Retargeting Ads Mastery: Gotta Catch ‘Em All | Targeting Hot House

Much like life in a post-Pokémanian era, retargeting can be war zone if executed without proper strategic planning and tactical training. Also, in relation to the addicting AR-app sweeping our social lives and productivity, if retargeting efforts are not constantly ‘on’ one could find their business at a very real disadvantage.

Fortunately, when it comes to retargeting there are a plethora of manuals and best practices for segmenting and capturing audiences.  Below includes our favorite retargeting hacks to recapture top audiences and give your business the upper hand against a stadium of high-level players out in the world. Let’s go!


Would you swagger into a gym boasting a 52 CP Weedle? No way, Poké. The road to retargeting mastery first begins with laying the foundation of proper tracking implementation, setting goals and KPIs, and mapping resonating messaging sequences to profitable audience segments.


There are three methods of implementing retargeting tags. Google Analytics (GA) gets our vote, as it offers users the ability to create lists based on their GA metrics and dimensions more granularly. Additionally, if GA is already being used to track site/app data, the ability to retarget involves the click of a button, not filing a request with dev. teams.      


Whichever method elected to track retargeting efforts, it is imperative to ensure the entire desktop, mobile or app is tagged. If only parts of a site are tagged, retargeting efforts risk missing out on capturing key audiences.


Before a single penny has been spent, realistic goals must be created and tied to KPIs. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How does retargeting impact business goals?
  • Where does it fit within the overall marketing mix?
  • Are business and marketing goals growth or efficiency-focused?
  • Is there a branding component?
  • Can multiple channels and disciplines be leveraged?
  • Do we have systems and technology in place to effectively track and report?

When it comes to retargeting, an investment is being made on past site or app visitors to re-engage and guide them deeper into a funnel. Whether the objective is driving sales, increasing leads/downloads/registrations, or simply promoting brand awareness — once the above questions can be answered you are one step closer to understanding ROI, in whatever form that means to your business. The point is, a campaign launched without expectations or goals inherently leads to ambiguous reporting, poor (if any) attributable ROI, and will be the first to go should budget cuts arise.

Is KPI still a foreign term to your business? Download our KPI cheat sheet and improve tracking initiatives to results!


Just as there is difference between ‘catching them all’ and hoarding 20 Drowzees, so too is there between cookie-ing unique audiences and creating hundreds of lists that will never garner sizes required to actually run. At AIMCLEAR, audience development goes hand-in-hand with creative.

Before a Retargeting audience list is created, ask yourself: What do we have to offer them?  

If undeterminable, then it’s back to the drawing board on whether to 1) create an asset, content piece or offer that serves the audience at hand, or 2) scrap the audience list creation until assets or messaging exist that solve a problem or add value to a user’s world.  


Continued profitability requires retargeting creative be taken seriously as it presents businesses the opportunity to reconnect with perfectly groomed individuals who have already taken an interest in your brand. Haphazardly blanketing a high-value loyal customer in with the same generic messaging as a fair-weather tire-kicker does nothing but waste time, resources and, in rather invasive instances, hinder brand perception.  

Finally, it’s important to note that messaging and strategies that work in some industries may not in others. First-time parents may jump for joy at the possibility of having diapers shipped to their doorstep every month at a discount. Heroin addicts may not react as desirably to being retargeted with rehab clinic ads of a guilt-inducing family staring them in the eyes. Understand each audience cultivated contains a real person on the other side of the screen, and consider your response if in their shoes.

To get the creative juices flowing, below includes some of our favorite customization levers to utilize along with audience segments .






Preparations have been made and the time for battle (er, retargeting) has arrived. Valuable audience pools have become mighty — all that’s left is to make your move. Will you swing hard and strong with display or get drawn-out and methodical with RLSA?

Standard Display: Serve ads to users within Google Display Network websites and Display Network apps.

  • Good for: increasing brand visibility/awareness, lead generation and recapturing cart abandoners.
  • Considerations: Placement optimizations are a must with any Display campaign (if not starting out with managed placements from the beginning). Display ads can be limited to appearing in placements based on sizes created (more sizes created = greater diversification of placements). Animated Display ads are effective (and fit more text), but generally require development resources and more time.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA): Serve ads to past website visitors as they conduct follow-up searches for what they need on Google. An AIMCLEAR favorite, and when executed correctly, RLSA can seriously improve ROI.

  • Good for: higher quality of traffic. Effective for expensive terms and competitive spaces.
  • Considerations: Though a stellar means of efficiency, at least 1,000 users are needed per audience list to run RLSA. It is also much slower moving than other retargeting methods, so don’t expect a volume surge.

Video: Serve ads to users who have interacted with videos or your YouTube channel as they use YouTube and browse Display Network videos, websites, and apps. If users are watching more than 30 seconds of your videos, or frequently watching videos posted, they are more than likely to willing ingest additional content or offers.

  • Good for: businesses that produce high quality video content (though it should be everyone!).
  • Considerations: Google video ads tend to see higher associated costs than social in our experiences. A great solution is segmenting video audiences from social, then retargeting with new video or additional assets to guide the engaged audiences deeper into the funnel.

