How to Set Up a Facebook Retargeting Ads Campaign

When promoting a business, social media has become an essential component of any digital marketing strategy. From Instagram to Twitter, social platforms allow a company to increase brand awareness, directly connect with customers, and ultimately boost sales numbers.

This is particularly the case with Facebook. According to the latest statistics, over 2.6 billion people actively use Facebook each month. That means unless you are targeting the Amish community, pretty much your entire audience can be found on this platform. As a result, your business must have a strong Facebook presence.

There are, of course, several different approaches to take with Facebook-based marketing. Simply making regular posts on the platform and interacting with users can go a long way to positively promoting your brand. Yet one of the most effective approaches is to use Facebook Ads.

As with any other type of ad marketing approach, paid advertising can deliver instant results for your business. Although for this to happen, it requires plenty of work and savvy. You cannot expect to throw money at something and simply expect automatic results.

In that regard, one of the most practical approaches to take is with the use of Facebook retargeting ads. What are retargeting ads? What benefits do they supply? How can they be implemented? This comprehensive guide will provide the answers.

So, without further delay…

What is Facebook retargeting?

Before exploring this element of Facebook, it is essential to understand retargeting in general. As the word indicates, retargeting is aimed at attracting previous visitors back to your website. You may not have converted them first-time round, but retargeting aims to remind people about your products and services – and ultimately convert them into a customer.

Now you might be wondering: ‘How do I actually reach out to previous visitors?’ Well you know whenever you visit a new website, and a popup appears in relation to cookies, this provides the answer. A “cookie” will typically be added to a user’s browser when they visit an online retailer. So, when a visitor lands on your store, they will be supplied with a cookie, and this can then be used to essentially track their usage across other websites. When starting a retargeting campaign, you can display your ads to past visitors as they are browsing the internet.

Facebook retargeting

With the above paragraph in mind, it does not take much to deduce what Facebook retargeting involves. The concept is essentially the same as standard ad retargeting – the only difference is your efforts are contained within Facebook. Here is a quick breakdown of the process:

  • Someone visits your website.
  • The visitor is then given a cookie, which allows your brand to track them.
  • When they log in to Facebook, your ads will populate their feed.
  • The ad highlights what the visitor has been missing out on.
  • They click on the ad, are taken to your store, and finally complete their purchase.

The above example is a best-case scenario. However, this should be the overall aim with any Facebook retargeting ads campaign. Plus, you are likely to see higher conversion rates by retargeting rather than aiming for entirely new customers. Research suggests that retargeted ads have a 70% greater chance of converting consumers, turning on-the-fence visitors into ones that will purchase your goods.

How does Facebook retargeting work?

The previous section has already detailed how cookies are involved in the process. However, it is all a little more in-depth than that when it comes to Facebook retargeting. Not to mention, there are certain occasions where you want to retarget a previous visitor, but there are no cookies in sight.

Fortunately, there are four main roads you can go down with Facebook retargeting. These are referred to as a “Custom Audience” and include:

  • Customer Files
  • Website Activity
  • Mobile App Activity
  • Facebook/Instagram Engagement
  • Offline Activity

Here is a quick breakdown for each option:

Customer Files

If you have built up a list of contacts, this can be used as the basis for your retargeting campaign. This is particularly advantageous, as a customer list is usually only formulated with high intent consumers in mind. Yet rather than being too on the nose with your promotional methods – such as phoning them directly or firing out an email – you can market more subtly with Facebook Ads.

As for what type of files are required to make a customer list eligible for Facebook, you only need a person’s email address, phone number, or even just their user ID on Facebook. Then it is a case of uploading the details to Facebook, and they will do the rest to place personalized ads in front of your target audience.

Website Activity

Remember the point about cookies from before? Well, this is where they come into play. When someone has visited your website during a set time frame, they will possess that all-important ‘cookie’, and you can retarget them with your ads.

For the magic to happen, it’s necessary to install a component known as a Facebook pixel. This is a snippet of code that is pasted within your site’s code, and it allows you to accurately track visitors – including what actions they take while browsing your online store or Facebook. These actions include what pages they visit on your website, the products they added to their basket yet failed to purchase, and the Facebook Ads they viewed before landing on your site.

With these types of details at your disposal, you have the option to truly customize your retargeting efforts. As an example, say your business is one that sells computers. Now instead of producing ads that advertise your store, on the whole, you only want to promote your laptop section. Well, you can set up a Website Traffic audience where it only targets the people that have previously visited your website pages with “laptop” in the URL. Ultimately, you can zone in on specific users and increase conversion rates in the process.

