Avoid the Creep Factor: Retargeting Ads

Posted on in Blog

It would be amazing if every single customer who came across your website followed a straight path to purchase. Someone visits your site for the first time, fills out a form-fill to download an ebook, then clicks the “Yes, I would like to talk to a member of the sales team” button. Minutes later, the sales rep reaches out to the lead who signs a year contract. In our dreams, right?

In reality, people pop all over the website and then leave. Two months later, they read your latest blog article and then decide to download that ebook. A few days later, they read your email blast. Maybe a month later, they reach out to sales, and after several more weeks (or months) of discovery calls and meetings, they decide to purchase. Same end result, but the process is much more convoluted.

So marketers need to be prepared to help buyers through that complicated process, and a great way to do this is with retargeting ads. Retargeting is the process of tagging website visitors so you can target them specifically with display ads served as they surf the web that are tailored to their level of interest in your company.

How retargeting campaigns work

Pixel-based retargeting is a way to re-display your material to any anonymous site visitor.

This is probably the most common type of retargeting. When someone comes to your website, an unobtrusive piece of JavaScript (often referred to as a pixel) is placed on their browser—making their browser “cookied.” When they leave your site to surf the web, that cookie notifies retargeting platforms to serve specific ads based on the specific pages they visited on your website.

List-based retargeting works after you already have someone’s contact information in your database. You can upload a list of email addresses to a retargeting campaign, and then serve retargeting ads just to them.

So where might your ads appear?

Ads can appear in a variety of places: when someone is shopping online, searching for information, watching YouTube videos, or in their social accounts.


I have often heard people say that they are creeped out by these ads, because they feel that they are being “followed.” I agree 100%, but only when the ads are not being implemented properly…

There are several ways to limit the number of times a unique user sees your ad over a given time so your brand avoids the creep but still stays top of mind. Frequency capping decreases creepiness by spacing out your ads to fit your sales cycle.

Also, by creating different buckets of ads depending on where users are in the buyer’s journey, you can be sure the user won’t see the same ad over and over. Changing the ad creative or template will also help curb the annoyance. Users feel like they’re being followed when they see the exact same ad pop up all over the place. If you rotate your ad’s look and feel, that’s less likely to happen.

Below are a few examples of different types of retargeting display ads to use depending on where the buyer is inside the sales funnel:

Awareness: ads with just a name and logo

Interest: ads featuring a specific product they liked

Evaluation: ads that answer questions

Decision: ads that show promotions or discounts

Purchase: ads that show similar products to the ones already purchased

Key takeaway: Retargeting is a great way to keep your prospects engaged but the point is to help them through the sales cycle, not creep them out.

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