The Complete Guide to Google Ads Remarketing

Remarketing ads are available to advertisers in the form of static images, animated images, video, responsive ads, and text ads via Google’s Search and Display Networks. 

How does remarketing work? Put simply, when a user visits a website a special tracking code can place a cookie on their browser. These cookies allow advertisers to identify previous website visitors and serve them targeted ads. 

By appropriately tailoring remarketing ads, marketers can capitalize on the interest of their highest value users when they’re closest to purchase.

In this guide, we will delve into the following topics:

  1. Google Ads Remarketing Options
  2. Selecting Your Audiences
  3. How to Set-Up Remarketing Lists in Analytics and Google Ads
  4. How to Choose Your Membership Duration
  5. How to Set-Up Custom Combinations
  6. When Custom Combinations and Membership Duration Meet
  7. How to Optimize Remarketing Campaigns

1) Google Ads Remarketing Options

  • Standard Remarketing – This feature allows you to show ads to your past site visitors as they browse websites and apps on the Display Network.
  • Remarketing Lists for Search Ads – This feature is also known as RLSA. It enables you to target different buckets of past visitors within the Google Search Network.
  • Email List Remarketing – Also known as customer match, this targets ads at users based on a list of customer emails across all Google entities. This feature only works if the users are signed in to Google Search, Gmail or YouTube and.
  • Remarketing for Mobile Apps – If someone used your mobile app or mobile website, Google this feature lets you show ads to them when they use other mobile apps or are on other mobile websites.
  • Video Remarketing – This feature serves ads to people who have interacted with your YouTube channel or other videos. The ads can be served on YouTube or through the Google Display Network.
  • Dynamic Remarketing – This feature lets you show users ads of products or services they’ve previously viewed on your site via the Display Network.

2) Selecting Your Audiences

The first step to remarketing is deciding which groups of site visitors you’ll be using in your remarketing campaigns. These buckets of visitors are known as audiences and there’s an infinite number of ways to segment them, including:

  • Based on the product page visited
  • Based on visiting a certain page of your checkout process
  • Based on not visiting a certain page
  • Time on site
  • Number of pages visited
  • Demographic targeting
  • Geographic targeting
  • URL targeting

There are also custom combinations, which we’ll explain in detail later, that allow you to target people who visited one page without visiting another. A strategy here could be, for example, to target people with a specific ad who visited the first page of your checkout process (i.e. added an item to their basket) but for whatever reason didn’t complete the purchase. 

3) How to Set-Up Remarketing Lists in Analytics and Google Ads

When it comes to building your remarketing campaigns, you first need to generate the special code required to place cookies on your website visitors’ browsers. This code can be generated within Google Analytics or within Google Ads. It involves the placement of a single code on every page – called a run of site code

Using Analytics to Set-Up Remarketing Lists

Using Analytics for your remarketing gives you access to cool features like setting-up lists based on goals instead of just pages visited. 

To set-up a list you’ll need to first go to Google Analytics “admin”. 

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. If that’s the case, get access and check back here.

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. If that’s the case, get access and check back here.

Click the button that reads “audiences”.

Click on the “new audience” button.

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 e.g. “All Site Visitors” or “Cart Abandoners”. We’ll discuss custom membership duration later.

To start collecting the appropriate data, you will need to make a minor adjustment to your current Analytics code that’s already placed on your website.

Look for this: ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘’;

Replace with this: ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://’ : ‘http://’) + ‘’;

After you’ve made the changes to your Analytics code, you will also need to take care of a few additional items.

As I mentioned, if you don’t have Analytics, don’t have admin access to it, and/or don’t want to agree to the terms of service, you can still create and manage remarketing lists directly in Google Ads.

Creating Remarketing Lists Directly in Google Ads

To do this, you’ll want to go to the “shared library” in your Google Ads account. Click “audiences”.

Click to add a new “remarketing list”.

Fill out the following options and save your list.

