Retargeter Blog

7 Deadly Sins of Retargeting

Retargeting is a powerful digital marketing technique that can improve brand recognition, recall and revenue.  Though retargeting can be a wildly effective, high-ROI solution, campaigns gone awry can leave you worse off than when you started.  Avoid these seven retargeting sins, and you’ll be sure to have a successful campaign.

1. Showing too many impressions

One of the biggest concerns most brands have before starting a retargeting campaign is the fear of annoying, creeping out, or otherwise overwhelming their consumers.  The concern here is certainly a valid one, as consumer annoyance due to excessive retargeting ads is well-documented.  Luckily, it’s also easy to avoid.  Set a frequency cap to limit the number of impression each of your users is served.

2. Not showing enough impressions

While showing too many impressions can turn users against you, not showing enough can render your retargeting campaign just as ineffective.  The power of retargeting lies in its ability to keep your brand top of mind among users through continuous exposure.  If you only serve a few ads throughout the month, it won’t be sufficient to solidify brand awareness and cement brand recall. In our experience, the optimal number is approximately 17-20 impressions per user per month, breaking down to roughly one impression every other day.  At this level, your users won’t be inundated with ads, but will see your brand with enough frequency to solidify brand recall.

3. Neglecting your creatives

The banner ads you use may do more to determine success than any other factor of your retargeting campaign, so it’s crucial to devote sufficient resources to making beautiful ads.  All of your banner ads should be well-branded and recognizable.  Use bold colors, concise copy, and clear calls to action with big, clickable buttons.  For more suggestions, check out our section on banner ad best practices. Even if you launch your campaign with incredibly strong creatives, running with the same set of ads for months on end will result in a lower performing campaign.  According to proprietary ReTargeter data, clickthrough rates decrease by almost 50% after five months of running the same set of ads. After seeing the same ads again and again, a user’s interest is no longer piqued and the ads are more likely to blend into the background. By rotating your ad creative every few months, you can easily avoid experiencing these dips in performance.

4. Retargeting current customers

If there’s anything that annoys people more than seeing 50 display ads per day from one company, it’s seeing the same ads after they’ve made a purchase or completed the desired action.  It’s incredibly easy to remove users from a retargeting campaign once they’ve converted.  Placing one simple line of code on your post-conversion, or thank-you page will remove your new customers from the pool of unconverted users, and they’ll no longer see your retargeted ads. For some brands, it may be a good idea to serve ads after conversion.  However, it never makes sense to serve the same ad creative.  Using the same banners is a surefire way to annoy your customers, and often, it doesn’t make sense.  If you’re serving ads for highlighting a product that has just been purchased, that ad spend is wasted.  If you do wish to continue serving ads to customers, use a different set of creatives with a new call to action.  For example, you might offer a future discount for a referral, or upsell free users of a freemium product.

5. Using multiple providers at the same time 

Many brands who are new to retargeting want to test the waters with different providers.  While it may seem effective to run multiple campaigns simultaneously, running retargeting campaigns with multiple providers has a number of serious drawbacks. Retargeting works using real-time bidding.  When your cookied users visit sites with available ad inventory, the retargeting provider will bid on that ad space in real-time, and the retargeted ad will appear as the page loads.  If you run with multiple providers, each provider will be bidding for the same spots on the same websites, driving up media costs and decreasing the chances each has to serve ads to your users.  You may also run into difficulties effectively implementing frequency caps, as each retargeting provider will be operating independently. If you’re merely running a test, your results will be skewed and inaccurate.  It is a good idea to do research, but it’s more effective to run tests in subsequent months using one provider at a time. You’ll have a better sense of which campaign actually performed better.

6. Failing to measure success

While your retargeter should provide you with data on clickthrough rates and conversions, it’s important for you to track success on your end as well.  If you aren’t using Google Analytics, set up a free account and begin tracking site visits and visitor loyalty.  The majority of Internet users do not click on banner ads, so relying on clickthrough rates as a measure of success is limiting.  One good way to gage success is to use Google Analytics to determine how many visitors are returning to your site directly or through Google.  If you see an improvement in visitor loyalty corresponding to the launch of your retargeting campaign, you’ll know the campaign is working.

7. Failing to segment

Though less severe than the other deadly sins, failing to segment your retargeting campaign is still a sub-optimal practice.  Ideally, each page on your website and each landing page should have its own segment with its own set of creatives associated with it.  Users who have spent time looking at your product or services page are at a different stage than users who have simply been to your homepage.  Your creative should reflect these users’ different stages in the purchase funnel.


Retargeting is an incredibly powerful technique when used properly.  Follow these rules and you’ll see a high return on your retargeting spend.

Leave a Comment


  • I don’t think retargeting is as bad for people who don’t know what it is. If you’re clueless to what it is and how it works you’re probably just going to assume it’s another display ad on a website. We’re bombarded with them all the time. But as marketers we know about the practice and how it works. I don’t think it’s creepy, but it’s annoying as hell when you constantly see the same ad over and over again. Especially when you know it’s something you didn’t want to purchase. But again, I think it’s most annoying to those of us who are aware of it. I’d be curious to see if the general populous even notices.

  • I understand that companies need to advertise in order to do business but unfortunately when the ad appears slap bang in the middle of what I am trying to read my blood boils. It is like when trying to converse with an adult whilst an annoying child is baying for attention. Makes me feel that if the company is so utterly desperate to sell me a product then the product is probably something that is failing to sell and for good reason. Polite advertising, ie an ad that just sits in the corner, out of the way doesn’t float about or move is acceptable. I am aware of it, I saw it appear so I will look at it at my leisure, I would also have more respect for the company who put it there for not going down the patronising used car salesman route.