Retargeting – The Ultimate Guide to Winning.
By on Jul 05, 2011

retargettingI introduce to you a scholarly article made up of over 2000 heavily scrutinized words, paired with a cargo ship (crew included) worth of experience. It explores retargeting, a topic that is fresh to the lips of ravenous affiliates. There is enough content here for a frickin’ $7.99 e-book, but has the quality of a finely crafted German kitchen utensil.

This is a guess post by my brother from my mother, Ratko (Rocco a.k.a one of the good guys) from Sitescout.

Have I said enough? I think so.

Ratko: Haha thank you Mr Green and hello all! The purpose of this guide is to give marketers a glimpse at the possibilities and power of audience targeting – also known as behavioral targeting or retargeting.

Let me start at the basics then we will get on to the juicy stuff.

What is Audience Targeting?

You know those companies that seem to stalk you around the web with banner ads? You know them: Liquidweb, Zendesk. iContact, POF, Zappos, etc.

What happened is that you were given a cookie when you visited one of their websites or landing pages. You are now a member of their audience.

In other words, audience targeting gives you the ability to target (or untarget) a specific group of users – using cookies.

These days, with the ability to bid on individual display impressions, retargeting campaigns can cost very little yet yield higher-than-average CTRs at lower ad spends.

How Does It Work Exactly?

Here are some examples of what audience pixels look like:

As you can see it’s a very small bit of code that can be included on any page, the same way you might place code for analytics or other scripts.

With regards to expiry times, Adwords allows you to set a duration (in days) for your audience pixel, with a maximum life of 540 days. The SiteScout pixel never expires, however, you can untarget your audiences after X number of days from their first or last visit.

My Retargeting Campaign Stats

Retargeting campaigns typically have higher CTRs than more generally targeted campaigns, but not always. This is probably because the user has already been exposed to your brand. It could also be a result of knowing more about the audience (e.g. “they are clickers” or “they’ve converted before”), and tailoring a proper message.

For this Adwords campaign you can see that the CTR is much higher than the industry average CTR (editor’s note: download that CTR PDF it’s very interesting!) for display ads: 0.1%. But what’s even more impressive about this campaign is the massive amount of view-through conversions. View-through conversions are people that converted after viewing your ads rather than from clicking on them. This just illustrates the power of continual exposure to a targeted audience. Hearts and minds.

For this SiteScout campaign, an amazing CTR of 0.95% was achieved with retargeting – almost 10x higher than the industry average. In the display advertising world where you’re paying by the impression, having a high CTR like this makes all the difference in the world.

Retargeting campaigns can be applied to any business or niche. What I’d like to share now are some ideas on how affiliates, performance marketers, and even brand advertisers can take the benefits of audience targeting and apply it to their existing and future campaigns.

4 Things You Can Do With Audiences


Many people think that audience targeting is just a synonym for retargeting. It goes beyond that. You can do more with audiences than simply retarget them. Audiences can be both retargeted and untargeted. Some more advanced tactics allow you to do retargeting based on time rules or advanced segmentation, which is more work, but more scientific.

Retargeting – The most popular application of audience targeting is retargeting. If someone comes to your website or landing page and doesn’t convert, hope is not lost. By retargeting people that have already engaged with your brand/campaign in the past is a proven way to salvage lost souls.

Untargeting – This is probably the most underused, yet most powerful application of audience targeting. You don’t want to show ads to people that have already converted. At least not the same ads.

What you want to do is create a specific audience of converted visitors. You know they convert. Instead of watching your campaign CTRs dwindle or risk having an unhappy lead see your ad again, untarget them from your campaign.

  1. Create a new list by placing an audience pixel on your conversion page.
  2. Untarget that audience from within your campaigns (read further for more info).

Remarketing – Yes, I know that the word remarketing is often using interchangeably with retargeting. In this case I’m referring to the marketing of different offers to audiences of people that have converted in the past. If they’ve converted before, there is a good chance they will convert again assuming you have another compelling offer. Brainstorm related or complimentary offers that might appeal to your audience demographics and remarket to the converted.

