Andrew McEwan: why firms need a website that works

In an ideal world people who are interested in your product or service would arrive at your website, have a mooch around, be suitably dazzled by your offerings and make their purchase or fill out that enquiry form.

While we’re at it, I’d look to like George Clooney and win £197m on a Euromillions quadruple rollover. Unfortunately, living in the real world, it tends not to work out that way. For those viewing your site life can get in the way: the dog needs walked, dinner needs made, kids need put to bed, etc., and before you know it they’ve forgotten about you.

Have you ever wondered how, as you browse websites, going from site to site and perhaps catching upon Facebook, you start to see ads for sites and products that you’ve previously looked at?

Welcome to the wonderful world of retargeting, or remarketing as it’s also known. Retargeting is a form of online advertising that allows you to get your business back in front of people who have previously visited your website.

How does it work? When someone visits your website, a small, uobtrusive piece of tracking code called a cookie can be left on their browser. There’s nothing ‘Big Brother-ish’ about this – it’s completely anonymous. When your visitor leaves your website this cookie can then be used to notify various advertising platforms to show specific ads which are based on the pages that they have visited. The ads shown can be broad, emphasising your brand, inviting the user back to your website to take another look.

Another form of retargeting which is effective on social media is when you have a database of contacts. You can upload your list of contacts to Facebook and they will cross-reference it with email addresses registered with them. This can be used to create a ‘custom audience’ of people to whom ads can be exclusively shown. Facebook users’ privacy is protected because you will only know the number of people who are in this audience, not their identities.

Any retargeting campaign should have an ultimate goal in mind and, as you’re paying for your ads to be shown, you’ll not want them displayed to people who have already ‘converted’ (completed your goal). Why pay for your ad to be seen by people who have already done what you wanted them to do?

If you believe that retargeting is the reserve of big players with large advertising budgets, think again. Done correctly and with careful planning, retargeting can be very cost-effective and produce excellent results. In the meantime, George Clooney has nothing to worry about and I’ll have to keep dreaming about scooping that jackpot.

•Andrew McEwan of And We Do This in Morebattle ( helps businesses in the Borders and beyond with their online presence and digital marketing.