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How to Set Up a Remarketing Campaign in Google Ads


Staff member
Mar 19, 2024
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Setting up remarketing campaigns in Google ads helps turn prior visitors into customers – read on for an easy-to-follow, step-by-step process.

Here, you’ll find:

  1. What is a remarketing campaign in Google Ads?
  2. How to set up a Google Ads remarketing campaign
  3. What are the different types of remarketing methods?
  4. What are the benefits of remarketing campaigns?

Website visitors don’t always convert on their first visit. In fact, 92% of first-time site visitors are there to do something other than make a purchase.

That’s where Google Ads remarketing campaigns come into play. They are expertly designed to bring those almost-customers back into the fold, turning first visits into second visits and later into successful conversions.

Ready to see how you can make that happen?

What is a remarketing campaign in Google Ads?​

Remarketing is a strategy specifically created to target prospective customers who have already engaged with your business in one way or another. They could have:

  • Searched for your business on Google Search
  • Clicked on an ad
  • Visited a web page
  • Abandoned a cart
  • Completed a purchase
Hand holding phone

(Image: Unsplash)

“Remarketing allows you to show ads to people who have previously visited your website or used your mobile app, re-engaging with potential customers,” says HawkSEM Lead Strategist Sarah McKraken.

“[This] is super important since it can re-engage with people who are already more familiar with the brand and therefore more likely to convert.”

A Google Ads remarketing campaign is a powerful tool that offers numerous ways to set the parameters of each campaign, controlling who, when, and how different demographics can see your ads.

“We use custom-made remarketing lists to accomplish this,” McKraken adds.

How does Google Ads remarketing work?​

Google Ads remarketing begins with a small snippet of code (called a remarketing tag) and proceeds as follows:

  • A remarketing tag is added to one or more pages on your website. Upon meeting certain criteria, all visitors of a tagged page will have their cookie ID added to different audience lists, depending on the action performed.
  • The newly generated audience lists are used to create remarketing campaigns for Google Ads. Different campaign types, based on the generated remarketing lists, can be set depending on the “level of interest” shown by the visitors of a page.


For instance, an ad showcasing an offer, discount, or hard sell may be more effective for users who recently visited a sign-up page. Meanwhile, users visiting the home page could still be considering a purchase and may instead benefit from personalized ads that lead to more information.

  • Ads are placed on the Google Display Network and Google Search Network for publishing on different websites. Whenever a user visits a different website or searches for similar products and services, your ads will be shown as display ads or search ads, reminding them about your brand or website.
  • The user clicks on your personalized ads and returns to your website. Depending on the type of ad shown, they will be taken to specific pages where they can continue to perform the desired action and finish converting.

Remarketing targets potential customers who are already warm, leading to higher conversion rates and an excellent return on investment (ROI).

How to set up a Google Ads remarketing campaign​

There are four steps to set up a Google Ads remarketing campaign:

  1. Set up the Google Ads remarketing tag
  2. Build a remarketing audience
  3. Create a remarketing campaign within your Google Ads account
  4. Upload/create display ads to be used in the campaign

1. Set up the Google remarketing tag

The first step is to set up the Google remarketing tag, which is a piece of code that tracks user actions on your website.

There are two ways to accomplish this: through Google Ads and Google Analytics. For best results, we recommend using both options.

Via Google Ads

To set up Google Ads conversion tracking via Google Ads, check out our Google Tag Manager Guide.

Via Google Analytics

  1. Log into your Google Analytics account.
  2. On the lower-left corner of the screen, click the Admin button.
  3. Look for the specific Google Analytics Property you want to track.
  4. Click on the Tracking Info option.
  5. Under Tracking Info, select Data Collection.
  6. Under the Data Collection For Google Signals section, press the first button to activate. Verify it has been activated by checking if the button has the label ON.

2. Build a remarketing audience

After you activate Google Signals, you can create remarketing lists on Google Ads.

There are two versions of this list you have to build.

One is a list of all site visitors, including those who visited in the past 90 days. The other list comprises only site visitors from the past 90 days.

This is crucial in distinguishing visitors who need to be retargeted from those who have already converted.

There are many ways of accomplishing this. One is by excluding users who have completed their purchase, which means they were redirected to your website’s Thank You page. This is the example we use below.

Create all website visitors + converted audiences list

  1. Log into your Google Ads Account.
  2. Click on Tools from the top menu, then open Audience Manager.
  3. Under Audience Manager, click the + button to create a new audience.
  4. Select Website Visitors from the drop-down menu.
  5. For List members, choose Visitors of a page.
  6. For the Visited Page, select Match any rule group.
  7. Under Page URL, select contains, then enter your Thank You Page’s URL. (For example: /checkout/order-received/)
  8. Under Pre-Fill Options, choose to pre-fill the list with people who matched the rules within the past 30 days.
  9. Lastly, under Membership Duration, type in 90 days.
  10. Once everything is configured, click Create Audience.


All website visitors list

  1. Log into your Google Ads Account.
  2. Click on Tools from the top menu, then open Audience Manager.
  3. Under Audience Manager, click the + button to create a new audience.
  4. Select Website Visitors from the drop-down menu.
  5. For List members, choose Visitors of a page.
  6. For the Visited Page, select Match any rule group.
  7. Under Page URL, select contains, then enter your website’s domain name.
  8. Under Pre-Fill Options, choose to pre-fill the list with people who matched the rules within the past 30 days.
  9. Lastly, under Membership Duration, type in 90 days.
  10. Once everything is configured, click Create Audience.