Time-Based Retargeting – This tactic is another layer that can be used in conjunction with your retargeting/remarketing/untargeting campaigns. I don’t know of any platform other than SiteScout, that can do this right now – but there might be.

Imagine targeting audiences that have converted for a specific offer or product and a week or two  later showing them banners asking “How do you like your new shoes?” or “Now that you have a grant on the way, use those funds for this business opportunity!”

In the example above, you could retarget a dating audience 30 days after their first access with banners for a different dating offer with a message along the lines of – “Still haven’t found love yet? Try” I’m sure creative people could conjure up even better examples.

5 Places To Put Your Audience Pixels


Retargeting pixels are like invisible little opt-in forms that don’t ask, they just take. You want to put them to good use. The following are just a few ideas of where you could place your audience codes:

Websites – Let’s assume that you have a website with targeted visitors. Assuming your traffic is organic, you can build an extra asset from your traffic and capitalize on them with a retargeted display campaign. This is especially useful if the majority of your traffic is made up of one-time visitors that would have otherwise gotten away.

Landing Pages – Any campaign that you have running is an opportunity to build an audience. Placing an audience pixel on your landing pages is only natural. By building an audience in addition to your “front end” campaign, you get to accumulate a real asset from your ad spend, much like a mailing list. This applies especially to affiliates who may not otherwise enjoy long-term value from their campaign spends.

Redirect Scripts – Suppose you don’t have a website and you don’t use landing pages for your campaigns. Keep your chin up. You can still drop an audience pixel within a redirect script using a standard HTML meta refresh. Here is some example code:

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="1; url=">
<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

(*Credit goes to The Angry Russian for this idea!)

Conversion Pages – As mentioned before, it would be wise to build a unique list for visitors that have converted. This is primarily to untarget them from your continued propaganda and harassment. If you’re feeling ambitious you can also market other offers to them in a new campaign.

Checkout Pages – If you run an e-commerce site, you could place an audience pixel somewhere in your checkout process. That way you can specifically retarget visitors that have abandoned their shopping carts.

Merchants should also consider all this information. If both you and your affiliates are driving traffic to an offer, you might as well build your own audience to retarget at the same time. Keep in mind that attribution might become tricky at that point.

2 Common Mistakes With Retargeting Campaigns

Retargeting campaigns can backfire and do more harm than good if you aren’t careful. Here are some missteps to avoid:

Lack of Frequency Capping – Normally advertisers stalk their audiences with retargeting banners until the end of time. You don’t want to be a stage 5 clinger like that. Use frequency capping so your audience feels less hunted.

I’ve seen retargeting campaigns with either no frequency cap or with a cap, but something high like 9 impressions per user per day. Way too much for people to see in one day without causing negative sentiment. Lower it to three impressions per user, per day (3/24), which is as much as I’d push it. Two or one might even be better.

Failing to Untarget – I know that I am not alone in feeling slightly resentful of companies that continue to retarget me with ads, long after I bought their stuff. Don’t piss off your customers. Untarget them after they convert.

In Google Adwords this is done by adding a “negative” audience to your campaign.

On the SiteScout RTB this is done by adding an “untarget” rule to your campaign.

4 Ideas For Quickly Building Targeted Audiences

gold nugget

Virtually all of the major traffic sources can be used to build an audience one way or another. Here are several ideas to consider:

Leverage Existing PPC Campaigns – Squeeze more out of your search campaigns by adding an audience pixel to your landing pages. Retarget anyone that clicks and doesn’t convert. This is a great way to boost your search campaign’s ROI for very little in additional spend. The same principle applies to existing social campaigns and especially…

PPV Traffic – Using your favorite PPV/CPV networks, you can build your audience by placing pixels on your landing pages. The cost you pay per impression might as well be the cost you pay per audience member; pennies.

This is an incredible way to build an audience list on the quick and cheap and still make money on whatever campaign you’re promoting on the front end.

They might ignore your pop, but they will eventually yield from the sheer determination (and perception of ubiquity) that your retargeting campaign commands.

(*Credit goes to StackThatMoney forum member moneybags for this idea!)

