How to Hook Travel Customers with Retargeting Ads

Here at BKMedia Group, one of our specialties is digital marketing for the travel industry

We’ve developed travel and booking oriented websites and custom apps for clients such as Natural Selection and Off the Beaten Path. And we create engaging persona-driven content distributed through blogs and email campaigns to increase leads and boost conversions.


One of the digital marketing tools we use to help clients reach their ideal customer is the retargeting ad

What are Retargeting Ads and How Do They Work?

A retargeting ad is a type of online advertisement that is served to users who have previously visited your website. Since only about 2% of first-time website visitors tend to make a purchase, retargeting allows you to continue marketing to the other 98% who have yet to convert into a customer.

So how does retargeting work? Say a user named John goes to your company’s website for the first time and checks out all the great travel deals, then thinks to himself, “This company is cool, maybe I’ll book a trip at some point.” 

And then John goes to lunch, and forgets all about booking a trip with you. But with retargeting, your website doesn’t forget about John. 

When John visited your site, a little piece of retargeting code was attached to his browser. In digital marketing lingo, this code is called a pixel.

That pixel allows different advertising platforms like Facebook or Google to serve a specific ad to users whose browser contains said pixel.

Now, when John gets back from lunch and opens Facebook for a little post-lunch digestive newsfeed scrolling, he’ll see an ad promoting the exact deal he was looking at an hour earlier. Now John sees your ad and says, “Oh yeah!” and clicks on it, pushing him further down the buyer funnel and re-familiarizing himself with your brand.

Although you realistically wouldn’t be retargeting John only an hour later, the same idea works whether it’s the next hour or the next month.

In fact, most travelers spend close to two months researching options for their next trip before coming to a decision. This gives you a lot of time to create and present a focused retargeting campaign to bring customers like John into the fold.

When done correctly, retargeting can produce great results — in the case of one of our clients, our retargeting campaign generated a 312% ROAS (Return on Ad Spend).

Conversely, poorly executed retargeting won’t get you far. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you hook travel customers with retargeting ads. From defining the goal and audience of your ad campaign to nailing the content and ad timing, here are the 4 steps to a successful retargeting campaign.

1. Define Your Campaign Goal

Before you can create a retargeting ad, you need to establish your goals. A good question to ask is whether your brand is interested in awareness or conversion. 

Awareness retargeting is more general — you might use it to inform existing customers and users who’ve visited your site of a new trip, exciting brand announcements, or a holiday sale. This is often the type of retargeting you’re doing if you’re engaging with an audience at the top of the sales funnel.

Conversion retargeting aims to turn specific users into customers by serving them ads that speak more specifically to the interest they’ve shown through the behavior they exhibited while on your website. Conversion retargeting ads are an example of how to close a deal with a user at the bottom of the sales funnel.

An example of a conversion ad might be showing a specific trip to someone who spent a couple of minutes reading about it on your site, and offering an incentive to book their trip now, like a limited time discount.

2. Define Your Audience

Now that you’ve determined your campaign goal, you need to define your audience. There are a few different ways you can approach audience definition for retargeting:


Your website can track various aspects of each visitor’s behavior during a visit. 

One obvious way to narrow your audience down is to get rid of anyone who only spent a few seconds on your site. They probably aren’t too interested in what you’re offering (and may not even remember your brand at all), so there’s no reason to waste your ad spend on them.

Next, you can define your audience by their specific interests. If a certain segment of your site’s visitors spent most of their time on your site looking at a specific type of trip, then you should define them as an audience group to which you’ll serve retargeting ads featuring said trip.


On Facebook, you can use their dynamic retargeting ads to find people based on their travel intentions — even if they never visited your specific site, Facebook page, or used your app.

Imagine if John from earlier was looking at a similar type of trip on a competitor’s site instead of yours. For example, say John was looking at flight deals to Bali, and your company also offers bookings at a resort in Bali. 

You’ll want to let John know about how great your Bali resort is compared to your competitors. With Facebook dynamic ads, you can define an audience based on their intent, and serve them ads that meet their interest.

Search Engine Queries

Google and other search platforms with options for advertising allow you to define your audience by specific search queries they’ve made in the past. 

