Remarketing Ads: The Little Sisters of the Internet

We've all succumbed to remarketing ads. Now it's time to make them work for us.

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t following you.”

—Joseph Heller

You’ve heard the term and, whether you know it or not, you’re very aware of what it is and how it works.

You may refer to it as “retargeting” or “those ads that follow me around the Internet like my little sister.” Despite this (over)familiarity, remarketing is an enigma for a lot of marketers and business owners, so I’d like to pull back the mask a tad and give you a quick 101 in remarketing so you can use it to stay top of mind with your customers before, during, and after the sales process.

Consider this your “Beginner’s Guide to Remarketing.”

Let’s begin.

What Is Remarketing?

In the simplest of terms, remarketing is a process by which marketers take advantage of the Internet’s ability to track which websites you visit in order to show you advertisements that are relevant to your browsing history, in the hopes of getting you to interact with their brand in some way.

It sounds pretty simple (and it is), but the technical side of the equation is a bit more complicated. To set up your website to recognize and follow your target audiences after they’ve visited your website requires some updates to your site’s code and an account with some sort of remarketing ad service provider. Once you’re equipped and have specified your target segments, every time someone visits your website (or a specific page on your website), a cookie will be embedded in their browser and that cookie will relay information back to your remarketing ad service provider to send ads from your website to wherever your visitor goes online from that moment forward.

Remarketing ads appear like banner advertisements. And for all intents and purposes they are. But they are banner ads that are specifically placed in your browser because of your browsing history. For instance, if you visited GEICO’s website (not affiliated with and then went to check your favorite movie blog, you might see something like this:


At first, you’d probably think to yourself, “Whoa, what a coincidence!” But after you check out Facebook and and see more ads for GEICO, the picture would start to become clearer. This is, in essence, the heart of remarketing: reminding people, wherever they go online, that they were interested in your company at some point in the recent past.

When Should You Use Remarketing?

Answering this question is a little like answering, “When should you use online advertisements?” The answer, in most cases, will be, “Whenever you’re trying to connect with your target audiences or make a sale.”

In most case, remarketing isn’t an apples-to-apples substitute for other online advertising channels. On the contrary, we tell our clients to think of remarketing as a separate branch of their online marketing efforts and designate a segment of their monthly budgets to start testing different ads and audiences in order to see what sorts of results come back.

For example, the Campmor organization did a six-month test of remarketing advertisements. Their primary goals were to increase awareness about some of their newer, more niche products and to stay top of mind when buying times came around. During their trial, they saw a 300% higher click-through rate, a 37% lower cost per conversion, and a 16% higher conversion rate by simply adding remarketing to their marketing mix.

What Are the Different Types Remarketing?

Just like with other forms of online advertising, there are different types of remarketing. Which is appropriate for your company depends on who your key audiences are and how you want to target them. Let’s go through a breakdown of those types now.

Site Remarketing

Site remarketing is first on our list because it is the most common form of remarketing. Site remarketing uses a tracking code to follow your target audiences after they have visited your site. Clean and simple.

Email Remarketing

Have you ever noticed ads in your Gmail (or similar webmail platform) that somehow magically pertain to the content already in your emails? This is email remarketing. There are services that tap into these networks and display remarketing ads only within email clients.

Search Remarketing

Some remarketing ad service providers allow you to tap into search results and queries typed into search engines. After a customer has visited your site, you can have remarketing ads show up alongside their search results for specified keywords and phrases. These ads are very similar to standard search Pay-per-Click ads, but more targeted because of the extra layer involving the cookies from your site.

Social Remarketing

Social remarketing ads work exactly the same as other remarketing ads, but are specifically tailored to show up in social media profiles instead of on standard websites and in search results. They simply mix in with the ads already on those networks (e.g., imagine the ads you see to the right of your Facebook News Feed).


There are a lot of options when you’re starting to think about a remarketing program, but we recommend beginning with Google, AdRoll, or Retargeter. They are some of the largest remarketing ad service providers and will help get you started. You can also always ask your marketing department or agency to research options that will fit best with your audience segments.

There is a lot (and I mean a LOT) more to say about remarketing, but in the interest of keeping this article within the scope of a beginner’s guide, we’ll wrap up here. If you find you are interested in learning more about how to add remarketing to your online marketing mix, we are always available for follow-up questions or help. If you’d like to ask a question, please email us at Or, contact us directly through our website for help with your remarketing program.


About the Author

Not so fast!
Don’t miss our latest B2B marketing insights. Sign up to receive Industrial Marketer in your inbox.