Top 5 Retargeting (Remarketing) Ad Mistakes to Avoid

You’ve created a retargeting campaign because you know that it’s a great way to recapture bounced traffic. But then you look at your metrics and see that no one is clicking through on your ad, or worse, they’re clicking through but not converting.

Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.

When executed in the right manner and designed with the user in mind, your retargeting campaign can significantly boost your sales funnel ROI. All you just need to do is figure out which mistakes you’re making and how you can fix them.

Get out of your retargeting slump and maximize on conversions by fixing these all too common mistakes.

In this article I’ll be going over some of the most common mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Here are the mistakes I’ll be covering in this article:

  • You’re not breaking up your audience into segments
  • You’re not rotating your ads
  • You haven’t set Frequency caps on how often your ad is seen
  • Your retargeting ad doesn’t send people to a designated landing page
  • You haven’t set up a conversion pixel on your post-conversion page

But first…

Basics of Retargeting

Retargeting allows you to follow people who have visited your website (but not converted) on website with banner ads across the internet.

With a simple javascript tracking pixel embedded on your website, every time someone visits your website a cookie will attach to their browser. This cookie allows you to see the pages they visit and accordingly place them into segments. These segments tell the ad display networks (which own the banner ads across the web where your retargeting ads will appear) who to target. These segments (or lists) can be determined a number of different ways:

For example, if you have a clothing store you could segment based on gender. If someone visits mens clothing pages only you can place them into a segment that is set up with ads targeted at a male audience. This is where you can even categorize clothes into different categories. For example, you can create categories for formal, informal, and semi-casual attire for men to make the choice even easier for your visitors. Setting up lists allows you to show highly relevant ads as they’ll be based on a person’s interests. Now, if this person bounces from your site before purchasing they’ll be shown relevant ads from that segment.

There’s a way higher chance of someone converting on an ad from a business they’re familiar with than a company they’ve never heard of. In fact, according to Crieto, retargeted customers are 70% more likely to complete a sale than a non-targeted customer

Now that you have the basics it’s time to get into the 5 mistakes I see most often with retargeting. Let’s get started!

1.) You’re not breaking up your audience into segments

When you don’t segment your audience into lists it means that your retargeting ads aren’t going to be very relevant to anyone who sees them. One of the main advantages of using a retargeting ad (over a paid search ad) is that you’re able to personalize it based on the actions a visitor has taken on your website. This means that you can personalize your ads and target broadly to any site visitor, or specifically to those who viewed certain products or any sites they’ve visited.

You can separate your visitors by creating segment for the actions they take on your website. You create lists and based on the pages they visit they will be placed into a certain list. For example if someone visits a page dedicated to lipstick they’d go into the “Makeup” list. If they look at a lawnmower they’d be put in a “Gardening” list. If the same person looks at lipstick and lawnmowers they’ll be placed into both of these lists. This means that they could be retargeted with ads related to either gardening or makeup.

How does this work?

One of the main ways that segmenting your audience into lists works is based on words in the URL. The URL will contain either grouping keywords like “mens-clothing” or “landing-page” or specific product keywords like “suits” or “web-forms”. Whenever someone visits one of your pages containing a keyword they’ll be placed into the list you’ve designated so it’s easy for you to retarget them.

2.) You’re not rotating your ads

Showing the exact same ad (over and over again) will exhaust your message and start to annoy people. Sure, the more someone sees your ad, the more they’ll remember it, but do you want to be remembered as that annoying business with a stale offer? In order to keep your business top-of-mind without being too pushy, create multiple ads and rotate them on a regular basis.

When you change your ad regularly you expand the chances of people being interested in it. Not everyone is interested in the same offer, or is sold by a single ad design. When you change your ads a larger number of people will be inclined to click at some point over the duration of your retargeting campaign.

If you don’t change it, chances are, if they haven’t clicked on it the first few times of seeing it, exposing them to it for another 30 days isn’t going to do much to change that.

