The Ultimate Step-by-step Facebook Retargeting Guide

This ultimate Facebook Retargeting guide will show you the importance of remarketing, how remarketing works on Facebook, and how you can set up Facebook Retargeting for your own business.

You go shopping on for phones and you fall in love with that sleek and stylish phone.

But you’re concerned that it would cost you a kidney.

So, you go back to Google to search for similar phones that fit your budget.

Et voila! There’s the same phone of your dreams with a better offer in an ad.

Looking at Google with sparkly eyes, you think, “Hey, Google knows me so well!”

Well that’s partially correct. That is the retailer setting up a good remarketing automation strategy.

Similar thing also happens on Facebook. When you visit a website and right before pressing “order now”, you get kind of distracted and decide to see what’s new on Facebook. Funnily enough you will see an ad of the thing you were about to buy.

From the financial perspective, CPA has risen noticeably right along with Facebook ads costs. What this means is that you’ll have to get the most out your ad spends. You can accomplish that “ambitious” goal by making use of Facebook Retargeting to cover the largest possible target audience you can.

That’s holy grail for marketers. You get your desired audience to visit your website and then later show your ads on Facebook to make sure they come back to use your service. In this article we will show you how to do exactly that.

Remarketing with Facebook

Remarketing (or Retargeting as termed by Facebook) is plain and simple. All you need to do is give some data about your customers/prospects to Facebook and let Facebook retarget your ads to your customers who have previously interacted with your business.

Of course, Facebook offers multiple levels of customizations with custom rules and data, letting you tailor your ads and campaigns to granular precision.

The data could be from your website, app, or emails. Facebook lets you track your prospect’s/customer’s activities both online and offline, such as post engagement and in-store purchases.

We’ve covered all the different ways you can remarket using Facebook further below.

Here’s a quick checklist of pre-requisites for setting up Facebook Retargeting automation by yourself.

Retargeting Requirements

To run retargeting ads you need to make sure you have the following:

  • A working website or mobile app
  • Facebook Pixel cookie for websites, Facebook Custom Events, and online Conversions
  • Facebook SDK for mobile app and App Events
  • Custom Audience(s) based on previous customers, and
  • Custom Ads

Sounds a bit too complicated? Well, maybe. But, it’s all worth it because of the changes Facebook introduced to its News Feed algorithm back in January 2018. Let’s see how that has made Retargeting more relevant.

Facebook algorithm changes and Ad price hike

Technical details aside, the changes to News Feed were that the users would see posts from their friends and family much higher up in the feed than promoted posts and ads. This was done in an effort to reduce the time users spend on Facebook by letting them get their daily dose of posts quicker.

So, spending less time means more businesses will be competing for the same ad space. In simple words, lower ad rate equates to higher competition which in turn increases the ad costs.

Facebook CPM Year over Year Change

According to Marketing Land Cost-per-Marketing is at all-time high.

And as you are or will be spending more than you once did on Facebook Ads, you might as well just optimize the flip out of it and make your ROI great again. In the process of optimizing your ads you’ll be remarketing to existing customers or prospects with a few touchpoints.

In this post we will explain the list above in great detail. But before we proceed, it’s crucial to consider the GDPR regulations and how it affects your marketing automation strategy.

GDPR and what it means to you

From May 25, 2018 all companies that process personal data of European residents have to comply with EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Here, you are the Data Controller, the person/company that collects personal data, and Facebook is the Data Processor, the person/company that processes personal data on behalf of the Data Controller.

As the Data Controller, your responsibilities are:

  • Inform the customers/prospects (Data Subjects) why and how you collect their personal data
  • Provide information about yourself as the Data Controller
  • Allow customers/prospects to request whether you are collecting/using their personal data
  • Get their consent before collecting personal data
  • Provide them the option to opt out anytime and have their personal data deleted
  • Let your customers/prospects download their data from you

The primary way you record online conversions is using the Facebook Pixel. It’s a cookie-like code which you install on your website to track the actions of website visitors and report back to Facebook.

Another way is by using Facebook SDK on your app. Just like Facebook Pixel but for apps.

Since you will be using Facebook Pixel cookie on your website to collect data, you are obliged to get their consent as the Data Controller.

It’s critical to abide by these regulations or you could be facing hefty charges and penalties.

Yes. It’s possible that people might not give their consent, for you to process their data. But, the benefits of Facebook retargeting are just too good to not use it.

Note: GDPR also applies to when you use Offline Conversion data with Facebook.

In conclusion, you’re responsible and liable for GDPR just as much as Facebook.

Let’s start by learning how to install Facebook Pixel on your website.

Note: If you’re not familiar with setting up cookie-usage invitation (to get consent), you could use an online service to make things easier.

