A Step-By-Step Guide for Your Facebook Retargeting Ads

By Alex Gaggioli, August 18, 2016


Online advertising is one of the best ways to market your property online and retargeting ads are one of the industry’s favorite methods. If you’re reading this blog post, it’s likely that you’re familiar with retargeting ads. Retargeting is the process of displaying ads to someone who has visited your website recently. The purpose is to convince someone to go back and purchase something if they abandoned their shopping or booking process. Traditionally, people have created retargeting ads using Google’s AdWords, or other similar platforms. But now, it’s possible to retarget people on Facebook, and your property should take advantage of the opportunity.

What are Facebook Retargeting Ads?

Facebook’s ad platform has become one of the most lucrative advertising platforms in the past few years. With billions of users spending hours of their time every day scrolling through their newsfeeds, it’s easy to build a case as to why you should advertise on Facebook. There are many ways to advertise on Facebook, which we’ve talked about in a previous post, but here, we want to talk about retargeting ads in particular.

Facebook’s retargeting ads appear on their website a few different places: in the desktop news feed, on the mobile news feed, on Instagram, and through their audience network. Facebook gives you the ability to retarget ads in several different places where people spend a lot of their time.

Retargeting works especially well because the person you’re advertising to is already familiar with your business. After you install a Facebook pixel on your website, Facebook creates what is called an Audience. This audience is a group of users that you can then target ads against. You are unable to see any one particular person’s name or other personal information, but you can determine how large the audience is and their basic demographics such as age, gender, etc.

Why You Should Run Retargeting Ads

The purpose of retargeting ads is to recapture a potential customer’s attention. Because you had the same person’s attention already, their familiarity helps you push more sales. Studies show that guests are more likely to book if they have been to your website before, so a retargeting audience is one of the best online audiences you can market to. There are many reasons people abandon the booking process, even if they have every intention to book with you. In most cases, people get distracted or simply forget to complete the booking process.

It’s also common for people to abandon the booking process if they are still considering other travel options. In this case, it is most beneficial to run retargeting ads because you want to remind people why they were looking at your property in the first place. Long story short, you want to run retargeting ads to recapture people’s attention.

How to Run Retargeting Ads

Install Your Facebook Pixel

In order to create a Facebook retargeting ad, you first need to set up the Facebook pixel that allows you to track your website’s visitors. It’s similar to the Google Analytics pixel that you likely have installed on your website. Facebook has a great guide on how to set up your pixel with videos to guide you through the process. You can view that guide here, or send it to your web developer and have them set it up for you.

Wait for Your Facebook Audience

In order to run Facebook retargeting ads, you’ll need to create an audience based on your Facebook pixel. This is a fairly easy task and you’ll only have to do it once. Navigate to your Facebook ads manager, which you can access on the right-hand side of the regular news feed.

FB ads manager screen shot

Then click on the menu in the top left corner and select Pixels underneath Assets.

Assests < Pixels

On this screen, you’ll see the top navigation, a graph that shows activity, and some other information like where the Facebook pixel is picking up visitors. To create an audience, click Create Audience in the top navigation.

Facebook Pixel Create Audience

It will then ask you how many days you want the audience to include. I suggest anywhere from 30-90 days depending on how far in advance your guests book their travel. Come up with an audience name and then click Create Audience in the bottom right-hand side.

Facebook audience builder

After that, the audience will be saved and you’ll be able to select it when the time comes in the next few steps.

Note: You will need to wait a few days or even weeks after you install the Facebook pixel for it to gather a large enough audience for you to advertise against. Depending on how much traffic you get, it may take one day or could take two weeks.

Create Your Ad

After you’ve installed your pixel, you’re ready to create your retargeting ad. Through your ads manager tab or power editor, click ”Create Ad”. The easiest way to get there is to click the Ads Manager button on the left-hand column towards where your name is.

Create Ad FB Button

After you enter your Ads Manager, you’ll see all of your campaigns. In the top right-hand corner, you will see a green “Create Ad” button. You’ll see a screen that asks what your marketing objective is. You will see columns for “Awareness”, “Consideration”, and “Conversion”. Under “Conversion”, choose “increase conversions on your website.” You will then be given the opportunity to name your campaign.

Increase Conversions on website

Choose Your Conversion

Based on how you set up your pixels, you can choose a conversion event on the top conversion section. A conversion refers to the completion of any event that you measure. So, for your property, that will likely refer to a booked room. But, it could also mean something like a blog subscription or email subscription.

In the example image below, we’ve chosen “Blog Subscription” as our conversion event. Facebook will indicate whether or not the pixel is active with a green (active) or red (not active) dot next to the name. If it’s not active, go to the “Pixels” tab under “Assets” using the menu on the top-left hand side to determine what’s wrong.

Blog Subscription FB AdChoose Your Audience

Next, you’ll be able to choose your audience. Because this is a retargeting ad, this step is fairly straightforward. Under custom audiences, choose the audience that corresponds to your website traffic. 

FB Audience Widget

When you select your audience, there is an “Audience Definition” widget on the right side. The widget indicates whether or not your audience is too broad or too specific – either of which will negatively impact your ads.

Facebook ad audience indicator

Depending on your personal preferences and what language you will create your ads in, you can select “Locations”, “Age”, “Gender”, and “Languages”. If your campaign is meant to attract any type of person who visits your website, then it’s okay to leave these demographics broad. But, it’s dependent upon the type of guests you want to attract. If you run a women-only hostel, then you should select only women.

