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July 16, 2019

How to Run a Successful Retargeting Campaign: Google Remarketing

Google retargeting campaigns (Google calls it "remarketing") are designed to display ads to potential customers who have previously visited your site but didn't purchase anything. Setting up a Google retargeting campaign helps you stay connected to your target audience and serve ads across the Google Display Network. Since the GDN reaches 90 percent of global internet users, it's easy to see why this is an effective advertising tool. If you want to understand what remarketing is and how you can run an effective Google retargeting campaign using Google Display Network, read on for a step-by-step guide.

What Is Google Retargeting?

Online business owners know that getting customers to make a purchase takes more than simply setting up a website and waiting for traffic to start streaming in. It can be tough to get people to your site in the first place and, even when you do, evidence suggests that only 2-4 percent of site visits end in transactions. Those numbers can feel pretty daunting -- but that's where Google Retargeting comes in.

Retargeting is a way to convert the 98 percent of "window-shoppers" on your site into buyers. It keeps track of the people who visit your site or use your mobile app -- essentially, your target audience. These consumers have expressed an interest in your business by taking the step to browse your offerings. Retargeting helps you bring these potential customers back to your site.

By placing anonymous retargeting cookies in the browsers of people who visit your site, you can stay connected to these users and also build brand awareness. It generates greater online sales by keeping your brand front and center, giving your brand more traction and recognition. They are different from standard Display and Search advertising because they only serve ads to certain people -- those who have shown enough interest in your products or services to visit your website.

Chances are you have experienced retargeting while surfing the web. For example, imagine you are browsing through hotel rooms in Los Angeles and your search leads you to the website of The Standard Hotel. You check out room prices but decide to hold off on booking for the moment. Later on, you're reading the news, checking Facebook or shopping on Amazon and an ad for The Standard Hotel pops up on your feed. You are being served this ad because you're interested in that room. Logic follows that seeing the ad will keep that hotel top of mind and make you more likely to follow through with the purchase you were considering.

The use of cookies in Google retargeting guarantees that your ads appear to those people who are more likely to perform whatever activity you're considering a conversion than those who haven't been to your website. Retargeting has a variety of strategies for how to best target these website visitors and make the most of your ads, including segmenting your audience and optimizing ads.

The Advantages of Google Ad Retargeting

Google ad retargeting is a powerful online marketing tactic that lets you stay in touch with the specific audience most likely to convert. By showing your retargeting ads to visitors, even while they are surfing different parts of the web, you become more recognizable and trustworthy -- making them more likely to purchase from you. Studies have shown that the effectiveness of Google remarketing ads only increases with more impressions. This is in contrast to standard display ads, which can suffer from ad fatigue relatively quickly.

How Much Does Google Retargeting Cost?

Google retargeting costs will vary depending on what kind of campaigns you decide to run and how they fit into your overall online marketing strategy. In general, retargeting ad costs are very low on a per-click basis (for example, in the finance sector, GDN ads cost $1.03 per click as opposed to Google Search ads, which cost $3.09 per click). To lower costs even more, you can use Google retargeting in combination with contextual targeting, conversion filtering, frequency capping and other strategies. The more highly targeted your campaigns, the higher your ad relevancy and likelihood of conversion.

Define Your Retargeting Goals

It's important to know exactly what action you want a potential customer to take. Before we get started with the technical stuff, consider the audience that you want to target in your campaign:

  1. People who did not take a specific action on a page: This type of campaign involves turning visitors who did not request more info, opt-in to your mailing list, etc. into leads.
  2. People who reached your checkout process but did not complete a purchase: This type of campaign aims to convert people who abandon their carts.
  3. People who have not visited a certain page: This campaign targets people who have been on your site but didn't see certain content or pages that you think would appeal to them.

These are the main targets to consider, but you can also break down visitors by other factors, such as time spent on your site, total number of pages visited, demographics and geographics, and so on.

This first step can help you narrow down a number of decisions, including choosing which network to advertise on, which pages to place retargeting ads, how to tailor ads to specific audiences and how to create custom pages for a certain audience.

Setting Up Tags for Google Retargeting

The next step in a retargeting campaign takes a little legwork but is essential to your success. With a Google campaign, you need a special retargeting code in order to place cookies in your website visitors' computers. You can use Google Analytics to do so because that way you can set up retargeting lists based on your goals instead of just pages visited. For instance, you could set up a tag for people who have visited 4 pages, spent 10 minutes on your site, looked at a specific product, and so on.

