Knowledge Share: Retargeting, Lookalikes and List Audiences

Knowledge Share: Retargeting, Lookalikes and List Audiences

In digital advertising we have several methods we can implement using lists or websites with user data in order to serve advertisements more effectively. Three of the methods I will explore are retargeting, lookalike audiences, and list targeting.


Retargeting is the method of showing advertisements to a user after they have taken a specific action. These actions can include visiting a specific page on a website, filling out a request for information (RFI), or enrolling at an institution.

We can use retargeting to generate awareness of the brand through many of the popular digital advertising platforms including Google Ads, Facebook & Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. In addition to generating awareness, we can exercise tactics to drive users to a specific action such as completing an RFI, attending an event, or enrollment. These retargeting advertisements follow the user around the internet to keep your brand top-of-mind and help drive conversions through a longer customer journey which is lost when only implementing standard advertisements.

By being strategic about your remarketing efforts, you can tailor your message to complement where the user is in the marketing funnel. Let’s say you have prospective students or customers going to an RFI page and you want to keep serving ads to those that leave without converting. In this case we can tailor the message in our ads to drive them to “Learn More” and send them back to that RFI page when they click. Similarly, when your prospective student is further down the funnel, “Apply Now” messaging can be more appropriate. Accordingly, sending the user to the application page for an institution makes more sense here.

List Targeting

List targeting is essentially retargeting but using a list of customers or users instead of entering a URL to retarget from. List targeting can be useful in many ways. One example could be a list of prospective students that “melted” or stopped responding to emails or did not enroll and specifically targeting them. Another example could be targeting specific users that attended a conference or event.

Lookalike Audiences

A lookalike audience is when you take a list of users or customers that have taken a specific action (completed an RFI, enrolled, etc.) and upload them into a platform which then matches that audience to the population using an algorithm or machine learning. A list is then created that is most similar to your list based on demographic information available to that platform. We often see lookalike audiences perform very well in terms of leads and Cost Per Lead (CPL) and generally recommend their implementation as a best practice in digital advertising. In summary, you can reach new users who are likely interested in your product or service based on the characteristics of individuals who had actually converted.

All of these methods have their place within modern digital advertising and generally we find the best results when utilizing all three methods. By taking the time to implement these we can expand our reach to prospective students and serve our advertisements throughout the entire customer journey.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about these methods, feel free to contact me at or any of our marketing or business development staff.

Patrick Hagan
Patrick Hagan
May 24, 2019