4) How to Choose Your Membership Duration

The membership duration is how long you’d like to store a cookie in someone’s browser – they can last up to 540 days. There are many different approaches to selecting membership duration, you want to think about your business and your goals when selecting membership duration. 

  • Do you have an ecommerce site that people only buy from once every three months? You should extend your membership duration to 90 days.
  • Do you have a service that requires people to sign up again after 30 days? Try a 60-day membership so you know they’re getting heavily targeted if they forget to renew directly after 30 days.

Frequency Capping

Another feature in a similar vein to membership duration is frequency capping.

This feature allows you to decide how often you’d like individual users to see your ad during a specified period. Keep in mind that if you show your ad too often, it’s likely that your users will tire of your ads and they won’t have the desired effect!

Think about the lifecycle of your customers. If there’s typically a long time between conversions, set your frequency cap low. If your business is built for regular repeat purchase, focus on impressing as much as possible. 

5) How to Set-Up Custom Combinations

You can set-up custom combinations in the “shared library” tab in your Google Ads account in the same place where you set up your remarketing.

Create a new audience, but this time select “custom combination”.

 For example, imagine you want to target users who hit the first page of your checkout process without reaching your order confirmation page.

Using the settings above, select to show ads to the remarketing audience you’ve created for people who hit the first page of your checkout process using the URL of that page. Then also select to show to “none of this audience” for converted users. Once saved, you can then apply this custom combination audience to your marketing campaigns.

You can also interlace interest categories with remarketing audience for custom combinations.

For example, perhaps you’d like to create a campaign that will be focused purely on driving new visitors to your site. You could create a custom combination audience targeting a particular interest category and removing “all site visitors”.

6) When Custom Combinations and Membership Duration Meet

When custom combinations and membership duration meet, you get what’s called delayed targeted.

We’ll start with a subscription-based service as an example. Some members select to renew their subscription on a month-to-month basis. So, we decided to make an audience that targets people who have converted with a member duration of 30 days. We made another identical audience, but for 90 days. We then made a custom combination by making the 90-day member duration our target and excluded the audience for 30 days. This means we’re targeting people who have converted 30-90 days ago.

If you have offers that give users a seven-day free trial, you could target converters starting seven days after their initial conversion.

You know your sales cycle better than anyone, so think of creative ways you can make the most of the high level of targeting that remarketing affords you. Users think of your brand 30, 90 or even 180 days after being introduced to it initially. Adjust your messaging accordingly.

7) How to Optimize Remarketing Campaigns

There’s lots of different ways you can optimize your remarketing campaigns:

  • Ad copy testing
    • Treat remarketing ads similarly to how you would treat other ads, keeping your audience in mind and with a clear CTA. These users are already familiar with your brand and you know a lot about them – experiment with different messaging to ensure you capitalize on the high likelihood of conversion.
  • Custom combination testing
    • We mentioned earlier that you may find different results when combining interest categories with previous site visitors. Keep testing and find what works best for your account. Experiment with different combinations of cookie lengths. Messaging for visitors that visited between 7 and 30 days ago may very well end up not working for users who visited between 30 and 60 days ago.
  • Frequency cap testing
    • You don’t want to be annoying, but you also want to maximize your site traffic. Monitor your audience size in combination with the number of impressions your remarketing ad groups get. Maybe your cap is too high and you aren’t limiting anything at all. Maybe you’re setting it way too low and you’re severely limiting your ads’ exposure. 
  • Impression Share
    • You’re following users and not sites, so if you get to 100% Impression Share you may be annoying some of those users. Monitor your bids both for cost effectiveness and return on investment, but also for impression share. 
  • Landing page testing
    • The user that you’re bringing back to your site is already somewhat familiar with your brand. You should experiment with landing them on the same page vs somewhere completely new. Is your messaging catered to someone who’s been there before? Are you asking questions on the landing page that a previous site visitor would already know the answer to? Test to find out which type of content connects most strongly to previous visitors.

Remarketing is a powerful targeting method on the Google Display Network. By tailoring your ads to your highly specific audience you’re going after, it can show a tremendous return in your accounts.