How to Successfully Launch a Retargeting Campaign Using WordPress

How to Successfully Launch a Retargeting Campaign Using WordPress

Retargeting (or remarketing) is something we’re all familiar with as consumers. You visit a website and browse the various products, services, or content published within it. You think, “Oh, that looks interesting. I may need to do something with this.” But then you leave. Maybe you didn’t like the price or you got distracted by something at work or you simply wanted to take time to marinate on the purchase before doing anything about it.

A day later, you’re poking around on Facebook or reading an article somewhere else online and an ad catches your eye. You hesitate and think, “Isn’t that…? No… Is that the same product I was just looking at the other day?”

Yep, it surely is. That’s what retargeting does. It’s a (mostly) acceptable form of digital stalking you can use to stay connected to your WordPress site’s visitors long after they’re gone. Want to learn more about how this works and how you can launch your first retargeting campaign with WordPress? Keep reading.

Retargeting: What You Need to Know

Retargeting is a simple enough concept.

What you do is target a visitor from your WordPress site based on certain parameters you’ve created. In other words, you determine which ones are worth following up with. Then, you present them with an ad that reminds them of the original connection they made with the website. Maybe it’s a special offer on a product they spent five minutes looking at or it’s a reminder about a free report available for download and related to a blog post they read .

Retargeting is pretty similar to pop-ups in that respect. You suspect that a visitor has an interest in the site, but you don’t want to lose them to distractions or fears or anything else that motivates them to abandon the experience. The main difference is that a pop-up will target the visitor while they’re still on the site whereas retargeting gets to them at a later point in time as they peruse the rest of the web.

One of the interesting things here is that retargeting ads are just ads, after all. However, you don’t have to actively go around paying different websites to place your ads on their websites. Nor do you need to spend time placing ads on your WordPress site. Instead, your retargeting pixel allows you to fill in ad spaces across the web when it’s most relevant for your visitors to see them.

For example, this is an actual ad on The Stranger website:

The Stranger Ad

I know this is a traditional ad and not a retargeting one for a few reasons. For starters, I’ve never been to Voff Bark & Brew. Secondly, the ad is totally irrelevant to me as I do not live in Seattle. And, finally, it’s way too compatible with the content on the page. This was a strategically planned ad placement.

Retargeting ads, on the other hand, have one specific trait that give them away: they’re from a website you recently visited and usually focus on a specific page or product you viewed while there.

Here are some examples:

While looking around for new recipes on the Cooking Light website, I encountered this tempting offer to return to Shutterfly and get 40% off:

Shutterfly Retargeting

I spend a lot of time on the WPEngine website in general since it’s just a great resource for WordPress information. That said, the last thing I expected was to see an ad for it while scouring Buzzfeed for silly news and quizzes:

Facebook is probably the most common place I encounter sponsored posts–on both the desktop and mobile versions of the site. I was recently on Travelzoo researching airfare discounts, so this ad was the kind of distraction I didn’t need to see while trying to work this morning:

Travelzoo Retargeting

Even The Weather Channel isn’t safe from retargeting. All I wanted to know was what the ten-day forecast was going to look like. However, because I’ve spent a lot of time on the AdRoll site preparing for this article, I was hit with these reminders to download the free guide teaching me how to maximize my retargeting campaigns.


And this is perhaps the creepiest of the retargeting ads I encountered today. After I’d had my fill of scouring Cooking Light for recipes, I opened my Cozi app (which conveniently stores all of them for me) to figure out what to cook later. And, there, at the bottom of the app, is a retargeting ad for the exact pack of AAA batteries I just bought off of Amazon, with an offer to save 5% if I subscribe with my next purchase.

Amazon Retargeting

As you can see, there aren’t that many common areas on the web that are safe from retargeting. But is that a bad thing?

Retargeting isn’t a shallow or irrelevant attempt to connect with visitors. It’s actually the opposite: by using a smart pixel to monitor their moves on your site and then deliver ads targeted to their interests, a retargeted ad could really work in your favor for recovering potentially lost sales or leads.

How Does Retargeting Work?

In terms of how retargeting actually works behind the scenes, it boils down to this:

  • Sign up with a retargeting (or remarketing) service. Google Remarketing and AdRoll are currently the most popular options.
  • Create a tracking pixel through the service.
  • Create a campaign to attach the tracking pixel to.
  • Make a copy of the tracking code and add it to the page or pages on your WordPress site where you want to retarget visitors. (I’ll cover that down below.)

