Retargeting is a variation of targeting, in which users of an online service are tagged, so they that can be repeatedly shown ads for the website they had previously visited while surfing the web. The goal of retargeting is a conversion.


Retargeting is usually done with cookies. For this purpose, a “pixel” is incorporated into the source code of the destination page. It is a small line of code that puts a cookie on the computer of the user, as soon as he has loaded the applicable page. Through this cookie, information such as product clicks or visits to other websites are registered and handed over to an ad server, which coordinates the delivery of ads. If the user visits another site that participates in the same advertising program as the ad server, fitting promotional offers will be displayed.

Tagging and the creation of user profiles can also be done on any device with which an online service has been accessed.

Retargeting is mainly used in e-commerce to convince customers to purchase, in other words turn them into a conversion.

Examples of retargeting objectives[edit]

  • A customer has added a product to their cart, but has not bought the product. In this case a retargeting pixel is set up and the customer will receive appropriate ads on exactly that product.
  • A user has viewed a particular category of a web shop. Retargeting campaigns can be designed so that relevant products from that category of that shop are always displayed that user.
  • A user canceled the download of a file. In this case the customer may get similar product downloads offered to him within banners.

Benefits of Remarketing[edit]

Through Remarketing, online shops and companies can tremendously enhance their advertising pressure and convince potential customers to complete the purchase. The advantage of this method is that campaigns can be very precisely controlled and balanced. Moreover, the cost of retargeting is usually well below the usual cost of display ads with a higher expected CTR.

Retargeting via AdWords and Facebook[edit]

Customers of Google AdWords can create their own retargeting campaigns. You will need a Google Analytics account and will have to make a small adjustment to the tracking code. Retargeting targets can be created through Google Analytics and retrieved through Google AdWords. To date, Google’s retargeting is still based on cookies. However, Google is working on other solutions for tracking. For example, the former visitors to a website can be targeted better with Retargeting Lists for Search Ads (RLSA).

Retargeting is also part of Facebook advertising. The possibilities for the adjustment of advertising campaigns are very large due to the large database of user profiles. So, on Facebook Exchange only large companies were allowed to use retargeting offers. Facebook wants to offer this option in the future to smaller companies as well.


Retargeting is mainly criticized because an enormous amount of data is collected and user profiles created to make ads as effective as possible. This data could be linked with other databases to Big Data, and so with a few simple steps you could create profiles that reached far into the privacy of a user. The ordinary user also has no overview in terms of which companies create profiles about their cookies or devices.

Internet users often find retargeting practices dubious because they have no idea why they are shown banners for an online shop which they previously visited. From the perspective of data protection, retargeting is dangerous because user profiles could also be used by criminals through data theft or hacking. Furthermore, users often have no way to opt-out. However, many targeting measures can be circumvented if a browser does not allow cookies from third parties.

Web Links[edit]