The step-by-step Facebook retargeting guide: Get more conversions from your existing traffic

Kyle’s note: Over the last month we have been working on incorporating retargeting into our content strategy. Tony Rulli has shared this great guide on a simple and powerful approach to Facebook retargeting.

Ogilvy on advertising

One of the founding fathers of modern advertising, David Ogilvy, didn’t believe advertising had to be complicated and neither should you. If you stick with me to the end of this article, you’ll be ready to dominate your first successful Facebook ad campaign using the exact process I outline (without the need for any pretentious jargon getting in our way).

Too much time and effort is spent in getting traffic to your site that ultimately leaves before they even convert into email subscribers or customers.

It’s the constant battle of an entrepreneur – always feeling like no matter how much we do, we’re not doing enough. Its definitely something I struggled with in my first business and something I still struggle with now.

I actually discovered Facebook ads when I was trying to grow my first business and I waited too long to set them up because I didn’t feel like I had the time to devote to it.

Facebook ads intrigued me because of how much detail Facebook knew about my target customers.

I could target my ads to a specific group based on almost anything I could imagine: new parents, if people liked specific cooking Facebook pages, the last time they had visited my website, etc. (kind of creepy – but also an amazing opportunity for business owners).

While my original business ultimately didn’t work out, I eventually did learn more about running Facebook ad campaigns and I began helping other entrepreneurs.

Facebook ads can be an incredible tool to build an audience, but where they really shine is when you leverage Facebook ads to dramatically increase the attention you get from your existing audience – this is called retargeting.

Now I try to have everyone I work with quickly leverage Facebook retargeting ads so that they can turn already existing website traffic into more conversions with very little additional work.

What exactly is Facebook retargeting?

Ever checked out a product on Amazon and then seen it on Facebook later?

That’s retargeting.

Facebook knew that you visited Amazon because Amazon placed a small bit of Facebook code on its site. This then let Amazon automatically show you an ad based on the URL you visited.

So even though you didn’t buy the product, Amazon still has a chance to turn you into a customer well after your visit their site.

While Amazon has tens of millions of monthly visitors, this strategy will work for any amount of traffic – even if you only have 100 visitors per month.

Why use Facebook retargeting?

Because you are already working your ass off trying to get as many people to visit your site as possible.

But what happens when they leave and don’t subscribe by email or buy?

They are just GONE.

By using Facebook retargeting ads, you get another chance to turn that visitor into a subscriber and a customer. Plus, because you already attracted them once to your site, you know what they are interested in and can more easily create ads that speak to their needs. This creates more engagement, more likes, higher conversion rates, and more sales.

Your Facebook advertising roadmap – Start here

Despite my revelation at how powerful retargeting can be for entrepreneurs and their businesses, most people I speak to either:

  • Launch a few Facebook campaigns on their own and don’t see success, so they quit
  • Attempt to set up a campaign, but get too confused by Facebook’s ad platform
  • Don’t have time to educate themselves on how to do Facebook ads correctly and never even try

You work so hard to get people to view your website through guest posts, email outreach, social media, and networking, but only a small percentage ever convert to customers or email subscribers on their visit. By using Facebook’s retargeting capabilities, every website owner can see big wins by recapturing the people they initially didn’t convert.

So if you’re ready to dive into it and get your hands dirty, by the end of this step-by-step guide you will be running your first campaign and turning all of those one-time site visitors into lifelong customers.

(Note: I’ve put together a bonus resource at the end of this post that will show you an additional 37 dynamite Facebook ads that you can copy)

Getting technical (even if you’re not a techie)

Setting up Facebook retargeting means you are going to have to handle a little bit of code, but not to worry, you don’t have to be a programmer or have any programming knowledge to set this up yourself.

So what is this code you’re going to have to use?

Facebook calls the code they require you to use “pixels” and there are two types of pixels.

The first is an “audience pixel” that when placed on your website, lets Facebook track visitors from your site back to Facebook so you can advertise to them (the whole point of retargeting).

The second is called a “conversion pixel” and this lets you track when a goal is reached based on someone taking action from your ad (like when someone clicks on an ad then signs up to your email list or buys your product.

The audience pixel

The audience pixel is crucial to any retargeting campaign and the earlier you get it set up, the better. This is because Facebook can only track your visitors when the pixel is on your site, so every day it isn’t live means you will have fewer people to advertise to when your ads go live.