One way you can keep your ads fresh is to create a series of ads. Here’s how it works:

  • Step one: Create around 3 to 5 ads. You can change things like the text, design, offer and benefits so that they’re different but still recognized as from your company. If you have a logo then place it on your ad to keep consistency. If you don’t have a logo keep the color of your ad consistent.
  • Step two: Once you’ve created your ads you’ll run them in rotation, one after the other until your retargeting campaign is over. If you’re running a 30-day campaign and showing an ad everyday then you would show ad 1 on the first day, ad 2 on the second and so on until you run out, then you’d start again.

When you run a series of ads (versus the same one), you’ll avoid running into ad fatigue. This way people who see your ad will get something new every day as chances are, they’re not going to remember that you ran the same ad five days ago.

3.) You haven’t set Frequency caps on how often your ad is seen

Frequency is the average number of times a unique user sees your ad over a given time period. If you set it too high you may cause them to feel overwhelmed but if you set it too low they may not even notice your ad.

If you don’t set frequency caps (and have an unlimited ad budget) then theoretically every ad space you win will feature your ad. Imagine going to all of your favorite sites and seeing the exact same ad every time? You’d start to hate that company, not want to work with them.

You don’t want people to ignore your ads or negatively associate your ad with your business.

By placing a frequency cap on your ads you’ll decrease the chances of making your bounced traffic feel overwhelmed.

The frequency you show your ad will be based on the type of company you have. There’s no set amount of times you should show it or the specific length of time you should continue to run your ad. Generally it’s good practice to align your retargeting efforts with your buying cycle.

As a general rule (make sure you test):

  • For B2B: Show your ad at a low frequency over a longer amount of time.
  • For B2C: Show your ad at a high frequency over a short amount of time.

Remember, a retargeting cookie can remain active for up to 180 days unless you cap when you want your retargeting ad to stop running. You are in control of the amount of times unique viewers see your remarketing ad. Ensure you’re placing a limits on the frequency.

4.) Your retargeting ad doesn’t send people to a designated landing page

Congrats, someone clicked on your retargeting ad! Unfortunately, instead of being directed to a designated landing page, they’ve been sent to your home page. This is a big no no.

The main purpose of your ad is to send viewers to a web page that is designed for conversion. The last thing you want to do is make them hunt around trying to find your offer. I can guarantee that after a few seconds they’re going to get annoyed, hit the back button and your retargeting efforts (and budget) have been for nothing.

Because you’ve created a retargeting ad relevant to a specific page someone has bounced from, you need to ensure your ad sends them back to a page relevant to the offer they were initially interested in.

Top tip: Make sure that your ad and landing page or product page are consistent. If your ad is white with a red call-to-action button make sure your landing page looks the same. Remember that consistency gets conversions.

5.) You haven’t set up a conversion pixel on your post-conversion page

You need to set up a conversion (burn) pixel on your post-conversion page to ensure you’re not targeting people who’ve already converted on your offer. If you continue to serve ads to these leads or customers they’re going to get annoyed and it could hurt your relationship with them. Plus, there’s no point in wasting ad spend on customers who’ve already converted.

You can keep customers or leads in your retargeting campaign but you need to retarget them with a new ad. By showing them new offers that are relevant to where they are in the sales funnel you’ll be able to increase your ROI without annoying them.

For example, if they’ve already bought your product you can upsell, cross-sell or offer things like a referral discount (meaning you’ll get new customers from your ad).

Essentially, you’re not ending the retargeting relationship with them but burning the previous one and starting a new one.


When done right, retargeting can encourage bounced traffic to come back to your website, take another look and (hopefully) convert.

The mistakes detailed in this article don’t need to be the last straw. They’re easy to avoid and fix so long as you catch them. Which retargeting mistakes do you see most often? Please share and comment below!

For Further Reading:

– Written by Samantha Mykyte

When Samantha isn’t crushing content at Wishpond she performs with her burlesque troupe, casts spells in dungeons and dragons and enjoys baking and eating cookies.


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