As for detail targeting, I suggest leaving these blank for retargeting campaigns. At the beginning, you’ll want to start your campaigns very broad and then determine, based on analytics, what works best for you. Detailed targeting allows you to target people based on demographics, interests, behaviors, and more.

Choose Your Placements

As mentioned above, Facebook’s ad platform allows you to display your ads in several different places. The default option for this category is “Automatic Placements” because it is their recommended method. However, I think it’s worth exploring campaigns built specifically for certain platforms.

Facebook ad audience indicator

For your first campaign, I would allow Facebook to deliver ads to their entire network, including the Facebook feeds, Instagram, and their audience network. After you’ve run your first campaign, you’ll be able to see which channels were most successful for your campaign.

Under “Advanced Options”, you can select things such as specific mobile devices and operating systems, exclude categories, and apply block lists. These options are not necessary for the majority of campaigns, so I suggest leaving them alone for now.

Select Your Budget & Schedule

There are two ways to create a budget. You can create a daily budget that allocates a certain amount per day, or choose a lifetime campaign budget that allocates a total dollar amount which Facebook will divvy up. If you choose daily budget you have the option to run your ad continuously or select a start and end date. Facebook ad campaigns are not very expensive and you have the opportunity to see results at any budget. I suggest starting at $20/day and seeing where that gets you. The great thing about Facebook ads is that you can set a budget, but they won’t spend it unless you’re seeing results.

FB Budget Widget

Under “Optimization for Ad Delivery”, I also suggest leaving the default options. “Conversion Window” refers to how long it takes someone to complete whatever conversion you have set up. Bid amounts should be kept automatic so Facebook can decide what’s best for your campaign. When you get charged, ad scheduling and delivery type can be left to their original settings.

After you’ve completed all of the above steps, you should name your ad set and click the blue continue button in the bottom right-hand side.

Blue fb ad continue button

Creating Your Ad

Now it’s time to select the creative for your ad. For your first campaign, I suggest choosing a single image for your ad. You have the option to show a video or multiple images in one ad. But, in order to keep it simple, one image or video is the way to go.

Facebook ad creative

For media, I strongly encourage you to use an image or video of your property. A good second option would be to use a good image of your location, like a cityscape, beach, local attraction, etc. The image size needs to be 1200 x 628 pixels in order to fit properly, and they suggest minimizing overlaid text. If you need a tool to help you create ads, I recommend Canva. They have templates for just about everything you would need, including Facebook ads.

facebook ad creative 2

Once you’ve chosen the picture, scroll down to write the text that will appear on your ad. On the left side you will write the ad copy, and on the right side, you will see a preview section. First, you want to insert the website URL where you want guests to land, either on your homepage or on the booking page.

After you enter a URL, Facebook will auto-complete text for the “Headline”, “Text Box”, and “Link Description”. I suggest you write custom content for each of these sections.


The “headline” is the text directly below the image. Here, you should write the name of your property and a tagline if it will fit. You don’t have much room and it will only appear on the Facebook desktop and mobile news feeds. It will not appear on your Instagram ads. In our example we used “Cloudbeds – San Diego’s Favorite Hotel.”

The “text” appears everywhere the ad will be displayed and is this most prominent. Here you should include some sort of advertising message along with a call-to-action. Our example says “72° and sunny is the perfect combination for any vacation. Book your stay at one of San Diego’s premier hotels.”

Choose your “Call To Action” using their options in the drop down menu. I suggest book now or learn more for these types of ads.

The “News Feed Link Description” appears underneath the headline you wrote. Include another tagline that will convince people to stay at your property. For our example, we wrote “Luxury rooms at an affordable price.” Note that it will only appear on the desktop news feed.

You can change the “display link” if you would like, so that it’s easier for the person seeing the ad to remember if they don’t click on it.

After you’ve filled out all of these fields, preview each of the ads on the right-hand side and make sure they appear correctly. Some of the ads will chop off words if there are too many characters, like when displayed in the Facebook right column. If the ad doesn’t appear correctly, then consider changing the text. Below is the example of our ad with the correct ad text. 

Facebook complete ad

Review Your Order

After you complete all the steps above, click “Review Order” at the bottom of your screen, which you see to the left of the green “Place Order” button. Make sure that all of the details you’ve been working on are correct, and that you’re ready to send the ad to Facebook for review. When you’re ready, click the green “Place Order” button at the bottom. Facebook will alert you once your ad is approved.

Congratulations! You’ve just created your first Facebook retargeting ad.


Download the Facebook Ads app from the App Store or Google Play and log in with your account. It’s an easy easy way to check the performance of each ad. It will also alert you at the end of each day how much you spent to make sure you don’t go overboard.

Measuring Your Results

Facebook has a great ads management system where you can see your ad’s performance. You can see the dashboard by clicking on the “Ads Manager” button on the right-hand side of the “News Feed” that you used before to create the ad. I will address how to analyze a Facebook ad campaign in a separate post. In the meantime, I suggest poking around to explore the results of your campaign–specifically, how many conversions you received.


Facebook has a large knowledge base filled with information about ads that you can access here.  


As you can see, it takes a bit of time and effort to set up a Facebook ad retargeting campaign. But once you get started and get your hands on the tool, you’ll see that it isn’t complicated and Facebook will guide you along the way. Retargeting ads are a part of many travel companies’ advertising and social media strategies, so starting now will help keep you in line with the competition.

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