The main thing you need to understand about the audience pixel is that you only get one per ad account. This means even if you have multiple websites, you still only use the one audience pixel. The lesson here is to place the same pixel on every website you would like to advertise on Facebook.

Once the audience pixel is set, you can specify which site you want to advertise for by creating an audience based off of the exact URL you want to use. For example, you can create an audience out of YOURFIRSTWEBSITE.COM visitors and a second out of YOURSECONDWEBSITE.COM visitors.

The audience pixel should be placed between the <head> tags on every page you want tracked (usually this means every page, as you can always get specific later). I promised you that you wouldn’t have to be a programmer to set this up – and you definitely don’t! Here is a simple WordPress plugin called “Header and Footer” that let’s you just paste the code in once and be done with it.

So let’s get started:

  1. Go to your ad manager in Facebook
  2. Click on “audiences” in the left sidebar of your ad manager
  3. Click on the green button at the top of the screen that says “create audience” and select “custom audience” from the dropdown that appears
  4. Select the “website traffic” option and then select the audience to be for “anyone who visits your website”
  5. Name the audience & copy the code
  6. Upload the “Header and Footer” plugin to your wordpress
  7. Paste your “audience pixel” code into the <head> section of the plugin and hit save

That’s it!

Do you want to make more specific audiences than just all traffic to your website? Create another audience by following the steps above (you only have to place the pixel once), but instead of targeting all traffic in step 4, click the dropdown box and choose “people who visit specific web pages” – then paste in the url of the pages you want to target!

If you need more help, follow along with this short tutorial:

The conversion pixel

If you’re advertising for page likes, don’t worry about the conversion pixel. This is used so that Facebook can track off site activity – like someone signing up to your email list.

But if you are using ads to drive people to an email signup page or a sales page, then DEFINITELY use conversion pixels. How your ads perform based on their cost per conversion will be the only real metric you care about.

The conversion is pixel is placed on a specific page on your website and when someone lands on it after seeing or clicking on your ad, Facebook recognizes which ad sent that conversion. It is important to note here that the “conversion pixel” should be placed on the page people are sent to immediately after purchasing. No pixel is needed or should be placed on the page you send people directly to from Facebook.

If you are slightly comfortable with dealing with code, feel free to paste the “conversion pixel” code right in between the <head> tags of the confirmation page. Otherwise, upload the “Facebook Conversion Pixel” plugin into wordpress and then navigate to the post/page edit screen in wordpress and find the box the plugin added where you can paste in your “conversion pixel.”

So how do you create and place your conversion pixel?

  1. Within the ad manager in Facebook, click on “conversion tracking” in the left sidebar
  2. Click on the green button that says “create pixel”
  3. Choose your category of conversion (registration, checkout, lead, etc)
  4. Name your pixel something easily identifiable
  5. Copy the “conversion pixel” code
  6. Paste the conversion pixel on the post/page within wordpress (either manually or by using the plugin) that people will see right after they convert

How do you know everything is working?

Facebook makes it easy by placing a little green dot with the word “verified” next to your pixels when they are up and working. In order for them to register as verified, all you have to do is visit a page where they are placed and then check again in Facebook. As long as someone has visited a page where your pixels are placed within the last 24 hours, they will show as verified when you’re in the pixel section (audience or conversion) of Facebook.

Want to follow along with another short tutorial? Just watch below:

Now that everything is set up, we’re ready to start your first retargeting campaign!

Creating the perfect ad

David Ogilvy quote 1

“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”
― David Ogilvy

You don’t have to be David Ogilvy (legendary ad man and the inspiration for Don Draper) to run successful ads. Even if you have ZERO experience with creating ads, you should have some insight into what exactly speaks to your audience.

You know what websites they might like (and what content on those sites they find appealing), what their fears are, what their biggest problems are, and what some solutions to those problems might be.

How do I know this?

Because we are targeting people who have already been to your website – You obviously did something right the first time to get them to visit!

With this foundation, you have everything you need to start creating ads.

We’re going to focus specifically on newsfeed ads (some people call them “dark posts” because they don’t show up on your actual Facebook page – just other people’s newsfeeds), since they look just like regular Facebook posts and are the simplest place to start.

There are two main parts to each ad – the copy and the ad. Let’s start with the copy.

The copy – You don’t have to be Don Draper

David oglivy 2

When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. – David Ogilvy (CLICK TO TWEET)

Are you more focused on business operations than you are with creative tasks like creating ads? No worries! Being clever is much less important than keeping things simple, intriguing, and to the point.

