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by bhargavi September 22, 2020
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What Is Re-marketing?

If you were to look at your conversion funnel, how often would you find that a first-time visitor visited your website, viewed a product, and then made a purchase all on that first visit? Chances are you’d be lucky if you saw that behavior once.


Image source – Digital Marketing Edges

Making a sale is a process. Studies have shown that up to 98% of your visitors leave your website without converting. Another study on the conversion funnel by Google found that oftentimes, it takes several steps for a user to go from visit to conversion, and it’s actually not uncommon for a visitor to take more than 30 steps before making a purchase!

Re-marketing helps you tackle this problem head on. It allows you to target and serve ads only to people who’ve previously visited your website, used your mobile app, or in some cases, visited and bought something from a physical retail location. This means you can be very strategic and efficient about who you’re reaching and where you’re spending your marketing budget.

Benefits of Re-marketing

Re-marketing provides two primary benefits:

  • It maximises ROI and keeps you in front of prospects.

Marketers don’t often think of re-marketing as a brand-building tool, but this represents a huge missed opportunity. One of the greatest benefits re-marketing offers is that it keeps your brand front and centre with a targeted audience. Sometimes you might do this to try to drive a direct response, as we outlined in the section above.

Other times, though, it also gives you an opportunity to build up your brand’s familiarity with your target audience and increase the likelihood of a future indirect action like a Google search or an organic site visit. These indirect effects can be significant.

In fact, comScore found that re-marketing campaigns led to a 1046% increase in branded search and a 726% lift in site visitation after four weeks of re-marketed ad exposure.

  • It’s a powerful direct response tactic that maximizes ROI.

In the environment of conversion funnel chaos mentioned above, no other advertising tactic offers the return that remarketing does. Remarketing offers the most direct and effective means to:

  • Reconnect with your highest value targets — people who’ve previously expressed interest in your offerings
  • Recapture their attention with an effective, compelling message
  • Move them further down the sales funnel

Re-marketing through Google Ads


Image source – TryAdHawk

Standard re-marketing

This Google Ads feature allows you to show ads to your past visitors as they browse websites and apps on the Display Network.

Dynamic re-marketing

A feature of Google Ads that lets you show ads, to past visitors, of any products or services that they viewed on your site

Re-marketing for mobile apps

If someone used your mobile app or mobile website, Google Ads will let you show ads to them when they use other mobile apps or are on other mobile websites.

Re-marketing lists for search ads

This Google Ads feature is also known as RLSA. It enables you to target past visitors on the Search Network. You can target and customize search ads for these past visitors while they search on Google and Google’s Search partner sites.

Video Re-marketing 

Google Ads will allow you to serve ads to people who have interacted with your YouTube channel or other videos. You can serve them ads on YouTube or through Display Network videos and websites.

Email list Re-marketing

Also known as Customer Match, if you have a list of emails from your customers, you can upload them to Google Ads. This feature enables you to serve ads to them if they are signed in to Google Search, Gmail, or YouTube.

Before you start Re-marketing

Consider these tips before you actually start creating your re-marketing lists and campaigns.

Manage client expectations by setting clear re-marketing objectives

As with all digital marketing projects, you must be sure of your objectives before you dive into re-marketing. This will help you manage your client’s expectations (or your boss’s) and ensure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet! For example, your client might only have ever used standard PPC, and expect re-marketing to provide the same kind of results.

Ensure your client is aware that re-marketing won’t achieve a ton of one-per-click conversions and isn’t likely to deliver large levels of traffic in the same way that your PPC ads might do.

Let them know that re-marketing will help to reinforce their brand to users who have already visited their site, and is great at influencing conversions, even though it’s often not the last direct interaction the user has before making a purchase.

Re-marketing strategy

A big chunk of the time you have for setting up the remarketing project should be spent planning your remarketing strategy and the lists you are going to build.

Whether remarketing works for your business will depend on the lists you create and how you use them – so don’t rush this.

Your objectives for the project will help determine which lists you’ll create, but you might find some of the examples listed here helpful.