Creating Facebook Pixel code

First step to creating retargeting ads on Facebook is installing the Facebook pixel on your website:

1) Open Events Manager

2) Open the Pixels menu

pixels menu

3) Create a Pixel and name it

creating a facebook pixel

naming a facebook pixel

4) Install your Pixel code

installing your pixel code

Now select the option that’s most appropriate for you.

a) Use an Integration or Tag Manager:

If you’re using a website platform with admin (or at least higher than regular user) access, the first option’s for you. Based on your platform you’d install Pixel in one of the following ways:

  1. Add Pixel as a module
  2. Add Pixel as a plugin
  3. Copy and paste Pixel ID into your website
  4. Add Pixel code and event code

Currently Facebook supports these platforms:

3dcart, BigCommerce, Eventbrite, Google Tag Manager, Magento, OpenCart, Presta Shop, Segment, Shopify (Online), Squarespace, Storeden, Ticketmaster, Wix, WooCommerce, and WordPress.

facebook pixel integration

requesting a new facebook partner

Additionally, there’s an option to “Request a New Partner”. This allows you to request Facebook to partner up with a new platform. This is indeed a long shot. So you would usually use the other two options.

After installing Pixel to your website platform, you must verify if it was installed correctly. You can either use the verification tool provided on Facebook or Facebook Pixel Helper extension on Google Chrome. More information on these two options is provided further down below.

b) Manually install the code yourself:

Of the three options, this is could be the most straightforward and generic option. You will require some basic knowledge in editing HTML documents and access to your website’s files on the server. It’s best to leave this to your developer unless that person is you.

First, you’ll install the code into your website.

1.Find the header section and navigate to the script section

2.Paste the code as specified above

pixel id in html

You can turn on Advanced Matching to accurately match the website visitor with the Facebook audience.

advanced matching

You can add different identifiers and the variables you use to represent them. Facebook recommends adding first name, last name, and date of birth. Other identifiers available are phone number, gender, date of birth, city, state, and zip code.

To collect these data the website visitor must be logged into Facebook and should have allowed cookies (Facebook Pixel).

3. Verify if the code works.

You can either use the verification tool given on Facebook or use the Google Chrome extension, Facebook Pixel Helper.

The Facebook verification tool looks like this. After you enter your webpage URL, Facebook will report on that traffic.

facebook verification tool

If status is still negative after 20 minutes, then go back and check if you’ve followed the steps correctly and try again.

If that doesn’t work either, then try using the Facebook Pixel Helper plugin to troubleshoot page by page. A page with correctly installed Pixel code would look like this.

facebook pixel helper

Before you go on to install Pixel code on multiple pages, test it on one page first. However, to ensure complete functionality, check all the pages on which you install Pixel.

c) Get a developer involved:

I get it, you just want your trendy skateboard website and some metrics; don’t really want to bother yourself with all this coding. For folks like us, there’s the third option. It lets you send the Pixel code, ID, and installation instructions to your developer via email.

Select the third option and enter the email(s) of your developer(s).

email pixel code

Then scroll down to the end and click send.

Once you’ve successfully set up Facebook Pixel and verified that it’s working, then you can proceed to create conversions.

Creating events and conversions

Both Events (Standard Events) and Conversions (Custom Conversions) allow you to track actions on your website(s) across different platforms. Facebook offers you a standard set of Events that you can select after installing Pixel.

install pixel code standard events vs automatic events

(1) These are your Standard Events offered by Facebook. You have to set up Event code on corresponding pages.

(2) Facebook automatically detects events on your website without you having to install Event codes.

I would advise not to use Automatic Events. The first problem is that it might not detect all necessary events. You’d have to have a standardized set of events on your website and/or standardized code, if you want to detect all the Standard events.

Moreover, even if you have everything set up correctly and Facebook can still detect the event which you might not need. When you only want to record a “purchase event”, but Automatic Events detects “purchase” as well as “add to cart” events, then it will give you inaccurate conversion rates.

Hence, it’s wise to use the Standard Events and set them up on your website manually. It’s even wiser to use Custom Conversions. But, we’ll get there momentarily.

Setting up standard events

From the list of Standard Events, select the one(s) you need.

Let’s take an example. You’re hosting a seminar at a nearby conference hall. The entry is free, so you don’t need to sell tickets. Now your goal would be to get people to sign up for it. This will require them to fill out a registration form. For this, you will use the Complete Registration Event.

complete registration event

In a normal scenario, they will click on the link in your ad. They will go to a landing page with the registration form and fill it out. After they fill out, there are two ways it can go.