There are 3 parts to the copy in a newsfeed ad:

  1. The main text that appears above the image
  2. The headline that appears directly below the image and in larger font
  3. The tagline that appears under the headline in smaller font

For the main text portion, try starting with a question that eliminates anybody who wouldn’t convert anyways. This way you eliminate as many clicks that don’t convert as possible (since you will possibly be paying for every click).


  • “Are you always trying to figure out ways to spend less on airfare?”
  • “Do you struggle with email overload and get stressed by all of your unread emails?”
  • “Do you always hear about how effective Facebook ads are but are intimidated to try them yourself?”

The common thread with all of these examples is that if anyone answers the question with a no, they immediately move on and don’t click your ad. This reduces unnecessary traffic and makes everyone who does click much more targeted.

Additionally, try testing different lengths of messaging in your ads. Have some be short and to the point (with just one pain point or benefit mentioned). Try others that are much longer and maybe even use bullet points to articulate more benefits. You won’t be sure what your audience reacts to until you try both.

For the headline, make the benefit people will receive if they click on your link dead simple. Are you looking to collect email signups and are offering an awesome free guide? Spell it out with the headline so it’s impossible to ignore.

The tagline portion is less critical than the main text or the headline, but try diving into a little more detail about what people are getting and tease them with some additional info. This way they feel compelled to at least click the link to learn more about the offer.

If you’re looking for even more knowledge, here are some articles that really dive into the nitty gritty of copywriting for Facebook ads:

Creating awesome ad images – even if you failed to draw inside the lines in Kindergarten

I definitely never won any art awards in elementary school (drawing inside the lines was hard enough) and my art appreciation rarely goes further than saying, “hmmm, that’s nice…”

But you don’t have to be artsy and awesome at design to create ad images that generate a ton of conversions.

While being a great designer can help, if you focus on creating images that stand out, you will still be way ahead of the game. Instead of trying to create an image from scratch using lots of graphics, use an interesting photo of yourself in action with bold text overlaid. Or even just an interesting image of your product where it looks enticing will go a long way towards grabbing your audiences attention.


Just be sure when using text on your images that you follow Facebook’s guidelines of not having more than 20% of the image contain text. You can use Facebook’s free grid tool to see how your ad measures.

Not a wiz at photoshop? Don’t fret. There are lots of great free options and these are three of my favorite:

Starting the campaign (ready, fire, aim)

The only way to learn Facebook ads effectively is to just try it. So start small, watch what is working, and double down on the winners.

Ready to start?

In the left hand sidebar of your ad manager, you might have noticed something called the “power editor.” Now, you don’t HAVE to use it to create your campaign, but I highly encourage it.

The power editor is a little tricky, but once you have it figured out, it lets you add more text to your ads and easily duplicate ads so you can test a bunch of variations at once. Learn more about the power editor and it’s benefits here.

The mechanics of creating a campaign are a little different in the ad manager vs the power editor, but the same strategies work for both.

So not matter what you decide to use, let’s dive in to how to set up your retargeting campaign.

The basic structure

There are three parts to every campaign:

1) The campaign

You will only have one campaign for your first retargeting attempt. Campaign’s are based off of objective – and your objective in retargeting will most likely be conversions (either email signups or direct sales). For our purposes, we will focus on sales, but the mechanics will be the same for either.

2) The ad sets

You might have multiple ad sets, as ad sets are where you set your audience and your bidding. If you want to target more than one audience, you should create an ad set for each.

We will just focus on targeting all website traffic, but you can also try targeting people who have been to your checkout page, but haven’t bought anything.

If this is your first retargeting campaign, choose to only show your ads on the desktop newsfeed. You choose this at the ad set level as well.

Once you see some success on the desktop newsfeed, then expand to mobile and sidebar ads. You will have to tweak your copy and ad images for each different display platform, so it is best to start with one and expand from there if you are stretched on time.

(Helpful note: For the bidding, unless you have an audience of over a few hundred thousand visitors per month, you should bid for clicks. This mean you will pay each time someone clicks on your ad, even if they are just clicking the like button and don’t actually visit your page. You will also want to choose your own bid price and have it be above the maximum Facebook suggests.

You won’t pay this amount as Facebook only charges you the amount it would have taken to win the placement – but you bid more to ensure your initial ads get seen. Once they start to perform well and at a cheaper level than your starting bid, you can lower your maximum and decrease costs further.)