Mobile App Activity

Sadly, this option is only available to those who have a dedicated app to represent their business. Although if you do have an established mobile app – or even game – this is a wise method for collecting user data and utilizing it for retargeting purposes.

As with Website Traffic, this type of Custom Audience is also great for targeting specific people based on their behavior. This data is captured by Facebook’s very own software development kit (SDK), which is essentially the app equivalent of the Facebook pixel, as mentioned above.

With this data, you can again go in various different routes with your ads campaign. For instance, say you have a consumer that places an item in their “wish list”. You can use ads that will promote the particular wish list product to the consumer, and you can drive engagement levels up by incorporating, say, a limited-time discount.

Facebook/Instagram Engagement

If you are not comfortable with setting up Facebook pixel or SDK, Facebook/Instagram Engagement could well be the Custom Audience option for you.

As the name implies, Facebook/Instagram Engagement only focuses on information collected directly from these social media platforms. Naturally, this means there are various ways in which you can reach users based on the way they have engaged with your Instagram or Facebook Page. If they have sent a message, watched one of your videos, simply viewed your Page, etc. – these are the people you can then focus on with your retargeting ads.

Offline Activity

If you run a physical store or sell to customers’ in-person, you might only collect information via traditional means. Thankfully, even in this situation, you can still create a Custom Audience with the Offline Activity option.

The reasons to run a Facebook retargeting ads campaign

As you would expect, there are a variety of advantages when it comes to utilizing Facebook retargeting ads. If you require any convincing, consider the following points:

Increase brand awareness

As with any type of marketing strategy, you are ultimately aiming to boost brand awareness and visibility. This is no different with a Facebook retargeting ads campaign.

Now you might be wondering how this works. After all, these are retargeted customers you are aiming at. They have already been on your website, app, or Facebook page, which means they are aware of your business in some form.

However, retargeting ads assists with keeping your brand in the limelight. Consumers may have previously been aware of what you have to offer, but it only takes a few days for your business to escape from their consciousness. With these ads, your brand remains at the forefront of their minds

Reach out to those with an interest

It is not uncommon for a business to waste their precious ad budget on campaigns that yield no results. After all, trying to run a successful ad strategy is far from easy – otherwise, every business would be throwing their money at this form of marketing.

If you are targeting those who have already shown a degree of interest, however, the chances of success go up a level or two. Your ads are not being directed to random people on the internet. They are being placed right in front of people who already know you exist, the type who may have already contemplated making a purchase in the past.

The result: your ads expenditure will generally convey a much better return on investment.

Deliver more compelling ads

A generic ad is always going to struggle to grab any attention. These days, people are conditioned to simply ignore any digital advertisements – also known as banner blindness –so a by-the-numbers design is not going to turn impressions into conversions.

This is where retargeting can come in particularly handy. You can design ads which are explicitly created with a user in mind. This means you can display the right type of ads for the right people, and this type of customized content always produces results.

Plus, you do not have to put in the effort of creating ideal matches – Facebook will automatically identify the products a potential customer is likely to have the most interest in overall.

Continue producing results after the sale

You have done it. After all the effort of tracking a user and retargeting them with a specialized ad, they have finally decided to part with their cash and purchase something from your store. While this is great, obviously, it also presents another opportunity to squeeze even more money out of a customer.

Did you know a repeat customer is likely to spend 300% more than a new customer? This is because a customer has a vested interest in your business. If they enjoy the products or services you serve up, they will likely be happy to come back to the table for seconds.

By placing a Facebook pixel on your ‘Thank You for Your Purchase’ page, you can quickly build up a list of customers for retargeting. This means that, instead of targeting them with a regular dose of ads that would be ineffective at this point (and cause a portion of your ad budget to go to waste), you can particularly focus on upselling and ways to entice them back for additional sales.

It is easy to do

Thanks to the tools supplied by Facebook, this method of retargeting is made easy. Simply build up your audience, create the right type of ads, and let Facebook do the rest. Still not convinced it is straightforward to do. Just read the next section about getting a campaign up and running.

How to set up a Facebook retargeting ads campaign

Even though it is simple to do, you must follow the right procedure when beginning a Facebook retargeting ads campaign. If you attempt to take any shortcuts, it will only be detrimental to the performance of your ads in the long run. Furthermore, there are various tips you can implement to bolster ad effectiveness – more on those later.

Step one: Install your Facebook pixel

If you have already done this, simply move on to the next step. For those who have not yet installed the Facebook pixel onto their website, now is the time to do so.

