Remarketing Witchcrafts for Non-Profits: the Secret of Following your Website Visitors on the Internet

Have you ever visited a product or service page on a website and then noticed that you were being followed by ads of that very product or service everywhere you go on the web?

The first time it was probably a bit spooky but now you might be aware that this marketing magic simply relies on the cookies in your browser. This is not a Halloween trick but a well-established digital marketing technique.

For marketing people, remarketing campaigns can be extremely effective in re-engaging consumers and prospects. Statistics show that retargeting can boost ad response up to 400% and visitors who are retargeted with display ads are 70% more likely to perform a conversion on a website.

Remarketing is a way to reconnect with visitors of your websites who have not made a donation or performed your desired action and it is generally done by showing them your ads in other websites around the internet.

Why is remarketing important for non-profit organizations?

Many potential donors will research several organizations before making a donation. A user may research about your work; s/he may visit your donation page to investigate donation options and then just leave your website to research organizations like yours.

Cart abandonment rate in the non-profit sector is 82.1%. Non-profits have the second highest abandonment rates of any sector, behind finance.

While researching your competitors’ websites, prospects might still be considering your organization to donate to. Remarketing ads will make sure that your organization is still present among their options. It will remind them of and further promote your organization with customized follow-up messages. It will put you ahead of competitors that are not using it.

“72% of online shoppers are likely to abandon their shopping cart prior to completing a purchase:

  • Without remarketing, only 8% will return to complete the purchase
  • With remarketing, 26% return and complete the checkout process”.[1]

For example you could target users who visited the page about the work you do in a particular country with a message on how their donation could help people in that country; or you could show ads to people who visited your gift shop between July and September with images of your gifts during the period before Christmas.

How does remarketing work?

Remarketing works by placing some code on your website and a cookie on a website visitor’s browser when they visit a certain page of your website. The cookie is usually provided by a digital marketing platform, such as Google or Adroll, that partners with a network of third party websites where your display ads are showed. The platform will provide you with some code to place on the page or pages visited by the users you want to remaket to. When one of these users visits an external website belonging to this network of websites, they see your ads.

There are a number of platforms and channels out there that can be used for remarketing.

For example, Google AdWords Display Ads can be used to show your ads to people who have visited your website. Unfortunately, many non-profit organizations using a Google Grant Account cannot avail of this option, as remarketing is only available in a Google Paid Account.  The Google Display network has a widespread portfolio of over 2 million sites that reach over 90% of Internet users worldwide.

Another platform is Adroll, which offers a variety of products  specifically aimed at remarketing campaigns. Adroll Retargeting also allows you to have separate web and social media campaigns, with different messages.

Other retargeting techniques include uploading lists of email addresses from your database to different platforms: these include Facebook Custom Audiences, Twitter Tailored Audiences, LinkedIn Matched Audiences and Google’s Customer Match. These platforms match your email list with their users’ emails and find your audience where this is available.

What is Ad Fatigue?

Ad fatigue refers to the fact that people who see you ads multiple times may get tired of seeing them, therefore the more they see them the less likely they are to click or engage with them.

However, a survey carried out on online buyers found that “Thirty percent had a positive or very positive reaction to retargeted ads, vs. 11% who felt negatively about them. The greatest percentage, though—59%—had a neutral reaction”[2]

An important metric to keep an eye on is the ad frequency. Ads frequency will show you the average number of times an ad was shown to a unique users. Google for example enables you to set a frequency capping, that is a limit for the number of impressions you will allow an individual user to have per day, per week, or per month.


Ultimately the remarketing witchcraft turns out to be less spooky than what people may think. Where the message is customized and informative, most users will find it useful to help them in their donation decision-making process. In the worst case, they may just ignore it.



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