Real-Time Bidding (RTB) vs. Retargeting – What’s The Difference?

Advertising Remarketing Tips


Retargeting lets advertisers target users based on previous actions. In most cases, users are targeted after visiting a website, but not converting into a lead or a sale. RTBs and retargeting have become closely linked, with many RTBs allowing advertisers to use retargeting for their campaigns.


What is Retargeting?




Retargeting is a marketing tactic that allows advertisers to track and serve ads to people who have already visited their site. As these users have shown an interest in the advertiser’s product or service, retargeting is often a cost effective way to re-engage the vast majority of visitors who don’t convert on the first visit.

It is estimated that retargeted users are up to 60% more likely to complete an action than other forms of traffic. This makes it a relatively easy way for online advertisers to increase sales and reduce wasted ad spend.


How Does It Work?


Retargeting is based on cookies. When a user visits the advertiser’s site, a cookie is dropped via a small piece of code added to the web page. The user is never identified personally – retargeting is an anonymous technology based on actions.

At a later date, users with this cookie on their system can be targeted with ads. Instead of choosing placements or demographics, retargeting allows advertisers to serve ads directly to users who have shown an interest in their product, wherever they are on the web. describes retargeting as an “essential tactic in a digital marketer’s arsenal.” This is because if a website has a 2% conversion rate (a common industry standard), that means 98% of users are leaving, often never to be seen again.

Some of these users have no interest in the product, but others may have been distracted, were not ready to make a buying decision or wanted to search for other products as comparisons. Retargeting is a relatively inexpensive way to get some of these users back into an advertiser’s sales funnel.

There are several other forms of retargeting aside from site-based. It is possible for advertisers to retarget users who open their emails, search for specific related keywords or who are on a mailing list.


What Does Retargeting Have To Do With RTB?


While retargeting is a digital marketing tactic, RTB is used to serve ads. The benefit to using retargeting with an RTB platform is that users can be targeted on thousands of different placements from a variety of publishers. This provides a high chance of being able to serve a retargeted ad. If an advertiser has placed a retargeting pixel on their website, an RTB can then use this anonymous data to serve ads to users.

While retargeting is an effective way of reaching previous visitors, this is just one option for defining a target audience in an RTB. Aside from retargeting, advertisers using an RTB platform can often target users by placement, demographic and device. Effective ad campaigns often use multiple forms of targeting to find the most profitable market segments.

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