Google Remarketing for Startups


About Remarketing
What is remarketing?
Benefits of Remarketing
Who offers remarketing?
Remarketing vs. Retargeting: What’s the difference?
How does Remarketing work?

Remarketing with Google AdWords
Implement the remarketing code
Building Remarketing Lists
– List Sizes
– Remarketing website visitors
– Remarketing customer emails
– Building Remarketing lists in Google Analytics
Serving ads to your Remarketing lists
– Creating a Campaign using RLSAs
– Target and bid vs. Bid only

About Remarketing

What is remarketing?

What is Remarketing? Remarketing is a marketing technique that allows you to specifically show ads to people who have visited your website in the past. When they leave your website, remarketing allows you to show ads to those people around the internet.

Here’s an example of a Display Remarketing Ad:

Ask you can see, I have searched for a new watch on Amazon before, and now Imgur is showing me ads for watches. Ideally, at some point I will click on one of those ads and will buy a watch.

There is another type of Remarketing, and that’s when you’re doing a Google search:

Here, I have been on before, and when I search for “buy flowers online”, I get the ad for in my search results.

“Wait a minute! Those are just normal ads! What’s the difference?”

Yep, I can hear you. Indeed, both the display ad and the search ad look just like normal ads. There is however, one key difference: They are targeted at me, because I have been on the website before.

This is what Remarketing is all about – targeting visitors who have visited your website in the past.

Benefits of Remarketing

Why is this such a great thing? Well, since I have been looking for a new watch on Amazon already, I clearly am very keen on buying one. Remarketing therefore is great for a number of reasons:

  • It is highly targeted
  • Therefore, the click-through rates are higher
  • As well as the conversion rates
  • As a result, the marketing ROI will be higher

In summary, Remarketing allows marketers to target potential customers that are very likely to buy your product.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? If you are wanting to know more about remarketing check out

Who offers remarketing?

When it comes to online marketing, Google AdWords is your obvious place to go. However, Google is not the only company that offers advertising with Remarketing. In fact, there are quite a few services that offer remarketing besides Google:

AdRoll, Criteo, Perfect Audience, Chango, G4Native (Triggit), ReTargeter, etc…

Google’s Remarketing solution however is a great place to start for startups, especially if you’re already familiar with Google AdWords and Google Analytics, as most startups are. It is very easy-to-use, yet incredibly powerful. The only major downside is that Google Remarketing is confined to the Google Display Network (i.e., Google’s AdSense Partners), which does not, for instance, include Facebook. Given the massive size of the GDN (“over two million websites that reach over 90% of people on the Internet”, according to Google), this is not really a problem if you’re a startup with limited ad budget.

Going forward, we will concentrate on showing how Remarketing works with Google AdWords and Google Analytics.

Remarketing vs. Retargeting: What’s the difference?

The two terms remarketing and retargeting are often mixed up. Sometimes they are used interchangeably, and some articles say they are the same thing, while others are eager to point out the differences.

Traditionally, what we described above as remarketing is referred to as retargeting. Remarketing, on the other hand, was used to describe re-engaging customers with email, i.e., email campaigns following shopping cart abandonment, upsells/cross sell emails and lifecycle marketing emails.

However, since Google decided to call retargeting remarketing, and given the massive market share Google has in the advertising market, the distinction is bound to be blurred.

That’s why we have given up and are calling it remarketing, too. RIP, retargeting!

How does Remarketing work?

Remarketing is really simple, yet very powerful. Without going into too much detail, here’s how it works:

    1. A visitor visits a website that has the Google remarketing code implemented.
    1. The remarketing cookie is placed on the visitor’s machine
    1. The ID of the cookie is added to the remarketing list (taking into account your filter criteria)
    1. Once the necessary number of visitors has been accumulated (see below), your list is ready to use
    1. Create a Search or a Display ad
  1. Add your Remarketing list as an “Audience”

And that’s it. Really simple, so let’s dive right in and see how it looks like in action!

Remarketing with Google AdWords

There are two main building blocks for Remarketing with Google AdWords.

    1. Implement the remarketing code
    1. Building the Remarketing list
  1. Serving ads to people on those remarketing lists

We will go through all of these steps one by one and guide you along the way to set up your first remarketing campaign.