Update your Privacy Policy

Before you add the re-marketing code to your website and start building lists, it is best practice to update your Privacy Policy, so that it declares your use of the DoubleClick cookie.

You could add something like this to the policy:

“DoubleClick: We use Google Analytics re-marketing codes to log when users view specific pages or take specific actions on a website. This allows us to provide targeted advertising in the future. If you do not wish to receive this type of advertising from us in the future you can opt out using the DoubleClick opt-out page or the Network Advertising Initiative opt-out page.”

You might also want to check Google’s Privacy Policy guidelines to ensure your Privacy Policy is up to standard for using other AdWords products.

Re-marketing tips 

Putting the re-marketing code on your website

There are two sets of code available for setting up remarketing

  1. Google Analytics re-marketing code
  2. AdWords re-marketing code.

I would recommend using the Google Analytics re-marketing code instead of the AdWords version, as it has the additional benefit of allowing you to use visitor behaviour within list criteria.

For example, you could create a list to target users in a certain geographical location who stayed on the site for at least 3 minutes using the Google Analytics code. The AdWords code only allows lists to be built based on pages viewed on your site.


Image source – Marketing Land

If you are planning on using Dynamic Re-marketing, you’re required to use the AdWords re-marketing code. If you’d prefer to run standard r-emarketing using the Google Analytics code, you can always use both sets of code on the site to allow for dynamic and standard re-marketing. AdWords has advised me that the codes do not conflict.

There are four different kinds of AdWords Re-marketing at the moment, so why not test them all and see which ones work for your account:

  1. Standard AdWords Remarketing
  2. Re-marketing Lists for Search Ads
  3. Dynamic Re-marketing (only for e-commerce websites)
  4. YouTube Re-marketing

The only limitation of having both sets of code on your site simultaneously is that you may find visitors are placed on multiple lists, and served ads from multiple campaigns. This should be considered when setting your frequency capping, as using both sets of code means users are even more likely to appear on multiple lists.

List membership duration

It’s tempting to choose the maximum list membership duration of 540 days so you can have flexibility for the ways you use the list later down the line. However it’s worth remembering that most ordinary internet users won’t be aware of how to clear their cookies, and so you really will be following them around for the full list duration unless they convert.

No one wants to be that annoying stalker-brand that takes it too far, so it’s best practice to only set membership durations for as long as they are actually required.

(Savvy consumers can opt out of seeing your ads entirely by clicking the “AdChoices” icon and adjusting their settings.)


Image source –

Set your list durations dependant on what you want to achieve:

  • If you’re targeting people for an annual purchase (car insurance for example) then go for at least 13 months long.
  • A service that requires people to sign up after 30 days (for example if you are offering a 30-day free trial) should have lists with a membership of around 60 days so you know users will be targeted for a reasonable amount of time after the trial to encourage sign-up.

Frequency capping

This is possibly the most fundamental of all re-marketing best practices. It’s the difference between lightly reminding audiences about your brand, and stalking them until they hate you.

You can find it in the Settings tab of your campaign, and you can set it at campaign, ad group or ad level. Choose whether to set it on monthly, weekly or daily limits.

When deciding what level to set your frequency capping at, you should consider how many re-marketing campaigns you have, or how many ad groups there are within your re-marketing campaign, if you only have the one campaign.


Image source – Leedskart

Assuming you have multiple campaigns, I’d recommend around two impressions per week, per campaign.

This means that if you have five campaigns and a user is a member of at least one list in all the campaigns, the maximum exposure they would receive is 14 impressions per week. This is quite high, but the likelihood is that not all users will be on a list within each campaign, so the average frequency will be less.

Once your campaigns have been running a while and you have significant data, you should review the reach and frequency data within the Dimensions tab. Here you can see how often visitors are served one of your remarketing ads and assess whether you think it’s too often and whether your frequency capping needs adjusting.

Additional targeting for remarketing

Remarketing is a kind of behavioral targeting, which means that the user determines where your ads are show by the content they visit online.