If you’re using a thank you page, then you will install the Event code on that page. The Event will be triggered when that page loads.

track event on page loads

(1) This is your Event code

(2) This is where you would install your Event code

But if you’re not using a thank you page (not a good inbound practice though), then you will install the Event code in the same page. The Event code will be triggered when the user submits the form.

track event on inline action

(1) This is your Event code

(2) This is where you would install your Event code. Be sure you’re installing the code for the correct button on your website.

Additionally, you can install Event code with some parameters in both “On Page Load” and “Inline Action” methods.

conversion value and event code

(1) This is where you insert a variable or value. It will be sent when the Event is triggered. Let’s say the seminar attendee has signed up using “Sign up with Facebook” option.
In this case, the {{username}} variable will send the Facebook username of the user to Facebook Pixel. This will come in handy when you want to exclude people from remarketing.

(2) This is the Event code. As you can see, there’s a new parameter called “value”. You will copy-paste this code based on which method you use to track the conversion event.

Setting up Custom Conversions

Custom Conversions are basically Custom Events that you can create to suit your needs. In most cases your conversion will be in the Standard Events. But when you want to track a different type of conversion, you could use this.

For example, you want the attendee to download an e-book related to the seminar. In that case you would setup a Custom Conversion rule.

Here’s how it’s done.

Pull up the options from the top left corner.

events manager options

From the Measure & Report section, open the Custom Conversions page.

custom conversions

Click on the “Create Custom Conversion” button.

create custom conversion

creating a custom conversion

(1) The name of your Pixel

(2) This is where you set the target URL

(3) Type of keyword match

(4) Keyword(s) you can use to search the target URL

(5) URL Rule

(6) Add more URL Rule(s)

(7) A custom name for your rule

(8) The type of Custom Conversion

(9) The conversion value that will be sent on event trigger

(10) Create the Custom Conversion rule

Facebook lets you create up to 100 rules per account. That’s usually more than enough for one person.

The next step is to create Custom Audience from all the metrics you’re recording.

Creating a Custom Audience

There are 5 types of Custom Audiences (as of June 2018) Facebook provides. Online businesses will primarily create Custom Audience from Website Traffic. Brick-and-mortar type business will mostly use offline data and add them using Offline Events.

Here’s how you create your Custom Audience.

1) Go to the Audiences panel

Pull up the options from the top left corner.

audiences options

From the Assets section, open the Audiences page.

assets section audiences page

2) Select Custom Audience option

Now open the dropdown menu on the left side. You will see three options. What you need for remarketing is a Custom Audience.

custom audience

Note: Lookalike Audience lets you target new customers based on your existing page fans or a Custom Audience.

Saved Audience lets you create a new set of audience based on interests, demographics which you can select yourself.

Circling back, remarketing audience is what Facebook calls Custom Audience. There are a few ways you can create your Custom Audience.

3) Select the type of Custom Audience

creating custom audiences

a. Customer file:

If you have information about your customers such phone number, email, and age, you can upload it to Facebook using this option.

Summary of steps:

  • Compile a list of customer data
  • Create a CSV file for file upload option
  • Select Parameters (such as email, name etc.) to be imported

However, there are a few ways to upload customer data. You can upload a CSV file or copy-paste the information into the given text field. Not all the fields are mandatory, but more the merrier. Facebook even lets you select whatever fields you need. Make sure to download the template to match the format. This is essential to get (accurate) results. Also, Facebook can create a list of Custom Audiences based on your highest valued.

b. Website Traffic:

Facebook accessing your website traffic and matching them with their user database, that’s sorcery! Well, that’s Facebook Pixel. This is a piece of code installed on (every webpage of) your website. The Pixel sends the website visitor activity to Facebook and matches it with its users’ database. Pixel lets you target customers or visitors who have already engaged with your company.

Summary of the steps:

  1. Create a Facebook Pixel
  2. Install Pixel on your website
  3. Create and add App Events
  4. Create Custom Audience(s)
  5. Analyze, optimize, and improve your events, audience, and your marketing funnel automation

The ability to keep track of user activity even across multiple devices and platforms makes it all the better. Once you set it up, Facebook will take it from there.

You can get creative and narrow down to a considerable extent.

For example, when a website visitor abandons a shopping cart with a gaming laptop, you can use that data to show similar gaming laptops for a discounted price or from a different brand on their Facebook Newsfeed.

Another instance, when your customer looks at holiday package to Honk Kong in summer, you can remarket holiday packages to nearby/similar countries, or cheaper fares for different dates.

custom audience conditions

(1) Choose whether you want all the conditions to be valid or just one of them

(2) The action you want to consider

(3) Time frame of the action(s)

(4) Keywords to be searched in the URL

(5) Match type of the keyword

(6) Device type and its operating system

(7) Add additional conditions

You can also exclude certain group of people from remarketing by adding an exclude section.

