Retargeting vs. Remarketing: Which Is Better?

1 February 2023
Reading: 7 min

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 

Who’s the Most Effective of Them All?

Or maybe they are a reflection of each other altogether? Sorry for the fairytale context, but you are also probably wondering about the difference between retargeting and remarketing. These two terms stand for showing the ads to the same audience more than once. They seem identical in name and definition, but is there any difference between them? We’ve done some research to find out which one is more effective and how they are used in affiliate marketing.

Basic understanding

Remarketing is an advertising strategy in which ads are shown to users who are already familiar with the company or product, have already been to your website, and have interacted with the products. This is an interested, warm audience that is more likely to reach the end of your funnel and bring the desired conversions. 

Retargeting is an advertising strategy in which ads are shown to users who are already familiar with the company or product. Wait, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That’s right, remarketing is essentially the same thing — stalking the customer with a repeat demonstration of the product to prompt the target action. However, there are two theories about how retargeting and remarketing are different after all.

First theory. Remarketing and retargeting are identical concepts, but they are used in different advertising platforms. For example, retargeting is used by marketers who work with traffic through Facebook, and Yandex. And remarketing is more associated with contextual advertising on Google.

Second theory. Remarketing is a more general and collective term that includes retargeting. The concept of remarketing is all about customer retention and repeat sales. Retargeting is a subset of remarketing, and its essence is to show ads to customers who have interacted with the product in some way (clicked on a banner, put an item in a cart, filled out a registration form, etc.).

Retargeting vs. Remarketing: Which Is Better?

Remarketing dimensions

If we think of affiliate marketing as a large-scale system of techniques, channels, and mechanisms for driving traffic, then let’s use the broad concept — remarketing. At least in this article. For your professional affiliate journey, you can choose your preferred theory of the retargeting and remarketing distinction to use the most appropriate term. In the end, all colleagues will know what you’re talking about, regardless of the chosen word. 

We all know that in affiliate marketing there is no single formula for success, so you should always test your hypotheses in search of the most profitable marketing campaign. In order to make remarketing as effective as possible, you will have to choose the appropriate type for your strategy. 

By website visitors (Standard)

Available in Yandex, Google Ads, VKontakte, and myTarget.

Ads are shown to users who have performed specific actions on the website. For example, started but did not complete an application form, clicked on a button, viewed a product card or a section of the site, etc.

By client database (CRM)

This option is available in Yandex Direct, Google Ads, VKontakte, and myTarget. A database of leads and clients is used as an audience, usually from a CRM system. The database may contain any type of client data and be in a format supported by the system. 

With customer base retargeting, you can show ads to those who are about to run out of product, if you have the right statistics. For example, if you know roughly how long a 750 ml bottle of shampoo lasts, you can start promoting the product after that period of time.

Retargeting vs. Remarketing: Which Is Better?


Only in Yandex Direct and Google Ads. Ads are shown to the maximum interested audience — customers or website visitors — at a time when they are browsing for products in a search engine and their query is relevant to your inventory.

Let’s say a user comes to the site of a nutritional supplements shop, starts filling out an application, but leaves. In that case, you can set up retargeting for the keyword phrase “lose weight” and add a condition that shows the ads only to those who have contacted your campaign previously. The next time a user searches weight-loss products, they are more likely to see your ad.


Ads are shown in Yandex Direct, Google Ads, VKontakte, and myTarget. This is as personalized as possible: the system will create ads based on user data. Typically, it is the history of previously viewed product cards.

For dynamic retargeting, you must prepare a product feed with data about all the products in the catalogue.

By views of media advertising

Can be run in Yandex Direct, myTarget, and Google Ads (YouTube).

This kind of retargeting shows ads to those who view video ads and display ads on your channel or a specific video. This helps to amplify the media effect and move users to the next stage of the funnel — attracting them to your site.

Retargeting vs. Remarketing: Which Is Better?

Most common mistakes

Of course, if you decide to embark on remarketing, understand the approach, and choose the right kind of it, it does not mean that the conversion rate will definitely increase. Sometimes a tool doesn’t produce the results you expect from it, and here are the most common mistakes affiliates make with remarketing:

  1. Ads with an item are shown to people who have already bought it. For example, if the user browsed the item, but didn’t place an order but picked it up themselves from the shop. For the data to be more accurate, online and offline purchase data need to be combined by integrating the CRM system and end-to-end analytics.
  2. Advertising is intrusive and shows the same product constantly and over a long period of time. This point is not just about retargeting, but about setting up all advertising campaigns in general. In order to control this metric, many advertising offices have a function to limit the frequency of display of ads. To avoid annoying users, it is better to limit your ads to 7–12 times a month, and let them only remind of your products, not impose them aggressively. 
  3. Lack of audience segmentation. You shouldn’t show ads to all website visitors, some of them may remain cold. Segment your audience based on their actual actions on the site, for example, into those who left it quickly and those who took a long time to look at the catalogue and clicked on a few product cards.
  4. Wrong target audience. According to the Trustmary research, 80 % of content marketing is targeted at the wrong target audience. It can be related to the wrong age, incorrect gender, wrong market life cycle, etc. For example, if you advertise luxury cars, some pensioners will simply scroll through the ad, so you will waste an entire run of your display ad on a customer who simply does not need your product. All targeting lapses greatly devalue your contribution to the marketing campaign. No matter how great the ad is, it will turn out to be nothing if it is shown to the wrong consumer. 

Retargeting vs. Remarketing: Which Is Better?

Final thoughts

Whether you use the term retargeting or remarketing, the essence is the same. Using this approach, you can trigger users to perform the necessary target actions by teasing the product once more and touching that pain point. This is a great way to boost your conversions, regardless of the mistakes you may have made (or did not make) during the main ad campaign. Don’t neglect to remarket and convert all users to leads, even if it takes several attempts!

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