Retargeting is perhaps the most critical component to the success of your campaign, yet it’s the one that tends to get the least attention in many accounts that we begin working with.

Not only does effective retargeting substantially bring down your all-in cost per acquisition due to the typically lower CPA in retargeting (usually 40-70% less than prospecting, depending on the account), but it will also lower your prospecting CPA. 

Anyone who clicked a prospecting ad but converts via retargeting as a view-through will be counted back as a prospecting conversion, as long as that conversion took place within 28 days of the original click. 

And knowing that most campaigns see close to a 50/50 split between click and view-through conversions in retargeting, it’s very easy to see how a strong retargeting campaign will also lower your prospecting CPA.

Despite all this, almost every advertiser we work with has treated retargeting largely as a ‘set and forget’ campaign, pouring at least 95% of their time into prospecting. You’re leaving a huge opportunity on the table if you fall into this bucket.


The vast majority of accounts we step into are making at least one of these six fundamental mistakes in retargeting:


    1. They’re running the same exact ads in retargeting that they do in prospecting. While it definitely makes sense to work your best prospecting ads into retargeting campaigns to see how they perform, one must remember that retargeting visitors don’t need to relearn the same details you shared in your original prospecting ad.

      As a general rule, prospecting ads should be more information-heavy, where retargeting ads should be snappier. Good ideas for retargeting would be focusing more on your offer, pushing urgency (i.e. limited stock), sharing a testimonial that speaks to the mindset of a potentially hesitant buyer, or focusing on a money-back guarantee, financing options, or anything else that directly addresses potential customer rebuttals.

      Shorter copy will often have a lower CPM too, and since CPMs are typically 50-100% higher in retargeting than prospecting, every bit of savings can make a big difference here.
    2. On a very related note, running statics instead of videos will work down your retargeting CPMs. I mentioned this earlier in the article, but as the prospect is already more familiar with your offering than a completely cold prospect, you can often get by with a static image in place of a video. The CPM benefit here is often clear enough that we run many retargeting campaigns exclusively with static ads.
    3. They send retargeting visitors to the same original landing page the prospecting ads did. Depending on what your acquisition funnel looks like, this could be a big one. It largely depends on what you’re selling, but we find many campaigns that send users who added to cart or initiated checkout right back to the original landing page. Why create extra work for someone at this point? The friction makes them less likely to convert. Think about the audience you’re targeting and where it makes sense to send them. Make it as easy as possible for them to complete the purchase.
    4. People tend to treat all retargeting visitors the same. We see many campaigns that target all web traffic within a certain timespan, regardless of how far along the funnel they were.

      Splitting out adds to cart from website visitors will yield a far better audience. Taking it one step further and splitting out those initiate checkouts into another audience, if it’s big enough, can yield even better results.

      If you stack these audiences together, you’re foregoing the opportunity to focus on these people first and foremost. Someone who came closest to buying on a past visit is far more likely to convert today, especially when that visit was very recent.
    5. On the subject of recency, this is the last point we’ll make here. Test different segments. Most accounts we see might look at 7-day, 15, 30, or 60-day web traffic. How about 3-day traffic? Whatever it is, test different groups and find your sweet spot.

      The benefits of this will be evergreen and should help the campaign in a big way once you’ve gotten this process down.
    6. Budget sizes remain fixed. In most cases, the best audiences are underspending. You’re leaving conversions on the table if you’re doing this. On the same note, be careful not to overspend either. If you’re too aggressive on a small audience, you’ll unnecessarily pay higher CPMs.

      It’s crucial that you not only spend the proper amounts based on audience size, but that your retargeting budgets shift accordingly with your prospecting spend. If you’ve scaled spend in prospecting, forgetting to scale your best retargeting ad sets is one of the most common and costly mistakes we see advertisers make.