Everything is the same as the previous section, except, everything you filter here will be excluded from your Custom Audience. You can see the exclude section in the picture below.

creating a custom audience – excluding criteria

You can more sections to include/exclude to precisely select your audience. Once done, enter a name and save the Custom Audience.

c. App Activity:

This is identical to creating Custom Audience with website traffic. Instead of Facebook Pixel, this method will use an SDK provided by Facebook.

Here’s the summary of the steps:

  1. Register your app on Facebook
  2. Install the Facebook SDK on your app
  3. Create App Events
  4. Log app activities/events
  5. Create Custom Audience(s)
  6. Create Custom Ads for your audience(s)

This is particularly useful for apps with cataloged products/services. You can use the data you get from the App Activity to remarket your products/services to your customers using Dynamic Ads.

There are so many possibilities just like with Web Traffic method. Setting up all this requires some coding knowledge and hence it’s better to leave it to the developers.

However, if you want, here is a complete tutorial on using App Activity with Facebook.

d. Offline Activity:

Of course, not all conversions happen on a website or an app. Facebook hasn’t forgotten you. This method lets you record offline customer interactions with your business. If a customer takes action after seeing your ad on Facebook, this is how you can track it.

Summary of the steps:

  1. Create Offline Events on Facebook events
  2. Upload the offline interactions data
  3. Create your Custom Audience and custom conversions
  4. Create ads for your audience

Create Offline Events by opening the Offline Events page by going over to the Measure & Report Section in the Options menu.

offline events

You will need a Facebook Business Manager account to create your offline events. Learn more about Facebook Offline Conversions.

e. Engagement:

The last one is a Custom Audience based on how and where they interact with your ads or promotions. There are many ways you can create touchpoints for your customers (both promotional and non-promotional). These could be videos, photos, albums, posts etc.

The options Facebook provides for audience interactions, are as below

  1. Video – both on Facebook and Instagram
  2. Lead form – signing up with information on Facebook or Instagram
  3. Fullscreen experience – viewing your collection ad or Canvas
  4. Facebook page – your company’s Facebook page
  5. Instagram Business Profile – engaging with your profile on Instagram
  6. Event – events you create on Facebook

audience engagement facebook options

Let’s say you co-host an event on Facebook with a partner of yours. When your partner is bigger than you, they’ll have a larger audience by default. You can use that to your advantage by targeting those people who showed interest in your event.

That will be a good opportunity to introduce your company. Of course, you have to do an excellent job with hosting that event.

Now that you’ve created your custom audience, it’s time to expand your selection and create even more customers by creating Lookalike Audience and creating ads.

your custom audience was created

You can create ads and campaigns by going to Ads Manager under the Create & Manage section in the Options menu.

ads manager

It could take a while before you optimize and find your ideal audience, but you’ll get there.

Once you set all of this up, it becomes fairly easy. You will simply have to adapt and improve as needed.

Some Tips for Retargeting

That’s all folks. I hope this guide gets you started with Facebook retargeting ads.

But before you go, here are few tips:

  • Make sure you have a good relationship with your customers before starting to sell. Go through the marketing funnel procedurally. Build brand awareness and trust first. Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in your field with relevant content (video, blog, webinars, and whatnot). This way you won’t be “that annoying shower gel company”.
  • Customers in various stages look for different things based on the stage in their journey (awareness, interest, desire, and action). Hence, your advertisements should correspond to the customer’s stage.
  • Be meticulous when selecting your audience for retargeting. How frequent someone uses your product/service depends on what you offer.
  • Don’t spam your prospects/customers with retargeting ads. Not all products are frequently bought. Asking them to buy the same or similar product again and again might not work out well for you. For example, a customer buying a car from you is rather unlikely to buy another one in a month. In that case you would be better of marketing some car parts or accessories instead of advertising a new car.
  • Your strategies and methods won’t always be successful. Be prepared for it. Hence always keep experimenting and trying new strategies until you find the right one, alternatively consult an expert.

There you have it. You are all set to harness the power of Facebook Retargeting. And the student shall become the master.

Good luck out there, fellow marketer!

We’d love to hear your experiences with this. Share with us in the comments section below.


author helvijs smoteks Helvijs Smoteks has received multiple imaginary marketing awards and is the world’s 2nd somewhat OK marketer right after another guy nobody has ever heard about. After he gave up his carrier as a bow-tie salesman, he started yet another marketing project, Market Me Good that’s pretty good at being honest.

The Ultimate Step-by-step Facebook Retargeting Guide (1)

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