Fellow marketers, let’s be honest: Poorly executed retargeting campaigns can be annoying to your prospects and end up repelling buyers instead of attracting them. They can also quickly eat up your marketing budget.

But retargeting campaigns that are based on a prospect’s unique behavior and give him a reason to like your brand—for example, offering him content such as free buyer’s guides and eBooks—can bring in the kind of quality leads sales reps love.

Using content in retargeting campaigns allows you to casually reconnect with two types of visitors: 1) those who didn’t convert during their first interaction with your company, and 2) visitors who did convert but who aren’t opportunities yet. Read on to learn the essentials of how to use content with retargeting.

1. Start with Existing User Data

How your visitors interact with your site speaks volumes. User behavior data is a well you should always tap when building a marketing strategy, especially when you’re creating retargeting campaigns.

  • On which pages of your site do users spend the most time?
  • Which blog posts do they view most frequently?
  • Is there a consistent exit point from your site?

Observing these behaviors and identifying trends helps you determine what information is important and interesting to your visitors and what isn’t. With this data you can effectively use existing content or create new content for your retargeting campaigns.

For example, if you notice users who read one particular eBook consistently become customers, make sure to use that high-performing download in your retargeting campaigns. Or say your company offers employee workforce management software, and you see a large amount of traffic to pages about mobile integration. A good high-funnel content piece for retargeting could be “How to Manage Your Workforce from Anywhere.”

2. Segment Your Audiences

As with most marketing, casting too wide of a net usually leads to high cost and low return.

Take a Goldilocks approach to dividing your retargeting lists—in other words, not too broad and not too narrow. Reaching a huge audience gets your name out there, but the probability of conversion is a lot lower and the chance of wasted spend is a lot higher. A campaign only targeting a few hundred people is unlikely to yield positive results either.

NOTE: If you’ve just started your retargeting efforts, it’s OK to use an All Visitors audience (for example, every visitor to your site in one list, regardless of which actions they’ve taken). But as your reach and lists grow and you’re able to spot patterns along which you can segment audiences, retire the All Visitors list.

If you segment retargeting audiences by level of intent, it allows you to serve the most appropriate content. Here are some example audiences:



You may look at the above chart and say to yourself, “If a visitor has downloaded an eBook, the sales team has their contact information. Why should I spend money on retargeting them?” Two words: lead nurturing.

Just because someone submitted their email address doesn’t mean they’re ready to pull the trigger on buying your product or service. Retargeting with content helps prospects feel more and more comfortable with the idea of doing business with your company since you’re positioning your brand as a helpful partner. If they received a phone call from a sales rep pitching your solution right after they had only downloaded a single eBook, it could push them away.

3. Manage Ad Schedules and Geo-targets

If your budget allows, keep your retargeting campaigns live 24/7 and serving to the largest geographic area, at least at the beginning. Your goal is to collect as much data about your prospects’ demographics and behavior as possible, and if you limit your campaigns too much you’ll miss out on crucial information.

Make sure your ads are displayed at the times when your audience is the most receptive. For instance, your target buyers may prefer to read content after work, between 6 and 9 p.m. But if you’ve limited your retargeting campaigns to only run during standard business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), you’ll be missing out on potentially great leads.

Likewise, your content may be appealing to buyers on the West Coast, but East Coast buyers might not feel the same. Perhaps buyers in the South love your eBooks and aren’t big fans of your webinars, while Midwest buyers are in the opposite boat. Read the story your data is telling you and adjust your strategy accordingly.

When building and optimizing retargeting campaigns, always think about CATS:


4. Vary Your Ad Copy and Conversion Opportunities

Bombarding your audience with the same ad over and over probably will make them hate your brand, not love it. And serving someone an ad for a content piece they’ve already downloaded will bug them, as well.

Good thing your retargeting lists are segmented! You can more easily avoid these pitfalls.

If your resources are restricted and you only have one relevant piece of content to offer each audience, create two to three variations of the ad copy that highlight different benefits of the piece. This keeps the ad from becoming stale.

Take the same strategy for an audience consisting of visitors who have viewed the landing page for a particular eBook but didn’t submit the form. Something about the eBook captured their attention initially (they did visit the page after all), so tell them a couple more reasons why it’s worth the download. You can also take advantage of FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out. Use language like, “Don’t miss your opportunity to read our expert guide!”

Whether your content supply is limited or extensive, make sure your ads rotate evenly and you implement an impression cap, which limits the number of times your ads are shown to one individual during a given period. This guarantees your audience isn’t served any of your ads hundreds of times in one day. Ad fatigue is a quick way to stunt your campaign.

Digital marketers face two distinct challenges: 1) empowered consumers 2) with short attention spans. Content can start the conversation and content can continue the conversation. Use content and retargeting to prove your worth and stay top of mind. Don’t forget: Retargeting is not a “set it and forget it” strategy. Regularly check on your campaigns, and don’t ignore the data. To borrow a (slightly modified) quote from “Glengarry Glen Ross”: “Always be optimizing.”