Implement the remarketing code

Implementing the remarketing code is very simple. Just follow along those steps:

In Google AdWords, go to Campaigns > Shared library. There, select “Set up remarketing” beneath “Website visitors”:

Then, leave “Use dynamic ads” unchecked, and click on “Set up remarketing”:

On the following page you get instructions for tagging your website.

Click on “View AdWords tag for websites” to get the code you need.

If you have accidentally closed that pop up, you can still get the code by going back to Campaigns > Shared library > Audiences.

All you need to do now is put that code on all of your web pages, right before the closing body tag </body>. If you have a complex website, you might want to speak to your developers at this point so they can add it as part of the template code.

Once that’s done, this is what it looks on my website:

Now you should test everything is working fine. The best way to do that is to use a little Chrome plugin that Google provides, called the Google Tag Assistant. It can be found in the Chrome store using this link.

Once you have it installed, go to your website, and click the button for the Tag Assistant plugin in your browser. If everything is done right, you should get a green smiley next to the “Remarketing Tag” label.

Remember to switch of your AdBlocker, as it will interfere with the Google Tags!

In Google AdWords under Campaigns > Shared library > Audiences there is also an indicator that says whether or not the tag has been implemented correctly. Ideally, it should look something like this:

However, in our experience that indicator tends to be rather unreliable. I.e., very often that indicator will say something is wrong, even though everything is fine.

This is nothing to worry about, as long as you get a green light from the Tag Assistant Chrome plugin.

That’s it. Now everything is set up for your first Remarketing campaign.

Building Remarketing Lists

In order to do remarketing, the first thing you need to do is to build your remarketing list. If you want to show ads to people that have visited your website in the past, you need to start tracking those people.

There are four ways to build a remarketing list

    1. Website visitors: Visitors to your website
    1. Customer emails: People who gave you your email addresses
    1. Youtube users: People who interact with your YouTube channel or videos
    1. Mobile app users: Users of your mobile app
  1. Building remarketing lists in Google Analytics

List Sizes

Before you can use a remarketing list, Google needs to accumulate users that fulfill the necessary criteria.

For Display ads your list needs to have at least 100 active visitors in the last 30 days for your ads to show. For Search ads you even need to have 1,000 active visitors.

Bear those numbers in mind when creating your lists, and make sure to plan enough time to grow your list before you can get started on remarketing. Also, bear in mind that the more specific your list is, the longer it will take to get enough visitors onto your lists.

In the following sections we’ll look at the first two in more detail and then move on to look at how to build more powerful remarketing lists in Google Analytics.

Remarketing website visitors

Remarketing website visitors is the method most commonly associated with remarketing – building a list of previous visitors to your website.

When Remarketing is first set up, AdWords creates teh first Remarketing list for you automatically – a list called “All visitors” that is simply that: A list where all the visitors to your website are added.

You can easily create new lists by clicking on “+ Remarketing List” and selecting “Website visitors”. This list already is pretty useful and can be used for a remarketing as it is.

However, you might want to be a bit more specific and target visitors of specific sections of your website. For example, if you have a shop for flowers, and you have a specific section for romantic bouquets, you might want to target visitors of this section specifically.

Let’s go through the options in detail.

Under “Who to add to your list” you can specify criteria for which users you want to add to the list.

The first option “Visitors of a page” allows you to specify an URL, or part of a URL that the visitor has been to. For our example, you might want to specify “URL contains romantic.html” as a criterion.

Likewise, you can exclude visitors of a certain other page, or you can specify multiple pages that a users must have visited in order to get on your list.

Also, you can set a certain date range for the visit, or a certain tag that you may have set as an Event result before. All those criteria can be combined in any way that makes sense for you.

Another thing you habe to specify is the Membership duration. This is the duration until a visitor gets wiped from your list. It makes sense not to keep people on your list forever, as they will likely forget at some point that they have been on your web site. If that’s 30 days, or maybe 180 days is up for you to decide.

Once you click Save your new list is created and ready to go.

Remarketing customer emails

A second option to build a Remarketing list is to upload a list of existing email list of your customer. This is called “Customer Match audiences”. Google essentially takes you list and looks for email adresses that have an associated Google account.

As before, you can choose an appropriate expiry date and save your list.

