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Retargeting Pixels: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Even if you haven’t heard of retargeting, you’ve probably experienced it. That pair of shoes you were looking at online but didn’t buy that seem to pop up in ads as if they are screaming, “Hey remember me? Buy me!” That’s retargeting.

How does retargeting work?

A retargeting campaign starts by placing a pixel on a webpage that collects the IP address of visitors to that page. The pixel is a bit of code on the backend of a website that helps track user behavior, usually for the purpose of gathering data that informs the targeting of digital ads. 

Retargeting campaigns allow you to deliver banner or video ads to website visitors after they have left your website—as they are surfing their favorite news, entertainment, lifestyle, and business sites. When ads are placed in a retargeting program, they “follow” visitors while they perform Google searches and visit other partner websites within Google’s expansive search and display networks. Google Search is the gold standard of internet search engines. 

The Google display network reaches 90% of internet users worldwide and includes more than 2 million publishers, including websites such as and, and Google-owned websites such as Gmail, Blogger, YouTube, and more.

What’s the difference between a pixel and a cookie?

Pixels and cookies are similar in that they exist to collect data and track user behavior. The main difference is that pixels operate on a specific website and store data on a server, whereas cookies store data in a browser (such as Chrome or Safari). Both forms of data collection can be used for marketing purposes but operate in slightly different ways.

How can your association benefit from retargeting?

You can use retargeting as a revenue generator by placing the pixel on your site and serving ads to website visitors. These ads could promote an upcoming webinar, conference, or other offering that showcases the benefits of membership. Retargeting can serve as a revenue generator when sponsors purchase ad placements on an impression-based sales model. The YGS sales team can secure the sponsor, collect the ad, and create the pixel for your association to place on your website.

Because the viewer doesn’t know that the ads are coming from your association, sponsored retargeting is a great way to generate revenue without the appearance of endorsing a product or service. 

Are there any downsides?

With any kind of data collection, great care must be taken to protect the privacy of the individual. You’ve likely heard of GDPR or CCPA—both are laws that require companies to disclose the information they collect, their purpose for collecting the data, and with whom they intend to share it.

If you’ve seen popup messages that ask you to accept a site’s use of cookies, that’s just one example of the impact these privacy laws have had.

Additionally, Facebook and Google have strict rules about the kind of keywords and content that can be served in their ads. For example, the promotion of weapons and pharmaceuticals are strictly regulated. 

When dealing in the realm of digital ads, it’s extremely important to stay up to date on the rapidly evolving regulations associated with data collection and privacy protection to ensure compliance with any new laws. Users’ data must be handled with care. If you don’t have the bandwidth to monitor these regulations, it’s best to outsource your digital advertising to a vendor that specializes in digital marketing.

Is retargeting effective?

According to MarketingProfs, the average clickthrough rate of a retargeted ad is 10 times greater than a standard display ad—making retargeting one of the most effective marketing tactics available.

Ready to get started?

The media sales team at YGS is here to help you find the digital marketing solutions that best meet your needs. Effectively promote the offerings of your association, earn more non-dues revenue, and start seeing the return you deserve. Reach out today.

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