Remarketing Explained

What is Remarketing (Retargeting)?


Search and Remarketing Go Together

Recently, I was asked to explain the concept of remarketing (also called retargeting) for a listserv in which I participate.  Here is what I wrote. As you can see, it is a very basic explanation.

The Background – Why Web Marketing Rocks

First, the unique nature of the Internet allows marketing in ways of which television and radio advertisers could never conceive. This kind of marketing can be targeted based on what people are seeking.  This has been the case for several years now. As you probably know, Google uses its search engine to make money through advertising. The reason Google is so successful is because the ads come directly from key words or phrases for which people are searching.  Since people are searching specifically for an item or a service, chances are good they are looking to buy. As a result, the ads are more likely to be successful than guessing based on what tv shows people are watching or what magazines they are reading.

Remarketing Explained

Over the past few years, the ability to follow people around the web has caused a growth in retargeting or remarketing.  Now, understand, retargeting/remarketing is not new.  All remarketing means is that when people have shown interest in your product, you communicate with them again (and again and again.) Marketing speaks in terms of hits. The more hits that someone has, meaning the more times they see your product, the more likely they are to buy it.  This is why remarketing is valuable.

Traditionally, on the web, retargeting came from email addresses that people supplied, either directly to the company or to a company that keeps email lists. Let’s say, for example, you keep track of all email addresses for anyone who has ever contacted your firm. You might send a newsletter to those people via email or snail mail every month or so. This is a form of remarketing.  Many of your firms probably already do it. Bar Associations/CLE organizations are famous for this. You sign up for one seminar, you get emails and ads ad nauseum. If the organization is advanced enough, it will send you materials related to seminars you have already attended and books you have already purchased.

On the Web

On the web, marketers have the ability to follow you everywhere you go. This is based on cookies, web bugs and other small pieces of code stored in your web browser.  You no doubt have had the experience of searching for something, say new furniture, only to have ads for furniture show up on Facebook or other websites, perhaps even the exact piece of furniture you looked at on or Overstock.

Not only can websites follow your online activities, but now, using your loyalty cards, cell phone apps and the like, your offline activities are being tracked as well. Companies are starting to work together to take both your online and offline activities to market and remarket to you based on the things you buy, the locations you are in and other activities in which you engage both on and off line.

Also, marketers can use your email address and other contact information to match you with your online accounts. For example, if you have an email list of 500 people, you can take that list and upload it to Facebook. You can direct Facebook to look for the accounts using those email addresses. You can then have ads appear on the feeds of just those individuals.  Since these people have already communicated with you once, they are more likely to actually look at the ad and respond to it.


As you can see, remarketing shows up in various ways, online and offline. It is not new, but the ability to track people using technology is only growing, as is the ability to connect online and offline behavior. Given there are very few laws surrounding privacy in the US, this conduct is rarely illegal. In addition, most people sign away their privacy rights by downloading apps, clicking “I Agree” to clickwrap agreements, signing up for contests (on and off line) and so on.


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