Once the list is uploaded it may take a while, depending on the size of your list, until Google is done processing the list and makes your new list available as an audience.

Building Remarketing lists in Google Analytics

You can also build audiences in Google Analytics. Building audiences in Google Analytics has the advantage of allowing much more complex specifications of audiences, as we shall see in minute.

To get started, make sure your AdWords account and your Analytics account are linked (here’s how to link them).

Then, go to Analytics > Admin and click on “Audience Definitions” amd “Audiences” in the Property column.

This will open the section where you can create new audiences. You should already see the “All Users” audience that you have already seen in AdWords.

Now, click on “+ New Audience” to start doing that.

Here you have to select the Website View. Not that audiences are therefore specific to a View and unfortunately only available in the view you created them in. Depending on how your set up you might want to create the same audience in more then one of your views.

Once you have selected your account click on “Next Step” and then on “Create New”. This is where the magic happens.

Now you can create a very specific audience using the wealth of Google Analytics data. You want to re-target make visitors from the UK aged 18-24 on a mobile that have had at least 3 sessions? No problem with the Google Analytics Audience Builder. Build whatever audience fulfills you marketing needs. Bear in mind though that you should have something in mind that you want to target your audience with.

Once you’re done, click Save and you’re done.

Back in AdWords, you will find your newly created audience under Shared Library > Audience.

Serving ads to your Remarketing lists

Now that you know how to create your remarketing list, let’s have a look at how to use them for your ads.

In this article we will look at using Remarketing lists for Search ads and Display ads.

Note that there is also something called “Dynamic remarketing”. Dynamic remarketing is a lot more complex and connects with a retailer’s Google Merchant Center to use a feed of products or services, allowing very specific retargeting based on the products that visitors have looked at. Dynamic remarketing is beyond the scope of this primer and will be covered in a separate article.

Remarketing works very similarly both for Display ads and for Search ads. We’ll show you how it works using a Search ad as an example.

Creating a Campaign using RLSAs

To create a new Search ad using RLSAs start by creating your campaign: Go to “All Campaigns”, click on “+ Campaign”, and select “Search Network only”.

Next, give your campaign a name, leave type to “Search Network only” and select “All features”. Choose the settings as required by your campaign goals and click “Save and continue”

Next, create your AdGroup and ad as required. Since this is highly dependent on your goals, we won’t go into detail here. Suffice it to say, we’ll create a normal “Text ad”, add a few relevant key words, and hit “Save ad group”.

So far, nothing out of the ordinary. Now, we want to serve this ad only to members of our Remarketing list. To do that, click on the “Audience” tab and hit the “+ TARGETING” button.

Here’s where the interesting bit happens. We can add our Remarketing list to either the Ad Group or the whole campaign. To do that, click on “Add campaign targeting” and then “Interests & remarketing”

Next, click on “Select category”. Here, you can choose between “Remarketing lists” and “Customer email lists”, both of which we have shown how to create above.

Choose “Remarketing lists” and pick your remarketing list, then click the arrow on the right hand side to select it.

Now there’s an important choice to make: You can either select “Target and bid” or “Bid only”.

This tends to be a bit confusing at the beginning, so let me elaborate:

Target and bid vs. Bid only

If you select “Target and bid” your ads will show only to people on your remarketing list when they search for your keywords. All other people will never get to see your ad. You can also set specific bids for your lists.

If you select “Bid only”, on the other hand, your add will show to ALL people that search for the keywords that you’ve provided (if they match your other targeting methods). You can use the lists to set specific bid adjustments for people on your list.

Let’s look at an example:

You may want to do a remarketing campaign for your knitted socks company. Now you may want to do a campaign for previous existing customers that have become inactive. You could use a “Customer email list” as a remarketing list, and address customers with something along the lines of “Haven’t seen you in a while, come back and get 20% off.” This message obviously designed only for customers on your list. Hence you would need to choose “Target and bid”, as you’re using your list for targeting.

On the other hands you may have a campaign “Got cold feet? Get warm socks now” and you might want to bid more on visitors that have been on your website, because you know they are very likely to become customers. Hence you might want to choose “Bid only” and increase your bid for those customers.

Once you have made your choice, consider adding “Exclusions”, i.e., using remarketing lists to exclude visitors), click Save, and you’re done!