Email-list: With one painless customer email list, serve ads to searchers (signed into Google YouTube or Gmail)

  • Good for: leveraging CRM data, content promotion, more tailored messaging experiences.
  • Considerations: Requires at least 1,000 unique email addresses and list membership duration is no more than 180 days. If you’re generating lookalikes, the feature is currently only available in YouTube and Gmail (not GDN).

Dynamic: Serve ads that include auto-generated specific products or services that users viewed during their last visit.

  • Good for: increasing conversion rates for eComm, or businesses with large inventory sets (that users have already expressed interest in).
  • Considerations: Though this can save time of ad customization, the full product range requires tag implementation, ownership of a Google Merchant Center account and an up-to-date product feed within GMC.

Mobile apps: Serve ads to previous mobile app or mobile website users as they use other mobile apps or browse other mobile websites.

  • Good for: increasing app engagement and mitigating mobile app uninstalls.
  • Considerations: To ensure proper audience tracking for iOS, the app must be tagged and show as active in the ‘Audiences’ section of the shared library; for Android, link Adwords account to the app’s Google Play Developer Console.


Strike twice, dodge once? Take the defense then hit them with gusto? Now that we have messaging flow by behavior and audience segments created, sequencing will also play a significant factor in delivering profitable results and exceeding a customer’s desires). Executing a retargeting campaign without creating an ad flow strategy increases the odds of serving ads of a product users already converted on  — and just plain sets a campaign up to fall flat on the opportunity to meaningfully connect with past site visitors.

Recognizing the recency, frequency, and general behavioral flow of both conversion AND non-conversion visitors following a new visitor will provide a substantial advantage to retargeting efforts. If 85 percent of traffic converts/purchases/downloads within the first 24 hours of visiting (or if time is of the essence), retargeting early and often will be the key to success. Below includes an example of ad sequencing in an instance where recency was of utmost importance, as the conversion event contained a deadline.  


Perfecting sequencing involves a mix of understanding KPIs and offers, as well as iterations of testing different sequencing and messaging patterns. Just because 70 percent of traffic converts within the first 48 hours, it certainly doesn’t mean retargeting wouldn’t resonate after four days. And just because a conversion rolls in ten days after a purchase, it doesn’t mean retargeting with uncapped impressions by ad group on a 540 day-list with infinite budgets will drive results and conversions.  


Retargeting efforts have been launched and, slowly but surely, territory is being reclaimed, but how does one keep the momentum without losing steam (and interest) from audiences? Read on for tried and true tactics to groom the weakest of retargeting campaigns to mastery-status.   


Negative audiences. No repeat buyers/converters/leads? Save money by creating and excluding and audience of ‘converters’ from retargeting campaigns. We’ve seen up to 30 percent savings in spend with this easy add.
Ad type control. Split out text and image ad types for full budget and performance management.

+100 XP

Coupons / discounts to abandoners. Presenting an offer that makes a user feel like they’re getting a special or discount increases chances of closing the loop on a sale. Pair a discount or coupon code with a Dynamic Retargeting ad that shows the exact items placed in the cart for a sale KO. Content interest. Most websites produce some type of content surrounding their service or product. Create lists based on the types of content users are viewing and remarket with products or services that clearly outline what sets you apart.   


Cross-sell / upsell. Retain loyalty members, engaged users, dedicated video viewers or email lists by cross-selling or upselling products or services. The recent suit purchase would go stunning with this season’s oxfords. Enterprise cyber security software leads may care about your latest webinar.  
Competitors. Bidding on a competitor’s brand is never going to be a cost or efficiency-focused approach. However utilizing tools like Customer Match with Gmail Sponsored Promotions in tandem with RLSA can be a stealthy way to get in front of users viewing email (in Gmail) from a competitor. Cookie them and layer on RLSA campaigns with more general head-term keywords.
Radius targeting for store locations. KPI to drive users in-store? Hyper-localization retargeting near store locations ensures cost efficiencies and engagement.
Programmatics / beacons. In a 24/7 connected world, the options to reconnect with users are greater than ever before. Serve ads of Burberry coats during Scandal TV commercials; connect with weather APIs to sell snow tires during winter and patio furniture in spring or summer; retarget your life coach services on TedTalk podcasts. Remind shoppers about your pretzel discount when mall doors have been entered. THE OPPORTUNITIES ARE ENDLESS!


It’s the thing of nightmares: You’re fresh out of Pokéballs when out of nowhere comes a 500 CP Dragonite just prancing around the screen. The only option is to whip out the credit card and buy balls because only a crazy person allows that gem to slip away.

Same goes for retargeting — your campaigns are only as robust as audiences allow. The funnel needs to be fed in order to guide users through, and this is where social can really move the dial. By capturing (and cookie-ing) users from social psychographic targeting with compelling messaging, content, and assets, they can be layered into retargeting campaign types. This is especially beneficial when utilizing RLSA in expensive keyword spaces and competitive industries.


You may have won the battle, but the war wages on. A true retargeting master knows their job is never done, and continually seeks new means to build deeper connections with their past visitors. Test creative, images, ad and campaign types, bidding models, placements and channels. Now go forth and be the very best [retargeter], like no one ever was.  

Happy (re)Targeting!


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