The PPC Pro’s Ultimate Guide to Facebook Retargeting

This is part of our Retargeting Series which includes walkthroughs of all the major channels as well as tips for making the most of your retargeting audiences and ads.

Back in 2013, Facebook released custom audiences to the public. It allows advertisers to upload lists of current customers to target or exclude and the ability to create audiences based on interactions with your website or app. This tool has quickly become one of the most essential in the digital marketer’s tool belt.

Here is everything you need to know about Facebook’s custom audiences and retargeting capabilities.

Facebook Conversion Pixel

Before starting any campaign setup, you’ll want to make sure you have the Facebook pixel setup and working properly. Here is how to do that.

Head to Measure & Report > Events Manager > Pixels in the Business Manager dropdown menu.

Facebook recently redesigned the Events Manager page, so this may look different to you. You’ll be able to see a quick, visual overview of the event and activity data for each of the accounts you manage. You can even customize the time period if you prefer.

If you haven’t setup your conversion pixel, you’ll see a message like this:

Click “View Setup Instructions“.

I recommend using the first option to use an integration or Tag Manager for the easiest implementation. Back in September, Facebook released a super easy way to integrate with Google Tag Manager. Follow the instructions here to set that up and get on your way to running campaigns.

If you need more help or need to troubleshoot your pixel, you can use the Facebook Pixel Helper.

Creating Custom Conversions

For the quickest campaign and audience setup, I recommend setting up custom conversions at this point. You can setup up to 100 custom conversions per Facebook ad account.

In the top navigation dropdown, select “Custom Conversions” under Events Manager.

Click the “Create Custom Conversion” button.

Setup the rules for URL traffic. You can select URL “contains”, “doesn’t contain”, or “equals”. Enter the URL text for the page(s) you want to track.

You can setup additional rules, but remember this will likely impact the number of conversions that you see.

Name your conversion, select a category and enter a conversion value (if that applies).

Once your custom conversion is setup, you’ll see it displayed in the custom conversion table which shows the name, status, source, and activity over the last 7 days.

Setup all of your custom conversions by following this process.

Setting Up Facebook Audiences

Head to Audiences in the top navigation dropdown.

Click the “Create Audience” button dropdown.

We will work on setting up the 3 different kinds of audiences listed here.

Facebook Custom Audiences

Customer File Upload

Similar to other channels, this option allows you to upload a list of your own customers (or potential customers) for further targeting or exclusions.

The easiest and fail-proof way to do this is to select “Add customers from your own file or copy and paste data.”

When preparing your data for upload, you’ll want to make sure each column is in the correct order. You can download the file template for an example. You’ll want to make sure you save your file as a .csv or .txt.

Upload your file (or copy/paste the data) and name your audience. Click “Next”.

Here you will be able to preview your columns to make sure the column titles pulled through correctly.

You can change the column identifier here or you can select “Do Not Upload” if you’d prefer to leave something out.

Click “Upload & Create”. Your audience will start uploading and processing. It may take a few hours for this to process fully.

You can monitor the process and size of the audience on the main Audience Manager page.

Website Traffic Audience

As long as your Facebook pixel is setup correctly, you’ll see a green light here and be able to finish setup.

Select “Any” to create an audience based on any of your specified actions. If you want to create a more specific and likely smaller audience, select “All”.

The maximum time period you can set for your audiences in 180 days.

You can also select previously setup custom conversions at this point.

Name your audience and save. Like all Facebook audiences, you’ll need to wait for the audience to populate before you’re able to actively target those folks.

App Activity Audiences

When it comes to setting up this audience type, there is a bit needed from your developer to get this setup.

  • First, register your app. You’ll need a Facebook account, a Facebook Developer account and a Facebook page for the app you’re registering.
  • Check out this Facebook for Developers article on setting up ads for app activity.
  • App Events will also need to be setup before you can setup audiences.

If you have a mobile app, this setup is worth it because you’ll be able to target users who recently opened your app, most active users, recently completed a purchase, completed a purchase at a specific value threshold, or achieved a certain level in your game.

Once the backend portions are setup, you’ll be able to create an audience in the same way that you create a website traffic audience or custom file upload.

Offline Events

This is one of the newest audience types. It allows you to track when transactions occur at physical locations and other offline channels after coming in contact with your Facebook ads.

To get started, use the top navigation dropdown and select Events Manager > Offline Events.

First things first: you’ll need to setup an offline event set that is assigned to active ad accounts with auto-tracking enabled. This will allow Facebook to match and attribute offline conversions with Facebook users. You can get started with uploading offline event data by following this guide.

A tip about offline event sets: It’s hard for Facebook to deduplicate conversions from these uploaded files unless it is within a 4 day window. So when utilizing this feature, make sure to upload the data on a consistent basis.

Once setup is complete, you’ll create a custom audience based off of your offline event set in the same way that you setup other retargeting audiences.

Once you set the parameters, time period and add an audience name, your offline event set audience will reside within your Audience Manager.

Engagement Audiences

This is one of my favorite Facebook features: the ability to remarket to folks who have interacted with your Facebook ads.

This ability is now available for video ads, lead forms, Canvas ads, Facebook Pages, Instagram profiles and Facebook events.

Let’s take a look at setting up an audience from folks who have interacted with Lead Form ads.

Similar to other retargeting audiences, you can create an audience based on several different criteria:

You can select if you want to target folks who have opened your lead form, opened but didn’t submit or people who opened and submitted. You’ll need to select the Facebook page, lead forms that you want to pull the audience from, and the time period.

Dynamic Retargeting

You can utilize these ads for ecommerce and for industries like travel. You can choose to retarget folks who have visited your website or mobile app, just like with other types of Facebook retargeting.

This type of remarketing does require a bit more setup before launch.

To get started with dynamic retargeting, you’ll need to make adjustments to your Facebook pixel on product pages, shopping cart pages (or add to cart buttons) and purchase confirmation pages (any of your lower funnel pages).

Below are the events below that you need to add for website retargeting:

For mobile app retargeting, you’ll need to have the events below added for your app:

For more help adding custom events to your app, check out this help article.

You’ll also need a product feed. The way I would recommend getting this setup would be to use a Google data feed.

Once your pixel is adjusted and your product feed is ready, you can setup carousel ads, single image ads or utilize the collection ad type. For more questions, you can follow the Dynamic Ads Implementation Guide for help during the setup process.

Setting Up Remarketing Campaigns

When it comes to putting all of these audiences to use, you’ll want to create a new ad set.

Once that is completed, scroll down to the Audience section.

Select the custom audience that you want to target and exclude any that you want to make sure are left out.

One of the handiest features of Facebook is the ability to see the potential size of your audience.

If you feel that the audience is too broad, you can add additional criteria to narrow targeting a bit more.

Audience Overlap

When it comes to audience sizes, smaller audiences are at risk for ad fatigue. Facebook offers a unique tool, the Facebook audience overlap tool, which allows advertisers to see where audiences may intersect. I’d recommend checking out this detailed how-to guide on the Facebook audience overlap tool from Michelle Morgan.


Facebook is a great way to utilize some of the leading retargeting tools available to marketers. The options are vast and are only getting better. I hope this guide is useful for your next retargeting effort.

What are your favorite Facebook retargeting tips? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in our retargeting series, The PPC Pro’s Ultimate Guide to Retargeting.