Retargeting? Remarketing? What’s The Difference?

Performance based display advertising has caught everyone’s attention over the last couple of years and continues to grow like wild fire. But like most things in the digital space, there are too many terms to keep track of resulting in confusion. Often one of the biggest sources of confusion is the difference between retargeting and remarketing. The two terms are often used to refer to using cookies to serve ads to users who have already expressed interest in your product, service, or brand in various ways. So is there really a difference between the two terms?

Short answer…there is no difference between these two terms. Retargeting refers to the overall cookie based method of following a user with your ad. Remarketing is simply Google’s version within AdWords. While we’re at it, let’s discuss the different flavors of retargeting.



Retargeting is the general term that refers to online search and display ads that target users based on cookies. I often refer to this medium as ad stalking. Advertisers cookie users based on a visit or action and then serve ads to them as they browse the internet via display placements or search via paid search ads.


Remarketing has historically been a general term that refers to collecting user information and using it to market or remarket to them later. This has most often been done using direct mail or email. Google has borrowed this term for their version of retargeting campaigns that are run directly inside the AdWords platform.

Site Retargeting

Site retargeting is the most common retargeting method. It involves setting java script on your site that fires a cookie or tag in each user’s browser that allows you to advertise to them later as they continue to browse other sites. Retargeting code can be set to cookie all users who visit your website or visitors that only visit a certain page of your website.

Search Retargeting

Search retargeting refers to serving ads to users who have searched for your product, service, brand, or relevant keywords on search engines like Bing and Google. This type of retargeting doesn’t always mean getting back in front of users who have already been to your site, but getting back in front of users who may have completed a search that indicates your offering is relevant to them based on search history.

Dynamic Retargeting

Dynamic retargeting is site retargeting that uses dynamic technology to serve up products and ad copy based on behavioral information, a detailed customer profile, or content from your website that the user may be interested in purchasing.

Product Retargeting

Product retargeting means you are retargeting a customer who has viewed a specific product on your website. This is a granular type of site retargeting that serves up the product they showed interest in but did not purchase or a similar item to what they’ve already purchased in ad copy on other sites.

No matter what retargeting flavor you choose, cookie based marketing is here to stay and getting quite advanced in its implementation. Retargeting technology continues to advance and everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon.

If you’ve tried retargeting, we’d love to hear which flavor you’ve chosen. Let us know in the comments what has worked for you. If you’re still confused, reach out! I’m sure we can help clear things up!