have already shown an interest), and the ad network and site owners should make more money as they can charge a small premium for showing more targeted adverts (note that it’s still cheaper for the advertiser as they pay for less ads overall).

Creating the retargeting is only one aspect of course. You also need to have well thought out, effective and tested creative too.


Is it worth it?

Like any marketing activity, the real answer is ‘it depends’. You’ll need a little bit of technical input to set up the tracking, amend your privacy policy and so on, but most of the time will go into creating your ads, testing them and refining your results.

However, in my experience running retargeting ads for and a couple of consumer ecommerce sites that I’m involved with, we’ve always seen a good return on investment – both in direct conversions and brand recognition – especially compared to more generic display advertising, which can get very expensive, very quickly.

For example, we run retargeting ads for and these ads see a cost per lead of around 50% of our standard PPC costs, which saves us thousands of pounds a month.


How can you set up retargeting?

Marketing has developed a lot in the last couple of years and setting up retargeting is within the reach of any online advertiser. There are several platforms to choose from. Two of the most accessible are and Google’s remarketing platform.

Google’s system is integrated with Google Analytics and Adwords, so you can create retargeting groups from your analytics goals and link that straight to your Google Adwords account. You need to make a small change to your tracking code (and update your privacy policy – Google provide example wording), but that’s about it. Here’s Google’s tutorial on getting started.

To use AdRoll you’ll need to sign up for an account (they offer a 2 week free trial) and add their tracking code to your site, then allow some time to build up an audience. AdRoll covers quite a bit of ground that Google doesn’t – including Facebook and a wider reach of websites (apparently including all those sites on the Google network).

Have you used retargeting? Are you planning to? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!