If you have a smaller budget and you want to narrow this down, so you’re only targeting users who are the most likely to convert, you could try using other targeting methods alongside remarketing audiences, for example demographic targeting for age and gender.

For example if you were selling beauty products for females only, you could set the gender to target only females. Remember to choose the “Bid only” option, which means you’ll have the option to increase bids for females.

It’s important to be aware that Google’s assumptions about demographics aren’t necessarily correct, so you should also target “Unknown” to avoid missing out on any potential impressions for females. You can set this up within the Display Network tab by clicking the green “+targeting” button in the top left-hand side of the screen.


Image source – ASJ Partners

You can follow the same process for refining your remarketing to target member ages.

Refine your targeting by only remarketing to “quality” visitors

If you’d like to narrow down your remarketing so it only targets users who have had a quality interaction with your site, you could try adding the following criteria to your lists:

  • Exclude people who have bounced
  • Exclude people who have spent less than ten seconds on the site

To do this, you’ll need to create these lists within Google Analytics and then create custom combination lists within AdWords which exclude them.

Stop your ads showing on “bad” content

There are some content types that you probably won’t want your ads to show on. You can exclude site categories to avoid your ads being shown around content that you don’t want associated with your brand.

Within the Display Network Tab, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the green “+Options” button for campaigns:

  • You will then see the following page where you can exclude site categories. I’d also recommend excluding error pages, parked domains and forums as these tend to have poor content that you may not want associated with your brand.
  • You can also experiment with excluding your ads from showing below the fold of the page to see how this affects performance. You should be aware that you may have to bid higher to ensure your ads are always eligible for above-the-fold placement.
  • Further refine your re-marketing by reviewing your placement report and excluding any placements which aren’t appropriate. Don’t exclude too much though, as re-marketing isn’t really about the relevance of the site, as it targets based on the user’s behavior rather than site content.

Image source – WordStream

Structuring re-marketing campaigns

In an ideal world, you should have an individual re-marketing campaign for each list you are running. If this isn’t possible, try having separate campaigns for each kind of strategy. For example, you could have two different campaigns for ad groups with lists that were created:

  • To generate secondary purchases and upsells
  • To target users who viewed a particular product category but didn’t convert

If these structures aren’t possible, you should at least ensure each strategy has its own ad group in one dedicated re-marketing campaign. As you gain enough data to assess their performance, you should split the top performing lists into their own campaigns so that you can allocate specific daily budgets to them.

Conversion tracking

Conversion tracking for re-marketing is set up in the same way as standard AdWords campaigns; however, you should be aware that if you choose to import goals or e-commerce tracking from Analytics to be tracked as conversions in AdWords, they will not track View-through-conversions.


Image source – WordStream

This is limiting because re-marketing tends to contribute to a strong level of View-through-conversions, and there will be no visibility of this if you choose to import goals or e-commerce tracking from Google Analytics to be tracked as AdWords conversions.

Due to this, I’d recommend using standard AdWords conversion tracking code for conversion tracking with re-marketing.

Creating a re-marketing list on Google Analytics

If you’re using Google Analytics to remarket, here’s how to set up that code. Once you’re in your Google Analytics account, click to the “admin” section.

  • Click the link labeled “audience definitions”. If you don’t see anything that says audience definitions, there is a chance you’re not logged in under a user that’s granted admin access to the Analytics account you’re in. If that’s the case, get access and check back here.
  • Click the button that reads “audiences”.
  • Click on the “new audience” button.

Image source – WordStream

These options include naming your list, choosing an Analytics profile and Google Ads account to use with your list, specifying the type of remarketing you want to opt into (all visitors or those that visit certain pages), and the ability to modify the membership duration.

You’ll want to name your list whatever your intention is. We’ll get more into custom combinations later, but you could name it “All site visitors,” “cart abandoners,” etc. We’ll discuss custom membership duration later.

Re-marketing ads

A bespoke ad creative for each strategy and list is the ideal scenario, so that you can ensure the ad creative is as relevant as possible to the audience you are targeting.