Social Networks – The major social ad platforms, Facebook and Plenty of Fish, have massive amount of demographic data in their possession. You can say with good confidence that any audience you define (e.g. single women over 40 that live in Florida) will be accurate.

The trick with social networks and any PPC platform is that you will need the user to click and reach your landing page in order to drop an audience pixel on them.

For the sake of building our audience and as a general rule, you want to create the highest CTR creative you can. Since we know the demographic is accurate, maximum clicks is what we want. If the landing page can also convince them to convert, that’s even better. Although high CTR usually means a lower conversion rate, in this case it would be offset by the collective audience data and subsequent retargeting campaigns.

Paying Webmasters – Do you know of a blog or high traffic website that has an audience you’d like to target? Instead of paying the webmaster month after month for banner ads, why not propose to place an audience pixel on their site for a month or two? How much is that worth? I’m not sure exactly, but it’s worth something. This could easily be an additional revenue source for webmasters, although caution would have to be exercised.

I’m sure this kind of audience data is being bought and sold somewhere by someone. Part of me doubts that any site owner would allow someone to market anything, in any manner, to their audience. But when money is involved nothing really surprises me. I’m pretty sure that visitors wouldn’t like it either if they found out they were being sold.

Build Audiences Everywhere You Can

There is no limit to how many platforms you can use to build your audiences. My advice would be to build them everywhere you possibly can! Google Adwords, SiteScout RTB, etc.

Real Assets – Audience lists are marketing assets, the same way email lists are marketing assets. The advantage over email lists is that they don’t require opting-in by the end user. They are simply a valuable by-product of any traffic source you choose to leverage. Advertisers that pay for traffic should naturally want to extract as much value as possible from their ad dollars.

Future Marketplaces – I believe that the selling of audience data is going to become much bigger in the future. If you could make money from an old campaign simply by selling your audience data from it, wouldn’t you? Barring any legal hurdles, I don’t see why a marketplace won’t exist in the future that will allow advertisers to sell their audience data to other advertisers. If that ever materializes, you don’t want to be late to the dance.

Building Them Is Free – I can’t speak for every platform out there, but at least for Adwords and Sitescout, there are no charges for the actual collection of audience data.

Looming Privacy Regulations

There are debates happening all over the world right now with regards to privacy concerns of behavioral targeting.

The US House of Representatives is already trying to pass new laws prohibiting the targeting of minors – the Do Not Track Kids Act.

The European Union has already passed a ridiculous new cookie law that requires end users to explicitly consent to any cookies that websites serve up.

If you’re concerned about the legal responsibilities of collecting audience data, it would be smart to update your privacy policy at the very least.

Right now this is largely unregulated territory, so don’t expect it to last unchecked forever. As with anything, capitalize while you can.

If you run any kind of paid campaigns or have access to organic traffic and aren’t leveraging audience targeting, you are leaving money on the table. Retargeting works. And it’s extremely powerful if you apply some creative thinking.


1. Remarketing in Adwords – A Seven Minute Setup Guide
2. Audience Targeting Documentation for SiteScout

For Those That Have Been Blessed With ADHD

My little warriors! I can’t give you a summary on everything because it doesn’t give the content justice. However if I were to pick out the gems that make my heart skip a beat, it would be the points about contacting webmasters as well as using retargeting on PPV and social networks.

Social networks & PPV – place pixels on your landing pages. They might ignore your pop, but they will eventually yield from the sheer determination (and perception of ubiquity) that your retargeting campaign commands.

Pay Webmasters – Do you know of a website that has an audience you’d like to target? Instead of paying the webmaster month after month for banner ads, why not propose to place an audience pixel on their site?

Any questions :D?

Comments (51)

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  1. DinoVedo says:

    that ppv tip is golden… just a matter of figuring out how to create ads that appeal to the re targeted peeps… :p

  2. Thanks for the shout out.

    Keep up the great work at SiteScout.

  3. d3so says:

    What an action packed post!

  4. Brennen says:

    Awesome freakin post. I've been wanting to learn more about this subject. It's basically like being able to capture a lead, without having to capture the lead.

  5. Awesome post man! Thanks for the great tips!

  6. Great post!

    Haha I think sitescout has an unlimited cap as I see their ads everywhere with adwords and banners.