To start, visit the “Events Manager” section. Underneath this, you will find the “Pixels” tab. Click on this to go to the next page.

Install your Facebook pixel

On the “Pixels” page, you are provided with an introduction about how you can track and gain insights into your pixels. It also provides further sources if you require further information about this Facebook function. Once you have read everything, click the “View Setup Instructions” button.

View Setup Instructions

At this stage, you are presented with three different options. These are:

  • Add code using a Partner Integration
  • Manually add pixel code to website
  • Email instructions to a developer

Fortunately, most major website platforms are available as a partner. These include WordPress, Shopify, Magento, and Wix. A full list can be seen below:

website platforms

By choosing a partner, it is a much simpler process to implement the Facebook pixels code. There are various other advantages too, with the biggest arguably being you don’t have to touch your site’s code. Choose the partner that corresponds with your own website, and then follow the provided setup instructions.

If your website platform of choice is not available, you will have to go the manual route. With that said, it is not too difficult to integrate the pixel code manually. To start, go into your website’s code. Now locate the header section. Find where the head tags are, as seen in the below example:

header section

Copy the pixel code that is provided to you by Facebook. Now paste it just above the </head> tag.

head tags

Once the code has been added and you have saved the changes, it is time to test if everything is working as it should. To do this, copy your website URL and paste it into Facebook’s “Send Test Traffic” section.

Send Test Traffic

When the status changes to “Active”, this is the sign that the pixel code was installed correctly. Note: it can take a few minutes to update, so wait a little while before doing the Send Test Traffic check.

The third-pixel installation option, email instructions to a developer, is self-explanatory. If someone else is responsible for maintaining and updating your website’s code, it is up to them to handle this process.

When you click the ‘Email instructions…’ button on the Pixels page, you are prompted to enter the email address of the recipient. Do this and click “Send”. The recipient will then be provided with the information they require to complete the pixel set up.

Step two: Build your Custom Audience

To start, visit the Facebook Ads Manager page. In the navigation menu, locate the “Audiences” button underneath the Assets section.

Build your Custom Audience

Upon your first visit to the Audiences part of Ads Manager, Facebook will prompt you to create an audience. The selections that appear include:

Ensure you pick the “Create a Custom Audience” option.

As highlighted above, there are various methods available for formulating your Custom Audience. This can range from the information you already possess to insights that are generated through the ways consumers interact with your Facebook business page. Select the one which best matches up to your situation.

Facebook business page

Certain choices, such as Customer File, require you to produce and upload a customer list. One way of doing this is to gather the collected phone numbers, email addresses, Facebook user IDs, or mobile advertiser IDs, and place them into an applicable file. The file needs to be in either .txt or .csv format, and the data should be either placed on separate lines or separate by commas.

Note: once you have uploaded your Custom Audiences information Facebook, it can take as long as 24 hours to appear. In addition, it is recommended to create multiple audiences to target even more potential customers overall.

Step three: Create your ads campaign

When it comes to organizing your ads campaign, there are many options and steps you can take. Without delving too deep into this aspect – it is worthy of a guide on its own – here is a quick run-through of how to start a campaign and incorporate your Custom Audience.

First, begin by visiting the “Ads Manager” section. On this page, click the “Create” button as seen in the below example:

Ads Manager

This will bring up a “Quick Creation” menu. However, for that added level of control, it is recommended to click the “Switch to Guided Creation” button.

Switch to Guided Creation

As you continue through the options, you will eventually come across the “Audience” section. It is here where you select the Custom Audience that you produced in the previous step of this guide.

You also have the option to exclude specific audiences from viewing your ads. This is especially helpful if you have, for example, a separate list that is only dedicated to upselling to previous customers. They won’t want to view ads about your general product line, so you can stop that from happening with the “Exclude” button.

Custom Audience

Another important step during the creation of the ad campaign is settling on a budget. As a starting point, a daily budget of about $5-to-$10 is advised. This will provide enough opportunities to produce effective results, while also being measurable enough to see if the campaign is viable for scaling up – or if a change in direction is required.

The last part of the process is formatting and optimizing your ad. It is essential that you not only deliver an ad that has visual appeal but one that also has the details to convince a retargeted customer to click on the link.

For this part, decide on the format for the ad. There are various options available in that regard. You can stick with a single image if you want to showcase a particular product, produce an eye-catching slideshow with a continual loop of images, or even incorporate a video for maximum visual impact.

uploading the relevant media file/s

Then it is a case of uploading the relevant media file/s. Now select the URL you want customers to visit once they click on the ad. Rather than simply your website homepage, pick the product page URL if you are promoting a specific product or category.