This last point is an important one to review before moving on.

A tracking pixel placed on an entire website for no reason other than to follow any visitor once he or she leaves isn’t going to work. The whole reason we as consumers notice retargeting ads is because they appeal directly to something we had our eyes on.

In other words, never use retargeting to go after every person who randomly pops into your home page. Instead, use retargeting campaigns to track and connect with visitors with real conversion potential, like someone who spent five minutes looking over the same product or landing page.

As far as where this goes next:

  • The tracking pixel will then attach itself to the visitor. And they call this a tracking pixel for a reason: not only does it follow them after they’ve left your site, but it tracks their activity while they’re still on there, which makes this another great source of data.
  • When it finds the right place and time to drop the ad on another site, it will do so.

One other thing to think about is how you’re going to communicate this type of tracking and retargeting to your visitors.

While you might not want to display a pop-up that says “Mind if I stalk you?” on the site, you should at least have something written into the Terms of Service page. That way, if someone should be offended or upset that you used their information and followed them to another part of the web, you have valid proof that you provided this information beforehand.

Of course, there’s more to successfully executing a retargeting campaign than this. Let’s zero in on all the things you need to think about before you get to the “easy” part (i.e. creating and installing the pixel):

A retargeting campaign needs to have a clear goal, so you can maximize your return on the investment (which can get expensive if you don’t know what you’re after). So, what is it you want to get from this specific retargeting ad?

  • A new sale?
  • Recover more abandoned carts?
  • More loyal readers?
  • New members?
  • Greater brand awareness?
  • More traffic to a new landing page and offer?

Think about what you want to happen after the ad launches and craft the design and copy to compel those sort of actions to be taken. If you find that you have more than one goal, create multiple ads.

In retargeting, all visitors are not made equal (or at least they shouldn’t be). The whole reason you track their behavior on site is so you can figure out what’s driving their decision to be there. In order to get your retargeting ad to make an actual impact, you have to find the right visitors in the first place.

This means targeting customers that have a greater likelihood of actually taking action when they see your ads–this is why the analytics you pull in about what they did on the site are so important. To just run any old campaign could be extremely costly and wasteful to you in the end.

Should you look only at first-time visitors? And what about drilling down further? How about first-time visitors who arrived at the page from a third-party referral? The more you understand about why people engage with your site or make purchases on it, the better you’ll be able to develop a strategy.

You may also want to think about setting up different target audiences for your various ads and promotions. Or you can run the same ad, but for two different audience groups. Think of it like a sort of A/B testing with retargeting.

Once you have the goal and audience question settled, this should come more easily to you. Obviously, crafting the right copy will take some time, but you will at least have a sense for which products, services, downloads, offers, or messages will be best to target them with.

There isn’t much space to work with in digital ads as it’s not like you can take out a full- or half-page of a website somewhere. Instead, you’ll be working within the small confines of whatever ad space websites allow for. This means keeping the design incredibly simple. Focus on giving it a heavily branded look to start: use your site’s colors and typefaces. Then, if there’s room for an image, use one they’ll recognize from the site.

When you place ads outside of your WordPress site, it almost always comes at a price. To start, you may just want to set a low budget and see what types of results you get. Then you can finagle future campaigns in order to maximize the return on spend. In the end, your goal should be for the ensuing business you receive from retargeting to exceed whatever money goes into the campaigns.

There are a few things to think about in terms of the “time” of your retargeting campaign:

  • How long do you want the campaign to run for? After all, you don’t want an offer to expire or the sight of the same ad to go stale in the minds of your visitors.
  • When do you want to run the campaign? This is like any other marketing efforts you do. If you don’t run ads when your visitors are most active on those platforms, you could miss them.
  • What kind of frequency cap will you set? What this does is ensure that visitors will only see your ad a certain amount of times. If they continue to see the ad for two weeks straight, the appeal of the offer may no longer be there.

Optimizing a retargeting campaign requires a lot of research and foresight. But once you have that settled, it’s time to get your ads out there.

