Remarketing vs. Retargeting: Are They The Same Thing?

Remarketing and retargeting are used interchangeably, but there are key differences paid media advertisers should be aware of. Learn more here.

Confused about the difference between remarketing and retargeting?

You aren’t alone!

These terms are used interchangeably these days.

But are they the same?

Technically they aren’t!

Remarketing and retargeting have similar goals.

But there are also important differences you need to understand.

Remarketing and retargeting differ in strategy – and who you are able to reach.

Remarketing & Retargeting: Similar, But Different

Advertising managers spend a lot of time testing audiences, getting creative, and obsessing over numbers.

It can be a long process; with only a small percentage of ad clickers actually converting.

While you might be getting a lot of new incoming web traffic, you may not see those numbers translate to sales quickly.

And few become a sale the first time they land on your webpage.

In the age of “but we can track everything”, it can be easy to get distracted.

It’s easy to forget the true role of marketing:

To win people over long before they make the decision to choose your product or company, over others.

Oftentimes, the best people to target are those who have visited your site more than once or have already digitally interacted with you in the past.

Retargeting and remarketing both give the opportunity to reach these customers. And they are the ones more likely to purchase rather than first-time visitors.

And this can be an extremely important strategy in your marketing efforts.


Now let’s explore remarketing and retargeting individually, so that the differences become clear to you.

What Is Retargeting?

Retargeting can have multiple approaches.

It most often refers to online ad placement or display ads targeting users who have interacted with your site in specific ways without purchasing.

Once a visitor enters your website, clicks on a product, or takes a certain action that you want them to take, a cookie is set in their browser.

You can then use this information to “retarget” them with ads based on their interactions once they leave your site.

These ads are placed by third parties, such as the Google Display Network or Facebook. They allow your ads to trigger on other sites that your visitors go to.

Ultimately, retargeting can be categorized into 2: “on-site” and “off-site” events.

Each has different strategies you can take depending on the kind of interactions you want to target.

Let’s look at these a little closer.

Targeting ‘On-Site’ Interactions

This is the category often associated with retargeting. It involves targeting individuals who have already visited your site.

They have interacted with your products and services before. Or they have taken some other action but may not have completed the sale.

Retargeting to those who have had on-site interactions can increase conversions.

They can also help retain those who have already expressed interest in your brand.

There are a bunch of ways to retarget.

Here are some of the ways you can target individuals who have had onsite interactions:

  • Target based on a product that they interacted with, but didn’t buy.
  • Target based on how they found your site (social media, a search, or other inbound events).
  • Those on your email list who have expressed interest in your brand, but have not yet converted to a sale.

These parameters can be set up within different platforms, such as:

  • Google Ads.
  • Google Analytics.
  • Facebook Ads.
  • And many others.

Retargeting campaigns almost always show higher engagement and conversions than non-retargeting campaigns do.

This goes back to the fact that it is a lot easier to market and advertise to those who have expressed interest in your brand or industry.