Once you have filled in the other options such as the ad headline, the call-to-action type, and news feed link description, hit the “Confirm” button at the bottom the page. That is, it: you are done! Simply wait for Facebook to finish reviewing the ad, and your retargeting ads campaign will be up and running.

Tips to increase the effectiveness of your Facebook retargeting ads campaign

The campaign might be live and producing results, but there’s always room for improvement. Here are a few tips to further boost the performance of your Facebook retargeting ads.

Analyze the stats and adjust accordingly

Whether it is through Facebook or with Google Analytics, it is imperative you continually analyze and assess the situation. What type of visitors is your website attracting? What country are they based in? Are conversions coming from mobile or desktop users?

By taking an in-depth look into the figures, you can begin to get a better idea as to who your retargeting ads should be aimed at. With the way, you can specify certain visitors via the Custom Audience function. How you can alter demographics during the creation of the ads, you can truly focus on the people that matter most.

Retargeting is all about bringing previous visitors back into the fold, but certain people are more willing to return than others. Ensure you target those who have a greater incentive to reappear and make a purchase.

Change up the ad structure

If your ads are not quite delivering the success you expected, take a closer look at how they are structured. Are the images the best that you could be using as a promotional tool? Is the ad description doing enough to grip people and pull them back in? Are you actually advertising something worthwhile?

The recommended course of action is to mix and match with different approaches. You can follow guidance based on prior extensive analysis of Facebook adverts, and see how others structure their ads.

Once you have tested different ad types on Facebook, measure the results. See which one produced the most significant number of conversions and then focus on refining this for maximum results.

Be strategic with timing

As they say, timing is everything. This also goes for your Facebook retargeting ads campaign.

Remember that brand which constantly pops up on Facebook, wheeling out the same weary advert again and again for months? It is a common sight for anyone that regularly browses through their feed. Even though it is getting a brand’s name out there, this is an ineffective approach.

First of all, it is immensely annoying for anyone who sees the ad after the second or third time. Secondly, if people are not interested the first time, chances are they will not be when they see the ad pop up again… and again… and again. This makes the ad ineffective, which can ultimately lead to it being a costly experience with no sales in return. Oh, and if people start hiding or blocking the ads, this will lower their relevance score. The lower the score, the more expensive the retargeting ads will be for the business.

To avoid falling down the ad fatigue trap, be strategic with how your ads run. One way of doing this is by limiting the amount of time a specific ad runs for. Alternatively, produce an ever-changing campaign, one where there is a revolving door of different ads representing your brand.

Remind a customer why they were interested in the first place

People like familiarity. If you produce retargeting ads that remind a browser of something, their attention will immediately be grabbed. As a result, your brand will stand out among the sea of unknown ads and other content that populate their Facebook feed.

However, you might be wondering: ‘How do I craft an ad which possesses a familiar element for every targeted consumer?’ For instance, a product on your website may have been viewed by one visitor but missed by another. Plus, unless your product range is limited to only one or two products, a single Facebook ad will never be enough to cover everything sufficiently.

So how do you get around this issue? Three words: dynamic retargeting ads.

When you utilize this ad type, it automatically brings up products that people have viewed in the past. So, if you run an online smartphone business and someone views the latest iPhone, they could later see your retargeted ads on Facebook which display the very iPhone they previously looked at. This not only makes the ads relevant, but it also supplies interesting content to potential customers.

Entice with offers

Simply showing people the same product may not be enough to get them back to your website, however. Even if they left the product in the basket and abandoned ship before completing the purchase, this is not a guarantee they will return.

If potential customers are abandoning their carts, you must investigate the reason behind this decision. Research conducted by Statista highlighted the three main points causing people to opt-out of completing a transaction:

  • Shipping is too expensive.
  • Discount coupon does not work.
  • Shipping times are too long.

Aside from the relevance of correcting the issue of abandoned carts, this research also displays what customers are generally searching for when shopping online: deals. So, if you want to entice previous visitors back, start offering limited-time discount coupons. Statistics spotlight that 54% of cart abandoners will return if discounts are applied. People also like anything with the word ‘Free’ attached, so also consider free shipping and complimentary product samples for each purchase.


Facebook Ads are a fantastic tool in anyone’s marketing arsenal. Yet you can further refine and improve their performance by focusing on Facebook retargeting ads.

If someone has previously interacted with your brand, they are one of the safest bets for eventually turning into a paying customer. Stop wasting your ad budget in ineffective areas and start investing in your former visitors!