How to Launch Your First Retargeting Campaign Using WordPress

When creating a retargeting campaign for your WordPress site, you’re going to have to rely on a third-party service to generate the tracking pixel and help you manage your campaign. Then you will need to be able to integrate it into WordPress.

While you could pay for a premium retargeting service like Criteo, Retargeter, or Perfect Audience, those options may be way outside the scope of what you or your client can afford right now. That’s okay if that’s the case. Just know that they’re there in the future if you want assistance in developing and managing retargeting campaigns.

For now, you can rely on basic retargeting tools like AdRoll and Google AdWords. Here is what that will look like:

Retargeting with AdRoll

AdRoll is a simple-to-use platform and it’s free to get started.


Create your account and then AdRoll will take you through a guided tour for configuring your first campaign.

First, choose what kind of results you want to see:

Configure AdRoll Basics

You’ll also be asked things like:

  • Where the target page is
  • Where the confirmation page is
  • What your Google Analytics account is (which you most definitely need to connect)
  • What your Facebook and Instagram accounts are
  • What your budget is
  • Whether you want to run the campaign from your website or launch from email
  • What the schedule is
  • What the target cost-per-click is

Here you’ll get a chance to upload your ad creative into the system. Be sure to abide by their specifications or else they’ll reject the ad .

Finally, you’ll enter payment information. As visitors click on your ads, AdRoll will then deduct funds from your account, up to the budget you set.

Once everything is configured for your first retargeting campaign, you’ll then need to get a copy of the tracking pixel, which will look like this:

With AdRoll, there are no WordPress plugins available (at least not any that you’d want to use) to add the pixel to your site. But that’s fine. Implementation is easy. Just copy the code you’re given and then visit the page(s) of the site you want to add it to. Insert it above the line and save.

You may want to give it up to 24 hours for the tracking pixel to activate, but do feel free to check inside your dashboard to confirm that it does.

If you don’t see it registered within 24 hours, review your implementation of it and make sure nothing is amiss. If it has started tracking, then congratulations! Your first campaign has launched and you can now start monitoring the progress of it. You can also use the Reports feature to learn more about what visitors are doing and where they’re actually encountering it, so you can make adjustments to your campaigns going forward.

Remarketing with Google AdWords

Although Google AdWords sounds like something you would use for paid search keyword marketing (it is), you can also run remarketing ads with your account as well.

Setting up an AdWords account is easy so long as you already have a Google account. You will be asked for your email address as well as your website. It will then automatically detect your account and configure your AdWords to connect to it. Once you’ve entered your payment information, you’ll then be taken to the main dashboard.

It’s in here where you’ll be able to create new remarketing campaigns as well as monitor and manage existing ones. Click on New Campaign to get started.

As you can see, there are quite a few campaign options in here. The one you want to use for remarketing is “Display”.

Next, Google will take you through the setup of your first campaign:

You will need to fill in details pertaining to:

  • The goal of your campaign
  • Name and description of the campaign (including location and language)
  • A budget for clicks
  • Audience details, distinctions, and demographics

You will also be asked to upload your ad creative.

Once everything is configured and your ads are in place, your new campaign will appear in the dashboard. However, that’s not all. You will also need to create a tracking pixel for the campaign. You can do this through the Tools utility (the wrench icon in the top right).

Click on that and select Measurement > Conversions.

To add a new tracking pixel, click on the big blue “plus” button.

Choose the “Website” option and then you’ll arrive at the pixel setup page.

You can then install this the same way you did with the AdRoll pixel: place it above the tag on any page where you want remarketing activated.

Also, before you fully launch the campaign, remember to connect your Google Analytics account to it. This way, you can keep track of all website activity–even the remarketing campaigns–in one tool.

Wrapping Up

We are living in a pay-to-play marketing world these days. But just because you need to spend money to get in front of more people and, thus, increase the number of engagements and conversions in WordPress, that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank in order to do so. With a well-thought-out retargeting strategy and free tools to help you implement your campaign, you can successfully use retargeting to capture more leads and conversions for your website.


Over to you: Would you ever consider using retargeting services as an upsell for your WordPress business or will you only handle those requests on an ad hoc basis?

Brenda Barron

Brenda Barron Brenda is a freelance writer from Southern California. She specializes in WordPress, tech, and business and founded WP Theme Roundups. When not writing about all things, she's spending time with her family.