3) The ads

Start with 2 versions of the main text and 2 images. Then create 4 ads by swapping which images get which text and you have a simple A/B test to start your campaign.

Facebook does not currently let you automatically run A/B tests on your ads, as they spend more of your daily budget on the ads that are converting better. However, they do this very early so you are best off to let your ads run long enough to get a decent sample size before you make any decisions. My recommendation is at least 500 impressions, but even better if you can wait until 1,000 impressions before pausing the underperforming ads.

One final note about your ads – Double down on your winners

David Ogilvy 3

“Concentrate your time, your brains, and your advertising money on your successes. Back your winners, and abandon your losers.” ― David Ogilvy (CLICK TO TWEET)

Once you see an ad that is not only having a decent click through rate, but also converting, you can create different versions of it and test them all again to improve upon the best result. Keep repeating this process and your ads will gradually improve over time.

Basic metrics (the scores to beat)

David Ogilvy 4

If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” -David Ogilvy (CLICK TO TWEET)

First, let me say the obligatory, “everything depends on your industry and there are no exact benchmarks to follow.”

However, I hate when reading articles like this myself and not coming away with even general targets, so let me do my best to set some goals for you so you can quickly know if a campaign is working.

The scores to beat:

  • CTR for desktop newsfeed = 1%
  • CTR for mobile = 2%
  • CTR for sidebar = 0.1-0.2 %
  • Cost per email signup: $1-$3 (although if you have done the math on how well your email sales funnel converts, you should know exactly what an email subscriber is worth to you)
  • Cost per sale: Start by aiming for a 2X ROI. This means if you make a profit of $30 on the sale of your product, you should be looking to spend no more than $15 in getting the sale. Ultimately you want a 3X ROI or better.

Resources to learn even more about how to measure the success of your ads:

Next steps – Follow the roadmap

But now you know why you should start with retargeting and exactly how to create your first successful Facebook ad campaign:

  1. You already attracted these people to your site once, so you know what language and images might attract them again
  2. They are much more likely to click on your ads and to buy from you (since they already know your brand) compared to new traffic
  3. A retargeting campaign is the perfect addition to your current organic traffic initiatives as it enhances the work you are already putting in

So are you ready to get started?

For easy access and to recap, below is a checklist of the exact steps you need to take in order to get everything running. Use this checklist when creating your campaign and start turning those visitors that leave your site after one visit into long term customers.

The Facebook retargeting checklist

  1. Place your audience and conversion pixels on your website / pages
  2. Create your campaign based on your conversion objective
  3. Create an ad set based on your site visitors that have not yet converted (exclude existing email lists)
  4. Create your ads
    1. Create two different versions of your copy
    2. Create two different images
    3. Combine copy+images for 4 total ads
  5. Spend $5 per day – If you start seeing success, you can increase your spending later
  6. Optimize for CTR to start (then move to cheapest conversions when you have more data)– aiming for better than the minimum CTR
  7. FB will run the better performing ads more, but they decide early so try to let each ad get to at least 500 impressions before making your decision
  8. Take the best performing ad and create 2-3 new variations of it – rinse, repeat, convert

Want to win free Facebook ad coaching? Comment contest time… (Contest Closed)

The prize: Win one hour of free Facebook ad coaching ($200) to either get you started or to help improve any campaign you are currently running.

cat-mopWhat you need to do: Create the main body text and a headline for a Facebook ad promoting the revolutionary new “cat mop.” It’s the environmentally friendly next generation competitor to the roomba powered by your favorite feline friend.

The best ad copy will be chosen based on what we think would get the most number of people (who might actually buy it) to click on the ad. Take the lessons learned from this article and don’t be afraid to have some fun… let’s get to it!

Comments must comply with the current Facebook design recommendations.

  • Headline: 25 characters
  • Text: 90 characters


Each week we send 1 email to 20,000 smart entrepreneurs just like you. Enter your email below to join the crew.

We will not share your email. 100% privacy


As a special thank you to WPCurve readers, I have also put together a few special bonuses, including a download of the 37 Facebook ads I use as templates when creating my own ad campaigns - get your bonuses here. My goal at is to help business owners by making complex business topics overwhelmingly easy to understand and to implement. I also work directly with clients to improve theirs sales funnel so that they can extract more value from their existing traffic.

WordPress problems?

Our WordPress experts have you covered.

Hyper-responsive 24/7/365 WordPress support, maintenance and small fixes.