The Anatomy of a Retargeting Ad That Converts

You have read about, maybe even started running, retargeting campaigns.

And now you’re scouring the web for some best practice articles and finding almost nothing. You see stuff on Google Ads, Facebook ads, even LinkedIn ads.

But retargeting? Nowhere to be found.

That’s mostly because, if you’re using retargeting (or remarketing, or whatever we’re calling it this week), you’re ahead of the curve.


The problem with being ahead of the curve is you’re sometimes so far ahead that you find yourself on the far side of the curve, momentum building, arms pumping, with no one around you to grab onto your shirt.

Let’s see what we can do about that.

This article will give you the anatomy of a retargeting ad that converts. I’ll discuss the elements you need to be including, how they work, and touch on how these elements are affected by “Ad Frequency” (and what that is).

Let’s get rolling (at a measured pace).

The Four Elements of a Retargeting Ad

Those online marketers who have experimented with Facebook Ads will have a leg up on Adwords users when it comes to retargeting.

Many of the best practices Facebook advertisers are familiar with (like ad images, USP, CTA, use of exciting language) are similar.

For our Adwords friends, however, let’s do a quick runthrough:


  • Use, bright, eye-catching images with bright, eye-catching colors like red, orange, and light green
  • Use images of people (especially smiling women and babies, as they’ve proven to attract the eye best)


  • Your Unique-Selling-Point needs to communicate value immediately and quickly
  • Consider words like “Free” as well as percentage and dollar signs (% and $)
  • Use exclusivity and newness to communicate imperative and desire


  • Tell people how to act on their interest with an eye-catching CTA button that contrasts with the rest of the ad
  • Use language framed for the ad viewer. Tell people how they stand to benefit, not what to do. For instance, go with “get” instead of “submit”


  • Retargeting ads can be structured with several different objectives in mind. If you’re looking for brand awareness, make your logo front and center
  • If you’re looking for conversions, drop your logo into a corner and make your visual and USP the focus-points

What your Retargeting Ad Might Look Like

Is there a right way and wrong way to structure these four elements within your retargeting ad?

No. Instead, you need to test it.

  • Do your click-through-rates increase when you enlarge your ad’s image?
  • How about the USP?
  • Do you get more traffic to your ad’s landing page when you include an image of your product or an image of a baby holding your product?

Test it!

But in the meantime, here’s the basic layout of a retargeting banner ad:

retargeting ad

And here’s what it looks like in real life:

retargeting ads

And here’s the basic layout of a retargeting sidebar ad:

retargeting ad

And here’s what that looks like in real life:

retargeting ads

Believe me now?

Why these Elements are Important

Retargeting isn’t like normal advertising. You’re not promoting your business, your product, or your ebooks to people who have never met you before. You’re reminding people (who have already bounced off your site) of how awesome you are.

How does that change things?

Well, first of all, there’s the danger of spamming. But there’s also the awesome possibility that they bounced because of something you can fix.

Here are a few reasons these elements are important:

  • If people bounced off your pricing page because you were asking too high a price, you can offer a discount USP – something created specifically for people who viewed your pricing page.
  • If people bounced off your lead-generating content page, you can create a retargeting ad with a value USP – something created specifically for people who didn’t get how awesome your content was in the first place
  • If people bounced off your main webpage, you can create a retargeting ad with a charming or humorous baby – something created specifically for people who may have thought your business was too bland or weren’t excited by what you were offering
  • Your CTA button tells people specifically how to engage with your brand. It also can double the impact of a discount USP with something like “get 10% off now!”

retargeting ads

This ad incorporates not only a recognizable USP and brand logo, it also doubles the inherent value by including a second USP within the CTA button.

I also bet Insightly has a few ads running, and I wouldn’t be surprised if half had an image and half focused on a USP (as this one does).

Retargeting Ad Frequency, and Why it Matters

Ad frequency is a concept which (again) will sound familiar to Facebook Advertisers. Basically, ad Frequency is the amount of times a unique viewer has seen your ad. In Facebook it’s seen as an average (as in, when your Facebook Ad reaches an average Frequency of 4 or 5 you should rotate it with a different version).

With retargeting, however, it’s a bit more complicated.

I mentioned above that one of the dangers of retargeting advertising is spamming. The last thing you want to do is expose someone who bounced off your site a million advertisements they have no interest in.

That’s why most 3rd party retargeting providers have complicated algorithms which decide which of your site’s bounced traffic is most likely to convert on an ad. For instance, someone who came to your website, scrolled down a bit and bounced is far less likely to engage with your retargeting campaign than someone who viewed a few product pages and went to your pricing page before bouncing.

All that said, though, you still need to practice ad rotation to combat the spamming factor.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Create three to five different retargeting ads – should be pretty straightforward once you have the template
  • Retain your business’ logo across all the ads (or a recognizable image, perhaps). This ensures your ad audience where the ads are coming from
  • Change the message while remembering that each traffic source (product page, main homepage, pricing page, lead gen page, etc) should have a different focus point.
  • Test color, humor (even making it blatantly obvious that you’re following your bounced traffic around). Test the order of your ad rotation to see what works best.

It’s also essential that you test the efficacy of your ads. Does a series of three work that much worse than a series of five? Does humor work on the last ad but not the first few?

Optimization is key for a highly-converting retargeting campaign.

For more on designing your retargeting ads by traffic source and by different objective, check out my article from last week: “3 Ways to Use Retargeting to Find Success Online

Oh, and if you don’t believe me about retargeting ad rotation, I only needed to refresh the page five times before Insightly’s second ad appeared:

retargeting ads

You’ll notice a slightly larger logo and a more casual USP. Nice.


Hopefully that’s given you a better grasp of retargeting ad fundamentals. Keep in mind that your retargeting ads should be created specifically for each step of your sales funnel. Create a series that is shown to traffic that bounces from your pricing page, another for people who bounce from a product page, your homepage, your lead-gen pages, and anything else you can think about.

After all, we’re talking about (usually) 95% of your website’s traffic. Retargeting can have a huge influence on your digital marketing success.

When it’s done smart.

Further reading:

By James Scherer

advanced landing pages ebook


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