For example, if you are trying to generate repeat purchases, your ad creative could contain a discount code for the consumer’s next transaction. If you are targeting users who viewed a specific product page but didn’t complete a purchase, your ad creative should feature that product.

In addition to ensuring the ad is relevant, the following ideas are also best practice with remarketing display ad creation:

  • The ad should have continuity with your website design and include your logo, so that the user is aware it’s an ad for the same website they have already visited.
  • Ensure you have a still version of the ad if there is also an animated version, as not all sites support animated ad formats.
  • Ensure each creative works across all the different ad sizes, so that you can include one of every ad size in each ad group. Not all sites support all ad formats so this ensures you will have the opportunity to show if you are eligible.
  • Include a text ad in each ad group, as some sites won’t support image ads and this ensures you’ll have the opportunity to show. You can always remove the text ad later if it performs poorly.
  • You should include a call-to-action button and demonstrate any USPs or offers within the ad creative.

Best Re-marketing Optimization Practices

Now let’s review some best practices for testing and improving your remarketing performance.

Test your list criteria and custom combinations

Setting up lists isn’t just important at the start of your remarketing project. You should experiment with your lists and combinations as part of your optimization process to see which combinations work best.

For example, you could test:

  • Different list member durations (try different messaging for different list durations too – a message that worked a week after they visited your site might not work a month after they have visited it)
  • Different gender targeting alongside lists
  • Exclude different lists using custom combinations (for example exclude users who bounced, or those who spent less than ten seconds on your site)
  • Exclude different categories (parked domains, forums, games and other site categories)

Monitoring lost Impression Share due to rank

Customise your columns at ad group level to see lost Impression Share due to rank. If your ad group is missing out on a significant level of impression share due to rank, you should consider increasing your bids.


Image source – Quanticmind

Test your landing pages

Try sending the user to different pages on the website. For example if they viewed a more expensive version of a product, try landing them on a lower-cost version of it. If they viewed an item from a particular range of products you stock, try landing them on the main category page rather than back on that same product page.

You could even do this using AdWords Experiments to ensure a completely fair test.

Test your ad creative

You can use AdWords experiments to provide a completely even test for your ad creatives. Try testing different colors on your call to action, different wording and different images.

As with all split testing, be sure to only make one small change to the new ad so that you can pin-point which changes have a positive (or negative) impact.

Often we get so carried away with optimizations specific to display and re-marketing that we forget about all the other techniques that are normally best practice. Here’s a few to get you started:

  • Review performance by location and use location bid adjustments if required
  • Review performance by time-of-day and use scheduling bid adjustments if required
  • Review your performance on mobile devices and amend your mobile bid adjustments
  • Keep trying new formats

Wrapping Up!

Even if you already use standard re-marketing, there’s no reason why you can’t use other formats of re-marketing alongside it.

This post has hopefully provided you with some guidelines on AdWords re-marketing best practices, but don’t forget that we only find the true “best practice” when we discover the most effective ways of doing things.

Something that is effective for one account may not be the most effective in another account, so don’t be afraid to keep testing and trying new ideas within your re-marketing campaigns. If you have any other best practice ideas for re-marketing, please feel free to share them in the comments below.


What is meant by remarketing?

Remarketing is a way to connect with people who previously interacted with your website or mobile app. It allows you to strategically position your ads in front of these audiences as they browse Google or its partner websites, thus helping you increase your brand awareness or remind those audiences to make a purchase.

What is a remarketing campaign?

Remarketing campaigns are used to show ads to people who have visited your website or used your app. These campaigns provide you with extra settings and reports specifically for reaching previous visitors and users.

Why is remarketing important?

Remarketing gives you a chance to reach out to customers who have previously visited your website with banner ads. When a customer visits your site, they are tagged with a special cookie allowing you to advertise to them online. This means you get another chance to convert them into a sale!

How does search remarketing work?

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) is a feature that lets you customize your search ads campaign for people who have previously visited your site, and tailor your bids and ads to these visitors when they're searching on Google and search partner sites.

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