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Google Adwords Remarketing: An A to Z Guide (Step-By-Step)


Imagine, for a moment, you’re running a brick and mortar business (or, if you are already, picture the business in your mind).


Imagine, one day, a potential customer walks into your store and inquires about your service—only to leave without buying because they, “need time to think”.

You don’t say it aloud, of course, but you know what they’re really thinking…

I’m not ready to buy yet.

Worse, you know that when they are ready to buy, it won’t be you they’ll be returning to…

…it will be your competitor.

Outcomes like the above are happening to business owners every day in every industry.

It might be happening to you, too.

A potential customer is red-hot, ready to buy from you, only to change their mind last-minute, and later, go with a competitor not because they’re better—but because they’re available at that precise moment.

If only there was a way to remind that potential customer that when they are ready, they ought to go with you…

Oh, wait, you can…

It’s called Google remarketing.

What is Remarketing?

As a smart, savvy business owner, you’re probably familiar with retargeting: the act of advertising to a prospect more than once.

In fact, you’ve probably been retargeted yourself from one time to another.

When I choose not to optin to Ryan Levesque’s landing page, recently, I saw this on my Facebook newsfeed:

Remarketing Campaign Ryan Levesque

Because I hadn’t optin in, I had been retargeted.

(And yes, just in case you’re wondering, I did return to his landing page and optin…)

But what about remarketing?

Simply put, remarketing is marketing to a visitor that has already clicked through on your ad, but hasn’t taken action on your site (e.g. make an inquiry).

In Google’s own words,

Remarketing lets you show ads to people who’ve visited your website or used your mobile app. When people leave your website without buying anything, for example, remarketing helps you reconnect with them by showing relevant ads across their different devices.

The reason remarketing is powerful is because it triggers what’s known as the mere-exposure effect.

In his famous study, Robert Zajonc showed nonsensical Chinese characters to subjects who couldn’t read or speak Chinese.

The subjects were shown the symbols anywhere from one time to 25 times and asked to rate whether the symbols held positive or negative connotations.

Guess what happened?

The symbols that had been previously seen by the test subjects were consistently rated more positively than those unseen.

In other words, the more someone was exposed to a certain character, the more of a positive meaning they attributed to it.

This applies to remarketing, too.

The more a visitor is exposed to your brand, the more familiar they becomes, the more they trust you and in time, the more likely they will become a customer.

This, of course, is not to be taken advantage of. The goal, here, as always is to build trust, first, while understanding certain prospects need time before buying from you.

By remarketing to them, you’re simply saying: “Hey, just letting you know we’re still here, if, and when you’re ready to buy from us.”

While remarketing online as well as offline is possible, this article will focus on remarketing online as it’s a more popular and affordable medium for business owners (few of us, after all, can afford billboards to advertise our businesses).

How Remarketing Works

Creating an Adwords remarketing campaign is comprised of two parts:

  1. Creating what’s called a “remarketing list” (a list of prospects who qualify for your business)
  2. Creating the campaign itself

The latter is similar to creating a regular campaign (in which you choose a budget, bid preference, etc.), only with remarketing, you’re choosing which list of prospects you want to retarget.

A remarketing list works by retargeting a visitor who has previously visited a cookied page on your website (a page with a snippet of code that allows Google to track a visitor’s activity) and adding them to a list in your Adwords account.

For instance, if a prospect didn’t take the desired action on your page within a certain time frame (e.g. make an inquiry on your services page), Google will show them your ad again in the SERPs and on other websites (depending on your remarketing setup).

As an advertiser, you have a choice who you retarget. For example, your remarketing list can be comprised of visitors who didn’t convert on a page of your site (e.g. a services page), who meet a certain criteria you define and more.   

If you’re new to remarketing, you won’t have any visitors on your remarketing list (that’s okay, I’m going to show you how to do that), however, once you’ve tagged your page, over time, as more people visit your page, they’ll be added to your list based on the rules you set up in Adwords.

After visiting a page with a remarketing tag, a visitor will be time stamped and added to your remarketing list, where they’ll remain until the time expires. The amount of time, of course, is up to you and your budget.

Imagine, for a moment, you’re a realtor and want to show an ad about a new listing to people who visited your listing page in the past month.

You could create a “New Listings” list with a membership duration of 30 days a rule to collect all visitors to a web page that has a URL that ends with “/new-listings”.

When visitors visit this new listings page they would be added to the “New Listings” list which you could then remarket to with an ad campaign about new listings.

As a rule, remarketing lists targeting the Google Display Network (what we’re going to focus on) must have a minimum of 100 active visitors or users within the last 30 days for your ads to show.