This is generally considered Search Engine Marketing (more on this later), but if you define such an audience to be people who specifically searched for your brand or products, then this approach would fall into the purview of retargeting.

Email Lists

You can use retargeting by uploading an existing email list to a platform like Facebook, which will then use its database to identify matching profiles and serve your ads to them.

Maybe you have emails of existing customers from past sales, or perhaps it’s of people who’ve given you their address in exchange for a free eBook or similar offer.

Utilizing an email list in this way is known as list-based retargeting. This approach can be helpful as you may have people on your email list who have never even visited your site. 

Additionally, the fact they signed up for your email list says something different about their behavior and corresponding interest, which will affect creative decisions in producing the ad they will see.

3. Create Your Retargeting Ad

With your audience defined, you can create your ad. An ad will typically be a combination of copy and images or a travel marketing video

The more specific your ad content caters to the audience you’ve defined, the more likely it’ll be successful in reaching your campaign goal. A few options for retargeting ad content include:

Copy to Address User Concerns

  • If someone spent 5 minutes looking at a specific trip deal on your site but then didn’t book it, it’s helpful to imagine why they didn’t book it. What objections do they have to your product or destination? 
  • Maybe they think they can find a better price. Use your ad copy to remind them that you offer the best prices out there. 
  • Or maybe they’re worried that their destination will be overrun with tourists. Your copy could let them know that October is the perfect time to visit for small crowds.

Pro-tip: Persona development is critical to understanding the sales objections of your audience. Learn more about our persona development services »

Limited-Time Offers

  • Offering a discount for a limited time only can be a great way to get conversions in a retargeting campaign.
  • The user has already expressed interest in your product — a 20% off coupon that expires at midnight might be just what’s needed to push them over the edge into becoming a first-time customer.

Complementary Products

  • This is a good fit for existing customers — someone who booked a cruise through your site is likely to be interested in an on-shore excursion, too.
  • Complementary products can also be good content for an intent-based audience.
  • Someone who’s been looking at hotels in Paris might also want to know about the tours of the city you offer.  

Shopping Cart Reminder:

  • Abandoned shopping carts are a real problem in eCommerce. Your retargeting ad can literally remind a cart abandoner that the trip of their dreams is waiting for them.
  • The exact format of your content depends on the platform you’re publishing it on. You can create retargeting ads on Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, and more. 
  • Make sure your content will show up the way you want it to by reviewing each platform’s standards for photo and video size and character limits.

4. Determine Retargeting Ad Timing

Another aspect of your retargeting ad is timing. How often do you want your ad to appear, and how long should you wait before presenting a retargeting ad to someone who visited your site?

Showing an ad to someone right after they visited your site might annoy them and/or creep them out. They’ll see a pretty obvious link between their visit and your ad, which can turn people off.

Google and Facebook use the default of a 30-day waiting period before serving retargeting ads. If a past visitor to your site hasn’t returned in that time period, then the platforms start serving your retargeting ads to remind them.

Of course, you can set this time to whatever you like, so shorter or longer might be right based on the goals of your campaign and the specific audience and ad content you’re working with.

Another thing to consider is frequency — showing the same retargeting ad over and over again to the same person on the same platform will likely leave a bad taste in their mouth. Besides, if it didn’t work the first couple times you showed it to them, it probably isn’t going to work.

You can set frequency limits to ensure that a past visitor will see retargeting ads on different platforms without being inundated with the same message on a never-ending loop.

Finally, you can set an end time to your retargeting campaign for each user to limit the overall period of time during which they see your ads.

Need a hand with the nitty gritty of setting up retargeting campaigns? Let the experts at BKMedia Group help. Learn more about the scope of our digital marketing services »

Go Beyond Retargeting with SEM

Successful digital marketing relies on a multi-pronged approach. It may take several engagements to make a conversion. So you can’t just focus on retargeting. You also need to be making use of SEO, content and email marketing, paid ads, and search engine marketing.

Search engine marketing (SEM) can serve as a powerful complement to retargeting campaigns. When someone searches for a trip or destination in any way related to your offerings, they’re a good potential candidate for your SEM audience.

Learn more about how SEM can help you reach your digital marketing goals »

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