    Pay Webmasters – That gave me a great idea. Good stuff 🙂

  7. I've been contemplating doing this on some PPV traffic for some time. Glad to hear others are already exploring it. This is cookie stuffing to the next level!

  8. bryanahaze says:

    Huge post full of tons of info. All good stuff in here.

  9. insanely good post!!!! Untargeting tip was huge sooo much stuff you can do with this.

  10. Bil Smith says:

    There's a reason why I read Mr. Green's new posts before anyone else on AffBuzz. Quality post as always.

  11. Alex says:

    The big challenge with retargeting is that you almost always need to pay at least $1 per click, and your retargeting audience pools get small fast.

    The best retargeting campaigns typically only retarget people within a 1-2 day window, and you can usually only show a couple impressions per day per person, which with a small audience pool to begin with, hardly makes these campaign worth it.

    See for example – this article on bidding in relation to cookie length –

    Finally, if you're retargeting a product that is different from the one that people have seen on the page where they were tagged, clickthrough rates typically go down significantly. By definition, with retargeting, people are seeing an ad for something that they are already in-market for, and are already interested in, so clickthrough rates should be much higher with these ads than with banner ads that are targeting people by context or by demographic.

    I agree though that there is a HUGE opportunity to resell your data, and every webmaster should be loading up their sites with third party pixels, because its essentially free money with zero effect on their sites' UX. That's why I started my company –

    Some other third party data companies that people should look at are Blue Kai, Almondnet, and Exelate

  12. Tom Wozniak says:

    Great post! Very few marketers take advantage of retargeting in any of their advertising programs. Display is one channel that can really benefit from this kind of program (especially if you are making some fairly significant media buys). The recommendation on frequency caps is also right on the money.

  13. Wow… some solid gold here…

    Just a quick thought.

    If you're in the website investing game, you can build MUCH more equity using the ideas in this article.

    I'll say know more.

    • Alex says:

      Agreed, sites that create niche audiences, and are then able to sell their data will be worth significantly more long term.

      This is what big media companies are doing now. Only a matter of time before smaller publishers get involved too.

  14. J.P. says:


    You can do Time-Based-Retargeting in Adwords too (using negative audiences, and smart cookie duration) if you want me to describe it i´ll do it.

    • mrgreenam says:

      Please explain! Are you meaning based on what time of the day you caught a users cookie you retarget them?

  15. Jonathan Volk says:

    I'm going to try this with ecom. Will post the results. Should be interesting – Gonna try something like "Get an additional 10% OFF on your next order" type of banner. Thx for the idea!

  16. Thanks for the tips! This is great.

  17. […] “Retargeting – The Ultimate Guide to Winning.“ – If you have ever thought about retargeting, this is the post for you. It’s full of great tips and tricks to get you started. If you haven’t heard of audience retargeting yet, click here. […]

  18. […] “Retargeting – The Ultimate Guide to Winning.“ – If you have ever thought about retargeting, this is the post for you. It’s full of great tips and tricks to get you started. If you haven’t heard of audience retargeting yet, click here. […]

  19. some great information here!

    Always important to know your target market. And always be testing to see what types of markets convert better than others.

  20. Frank says:


    I have a question about the HTML meta refresh though:
    Does is still work if you set the content attribute to zero rather than one?
    And does it all change the behavior if you put the javascript code before the meta refresh?

    <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script&gt;
    <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url =">

    Would that still work?

    • Joe Lavery says:

      You should put the pixel in the body not the head. And you should leave the meta refresh to 1. You will lose a percentage of cookies if you leave it at 0. Would you have an optin form that worked great in all browsers except IE 6? It may only affect 3% of your traffic, but it's wasteful any way you slice it.

      If you are worried about a white/blank page causing visitors to hit the back button or x out, just add one of those loading circles / progress bar deals. I actually set my redirect time to 2 or 3 seconds with a progress bar. Something like this would work. (not an affiliate link).

  21. […] There are also other facets of display advertising that better serve the direct merchant/advertiser vs. the affiliate: mainly view-through conversion tracking and retargeting. […]

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