If you have a Google Analytics account, log in and click to the "admin" section. You can find your retargeting code here. This will be the code that Analytics already uses to monitor traffic on your site with a slight modification based on the audience list you are targeting. This code should be on every page of your site with a custom URL.

In order to segment your audience, you'll want to set up Lists in Analytics. To do so, click on "audience definition." If your Analytics account doesn't have admin access then you won't see this link -- get access first so you can continue setting up tags.

From here, click on the "Audiences" button and then on the "New Audience" button. You will see options such as naming your list, choosing an Analytics profile and AdWords account to use with your list, choosing the type of retargeting campaign, and more. For instance, you can start with naming a list "Visitors of X Landing Page," as an example. Scroll down to the option for "Visitors of a Page" and provide the relevant URL that matches that landing page.

Setting Up Tags for AdWords

In order to retarget to website visitors, you need to set up the basic AdWords tag too. In AdWords, head to the "Audience Manager" link under the "Shared library." From here, click "Audience sources" on the menu on the left. Then decide which tags you want to set up for your remarketing goals. Click the AdWords tag and customize the data collected based on your industry -- or just select "Collect standard data." Hit save.

Then, copy and paste the retargeting script that pops up onto every page of your website between the head tags. (Pro-Tip: Use the Google Tag Assistant to make sure you have done this correctly.)

Making Campaigns More Specific

After getting your tags properly installed, you can customize a few factors to make your audiences more specific. To do so, head back to the audiences section under your shared library. Click "audience manager" and then click on the large blue button for "Audience lists" and select "Website visitors" from the drop-down menu. You can use the default of targeting all website visitors in the last 30 days or you can click the drop-down list to pull up more options. This is essentially the same as creating Lists in Analytics. For example, you can make a list based on visitors who were interested in a specific sale, visitors during specific dates, visitors of a page with specific tags, and so on.

Retargeting on Mobile

Google retargeting also lets you target mobile app users on both Android and Apple's iOS. To start, create a new retargeting list from the audience manager. Under Audience Lists, click on App Users. For this list, you can choose to retarget:

  • All users of an app
  • Users who haven't been active recently
  • Users who downloaded specific versions of your app
  • Users who took specific actions within your app
  • Within each of these categories, you can further refine by options like date ranges.

Dynamic Retargeting Lists

So far, we have been discussing basic retargeting, which lets you show ads to people who visited your site or interacted with your app. Dynamic lists are even more powerful because they show ads for specific products and services that visitors viewed on your site. It's a very powerful marketing tactic because it allows you to tailor specific messages and offers to an audience that showcase what they actually want! That way you don't have to spend money on ads and waste time hoping that the offer resonates.

AdWords has a predicting algorithm in place that helps figure out which ad placements and styles work best on each audience type. They require a bit more work because you need to create a product or service feed with details on each item, including an ID, price, picture, and so on. This can be tedious work, but the results are well worth it. For example, Sierra Trading Post, an outdoor gear company, found a fivefold increase in conversions with dynamic retargeting. Google offers a very helpful step-by-step tutorial on setting up dynamic ads.

Creating New Ads

Once you have figured out how to best retarget your customers, it's time to launch your campaign. To do so in AdWords, head to the campaign section of your account and create a new campaign. Select a campaign type (for example, Display Network, App, Video, and so on) and then choose the objective (Sales, Leads, Traffic, Brand Awareness, and more).

Then, scroll down to the "Audiences" section and choose a retargeting list (this is your "All Visitors" list). From here you can create new ads for each list and offer and make your campaigns live.


Google retargeting is an excellent way to reach out to people who have visited your site but left without purchasing anything. As this group makes up a HUGE percentage of your traffic, it makes sense that you would want to re-engage them. Retargeting campaigns designed to target specific audiences are one of the best bets you've got when it comes to your site traffic. Creating customized and tailored display ads to appeal to these past site visitors can dramatically maximize your conversion rates, boost your ROI and make your brand instantly more recognizable.

About Eniture Technology

Eniture Technology specializes in helping e-Commerce merchants grow by providing useful information, digital marketing services, off-the-shelf apps that solve common problems, and custom programming services. Please contact us if you need help growing your online business or implementing the concepts presented in this blog post.

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