How To Revolutionize Your Retargeting ROI

See Rambo in the image? See how he’s just shooting at everything he sees? Did you know that’s you? The gun is your bids and the target is all your website visitors. (Yeah, I’m pretty satisfied with this parable.) Every day, I see marketers trying to reach all their past visitors, executing retargeting through (amongst others) Facebook Ads and…

See Rambo in the image? See how he’s just shooting at everything he sees? Did you know that’s you? The gun is your bids and the target is all your website visitors. (Yeah, I’m pretty satisfied with this parable.)

Every day, I see marketers trying to reach all their past visitors, executing retargeting through (amongst others) Facebook Ads and Google Display Network.

So, why is this bad?

Well, first of all… The competition gets tougher, which leads to higher bids and thus a more expensive market for retargeting — for all advertisers. If we were more specific in our bids and segments, we wouldn’t bid on the same audience as often.

Secondly, why bid with the same bids towards totally different valuable visitors? A visitor who bounced your site after four seconds has the same CPM-bid on Facebook Ads as a visitor who visited 14 pages during a 31 minute session! That’s no way to be a marketing rockstar.

Thirdly, a more segmented retargeting audience makes it possible to display more accurate banners. Visitors who’ve shown great interest in your products might be more easily attracted to click and convert if you showed one type of ad message, while visitors who’ve shown a lower engagement level might be more attracted by a different ad message (in contast to the more engaged visitors). For example, for one type of visitor, it might be more effective to highlight the price of the product instead of the different perks of the product — and vice versa. I think you get the idea.

Last but not least, by using more accurate segments on your retargeting, the audience doesn’t get exhausted as quickly. A visitor with a session duration of four seconds probably isn’t that interested. So why make that person exhausted by paying for too much retargeting of this person in 30 days after that four second visit? It’s expensive for you and exhausting for the visitor. Nobody wins.

Also, I don’t know how many times I’ve been exposed the dynamic retargeting ads by, where they show me the exact hotel I booked earlier on the same browser and computer. Why haven’t they even bothered to segment their audience to not show retargeting ads for recently converted visitors for that specific product? This is also called negative retargeting and should be executed by everyone, to avoid unnecessary distraction and irritation among the targeted audience.

Let’s fix this. Now.

I’ll walk you through how to fix a perfect fundament for optimized retargeting segments for Facebook Ads and Google Adwords. After this walk-through, you’ll have a good idea of the concept in order to fix this in miscellaneous other channels as well.

Executing on the same terms: Google Tag Manager

I really love GTM! It’s a wonderful tool that gives you the opportunity to give different tracking tools the same terms. This minimizes the amount of wrongly executed tracking scripts and event trackers.

What you want to do with GTM (besides moving all kinds of tracking scripts to it) is implement the Facebook and Google pixels I  will soon refer to. This is because you want to have as high an accuracy as possible when it comes to event tracking.

GTM also gives you an opportunity to segment your website visitors at a more granular level.

How to fix Facebook Ads

If you’re still using the old (depreciated) conversion-pixel in Facebook Ads, please start using the new, and awesome, Facebook Pixel. You’ll find it in the top menu of the ad account, under “Tools” -> “Pixel”. Implement it on all pages of your website and send the different types of events relevant for your business.

What the Facebook Pixel can do is simple but sweet. Combined with custom audiences, it can achieve pure magic.

Depending on how your website is built, what goals you have, what you’re selling, and how you’re selling it — the custom audiences can be set up in a numerous of ways.

With a comprehensive implementation of the Facebook Pixel and different events on your website, along with a strict way of tagging your incoming URLs with a utm-structure, you can create knife sharp segments.

Go to Facebook Ads Manager and then click “Audiences -> Create Audience -> Website Traffic”. This is where you can create the next level of retargeting with smarter segmentation of your audience. For example: Use utm-tagging to identify what ad message different visitors enter from clicking, in order to know what attracted them in the first interaction, and then make conclusions based on those facts in order to create new Facebook Ads you can target towards a new custom audience.

Example: A cufflink shop


  • Traffic by marketing is properly tagged with a logical utm-structure.
  • Event tracking is properly implemented with Facebook Pixel.


  1. This cufflink shop has done a ton of native advertising. Therefore, a huge chunk of the marketing traffic comes from this native article.
  2. The cufflink shop wants to create a Facebook Ad, linking to this native article. But they don’t want to target people who’ve already read the native ad. Since the links from the native article (to the cufflink shop) ends with a proper tagging, containing “&utm_campaign=native4” it’s possible to create a segment that excludes people who’ve visited an URL containing this tag:facebook custom audience
  3. Also, the easiest retargeting segment possible is the one that includes firing of the event “InitiateCheckout” (someone has visited the checkout page), but excludes the event “Purchase”. This gives you the opportunity to hunt the people who’ve left your checkout page without purchasing. You should always hunt these, Rambo-style!
    facebook create custom audience

Of course, it’s better to be more sophisticated in your segmentation since you also want to show an ad with the exact products that was “left” in the cart. If you have a lot of traffic, you also want to segment this audience by engagement level in some way. This is because you want to have custom bid levels for users with different likelihoods of converting.

Quick off-topic: Have you tried the magic of “Lookalike Audiences”?

With Lookalike Audiences, you can target people who:

  • Looks like the ones in your customer list. (I’ll soon write an article about how to get insane ROI doing this.)
  • Looks like the visitors on a specific URL.
  • Look like the users who’ve fired a specific event on your website or in your app.

When you’re creating your lookalike audience, you can choose between accuracy and volume in your audience. Would you rather target more, but less relevant people — or vice versa?

For those who’re already using Lookalike Audience, this might be a happy surprise…

Facebook recently released a function that makes it possible to easily segment your lookalike audience, so that you don’t have to mess around with excluding other lookalike audiences:

facebook lookalike audience

To sum up some great strategies for Facebook Ads:

  1. Maximize your usage of the Facebook Pixel and send in as many and useful events as possible.
  2. Combine logical utm-tagging with custom audience creation.
  3. Segment your website visitors (or app users) into fine-tuned (custom) audiences. When you’re creating campaigns with these audiences as targets, try various bidding levels and various ad messages in order to see where you can find the sweet spots.
  4. Create lookalike audiences based on custom audiences that work really well, in order to find a higher volume.
  5. And remember; always be testing! 

Google Adwords

Just like Facebook Ads, you have the possibility of creating custom segments. Just follow the steps below to get going:

  1. Enter Campaigns in your Adwords account.
  2. Go to Shared Library (which is found in the left side menu).
  3. Click Audiences.
  4. Start creating some custom audience lists and use the same logic that we did when we discussed Facebook Ads.

Corresponding to events through the Facebook Pixel, we use Conversions in Adwords.

A good idea is to use Google Tag Manager to fire the Google Adwords Conversion and the Facebook Pixel Events on the same terms (and also naming the conversions/events the same thing). By doing this, you can get good ideas of what’s working on Facebook and then start reaching the exact same audience through Google Display Network. This combination is gold.

To sum it up..

It’s important to not be lazy when it comes to setting up retargeting segments in Facebook Ads, Google Adwords and other ad platforms. There are a myriad of dimensions to take into consideration when setting up the fundament, so use them well and test a lot!

If I was indistinct about something, feel free to comment and I’ll come back to you. I’m here to help!

Update: A feature called AdSet Budget Rebalancing makes it possible to re-allocate budget depending on how much % of the budget is spent in various adsets.