Before we go through how to setup a remarketing list and campaign, let’s take a brief look at an example of remarketing done right.     

Google Remarketing Case Study: Watchfinder   

Watchfinder is a retailer for premium, pre-owned watches. Founded in 2002 as an online-only store selling watches from more than 80 premier manufacturers, the company has an annual turnover of £25 million:


When the online company discovered less than 1% of customers were purchasing on their first site visit, the company knew they needed to increase conversions.

Enter: Google remarketing

By creating 20 highly focused lists of visitors who demonstrated interest but didn’t buy, and defining groups according to funnel stage, location, language, on-site behavior, ISP and more, Watchfinder were able to build a highly effective remarketing campaign…

Watchfinder remarketing campaign

The results were remarkable:

After 6-months, Watchfinder made a 1,300% return on investment, increased their average order value by 13%, resulting in 34% lower CPAs than Watchfinder non-brand search campaigns. (Source)

Now that you’ve seen what’s possible when remarketing is done right, let’s look at how to create a remarketing list and campaign.

How to Setup up a Remarketing List

Step 1. Sign in to AdWords and under “Website visitors,” click “Set up remarketing”:


Step 2. Click “Set up remarketing”:


Step 3. Click “View AdWords tag for websites”, then, copy the remarketing tag code:


Step 4. Either place the code at the bottom of the desired page on your website (e.g. your services page), before the closing </body> tag, or, if you’re using a plugin like Google Remarketing, the text area:


Don’t forget to click publish on your page.

Step 5. Check that you’ve implemented the tag correctly with Google Tag Assistant, a Chrome extension that verifies Google code snippets and helps you solve errors.


Step 6. Once you’ve done that, click “Return to Audiences”. Within a couple days, your tag should start collecting the cookies of visitors to your website, and your “All visitors” list will begin to populate. When it does, you should see an update like this:


Source: Clickminded

Now that you’ve created your remarketing list, let’s look at creating a remarketing campaign.

How to Setup an Adwords Remarketing Campaign

I’ve written previously about Google Adwords and Facebook Advertising, so I won’t repeat myself here. What I will do, though, is explain how to create a remarketing campaign using a remarketing list.

(Note: in this tutorial, we’ll focus on display network ads rather than search network ads as they’re more common and easier to create when you’re a beginning)

Step 1. Sign into AdWords and click Campaigns > +Campaign > “Display Network only”:


Step 2. Choose an account for your display network only campaign and click “Continue”:


If you don’t have an account to choose from, you’ll need to create one. (To learn how to do that, read this article).

Step 3. Give your campaign a name and under “Drive Action,” Leave the “Marketing objectives” option selected and check “Buy on your website (includes remarketing)”:


Step 4. Choose a location, bid strategy, and budget, and most important a schedule. If you’re a beginning, we recommend running your campaign for at least 90 days. This will allow you to gather enough data to know what’s working, what’s not and what can be optimized for conversions. Once you’ve done that, click “Save and continue”.

Step 5. Choose an ad group name and a maximum cost per click bid: the price you’re prepared to pay for a click. As a rule of thumb, The average cost per click in Google AdWords is between $1 and $2 on the search network (remarketing clicks, however, are typically much cheaper in our experience, ranging from 15¢ to $1)


Step 6. Under “Choose how to target your ads”, click “Interests & remarketing – show ads to people based on their interests”:


Step 7. In the “Select a category” drop-down menu, choose Remarketing lists:


Step 8. Choose the remarketing list you created in the previous section under “Search by list name”:


Step 9. Click “Save and continue”.

Step 10. Lastly, create a new ad or copy an existing ad if you know a previous ad converted well.


According to Google, only 2-4% of site visits result in a transaction.

And that’s assuming that you have a page that’s optimized for conversions in the first place.

By remarketing to your prospects, you not only increase the chance of acquiring that transaction on the return visit—you increase the likelihood of growing your business in a predictable and scalable way.

Few have taken the time to truly master the skill of remarketing. But as you’ve learned, when you do, the returns are more than worth the time you put into learning it.

As we continue to move more into a pay-per-click-driven world, remarketing won’t just be an optional ad-on—it will be a requirement to online marketing success.

What has your experience with Google Adwords remarketing been? Leave a comment below.


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Written by

Josh Denning, founder of Authority Factory, helps high-achieving business owners generate more traffic, create more authority and capture and close more clients for their business. To learn a scalable and predictable approach to growing revenue, visit: http://www.onlinemeetingnow.com/register/?id=r8vh2pasjo

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