3. Create a remarketing campaign within your Google Ads account

Now that you were able to create the audience lists, it’s time to begin setting up your displays for the campaign. Follow the steps below:

  1. Log back into your Google Ads account.
  2. From the left-side menu, select Campaigns.
  3. Click on the + button, then choose New Campaign from the list.
  4. A wizard will pop up to help you with the setup process.
  5. On the window that pops up, select Sales, then Continue.
  6. Review your conversion goals, then Continue.
  7. From the campaign types list, select Display, then Continue.
  8. Under the campaign subtype, choose Select Standard Display Campaign.
  9. You will then be asked to provide the details for your landing page. At this point, you will also need to provide a suitable name for your campaign. Choose an easily identifiable name. Click Continue.
  10. Under Locations, select All Countries and Territories. Then, choose a language that all our customers speak and click Next.
  11. Set your daily budget for your ad spend.
  12. Under Bidding, select Conversions, then Automatically Maximize Conversions. Click Next.
  13. Click on the Add Targeting option, then choose Audience Segments. Press the Browse button.
  14. Choose How They Have Interacted With Your Business, then click Website Visitors.
  15. When prompted, scroll through the list of audiences to find the second set of audiences created (Website Visitors only).
  16. Finally, uncheck the Use Optimized Targeting option, then click Next.

4. Upload/create display ads to be used in the campaign

Finally, it’s time to create ads and ad groups that will be used throughout the entire display campaign.

By default, you will be able to create responsive ads containing visual elements (static images and videos) that your audiences will interact with. This is a great DIY option for those looking for a simple yet effective way to create display ads.

Assets you’ll be needing for display ads include:

  • Images
  • Logos
  • Videos
  • Headlines
  • Descriptions

Upload all your assets to Google Ads. Google will test different variations to find the best performers for different queries.

Once they’re uploaded, click Add to Ad Group, then Create Campaign.

How to configure campaign audiences

The last step in the campaign setup process is to configure your remarketing audience to exclude those who have already converted.

  1. Under the Campaigns List, locate and click on your Retargeting Campaign.
  2. Select Ad Groups, then choose the retargeting ad group, the second list we created.
  3. From the left-side menu, select Audiences.
  4. Under Audiences, locate the section on Exclusions. Then, select Edit Exclusions.
  5. Click Browse.
  6. Under How They Have Interacted With Your Business, click Website Visitors.
  7. Finally, locate the first set audience list we created and select it to add it to the exclusion list.

Once you hit Save, you can start your campaign. At that point, your ads will be shown to users who visited your website but haven’t completed a purchase.

What are the different types of remarketing methods?​

There are six different ways to remarket and appeal to your intended audience.

  1. Standard remarketing: This remarketing method uses cookies to keep track of user behavior while browsing your site. Ads will then be shown to them as they browse a different website under the Google Display Network.
  2. Dynamic remarketing: A dynamic remarketing ad adapts to the user’s behavior, so they’re not repeatedly shown the same ad. Instead, it gathers information about possible interests and displays a different ad group each time, creating multiple opportunities for customers to come back and convert.
  3. Mobile app remarketing: Following the same foundation as standard remarketing, this method applies to app users who visit your mobile website or mobile app. After performing any of those actions, you will be able to reach them with a business ad when they use a different app or mobile website.
  4. Search ad remarketing: This method allows you to place ads on keywords. However, these search ads are only displayed once Google verifies that the user has visited your website before.
  5. Video remarketing: In this remarketing method, you can create a customer list of interested users who will then be shown your ads whenever they search for a keyword on Google Search, visit an ad partner’s website, or watch a video on YouTube.
  6. Email list remarketing: This is one of the more recent methods introduced by Google. It uses Google’s Customer Match feature that adds a list of Gmail users and others who use the platform to your ad campaigns. They will then be able to see your ads whenever they log into their email account, use Google Search, or watch YouTube videos.

Remarketing vs. retargeting: Is there a difference?

Technically, yes.

Remarketing is an umbrella term that refers to a broad scope of strategies to reach and target people who have previously interacted with your brand.

This can include a combination of digital marketing strategies, such as:

  • Search campaigns
  • Display campaigns
  • Social media
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Pay-per-click (PPC)
  • Email marketing
  • Offline marketing tactics like billboards, flyers, and TV ads

Retargeting is one of the more specific types of remarketing and is also the most common. It is a term used to mainly refer to online methods of remarketing.

Essentially, all retargeting campaigns are a form of remarketing. However, not all remarketing campaigns are retargeting.

However, many people use both terms interchangeably when discussing an online remarketing strategy.

What are the benefits of remarketing campaigns?​

Most transactions do not occur during a prospective customer’s initial visit to your website, even if they did check out a product page or two, so, implementing a remarketing strategy is one of the best ways to recover that traffic, reach your target audience, and increase your company’s revenue.

Aside from that, the following are ways remarketing can benefit your business:

Keep your business top of mind

Brand awareness is crucial in attracting potential customers and fostering loyalty.

But this can be difficult to achieve when your customers are easily drawn away to look at other brands.

Fortunately, you can create ad campaigns that remind people about your business and get repeated brand exposure. Once they visit other websites, they can see your ad, be reminded about their interest in your brand, and return to your site.

Reach your intended audience

Finding and reaching your target audience is one of the most critical elements of successful digital marketing.

If you’re broadcasting your brand message to an unreceptive audience, your message will only fall on deaf ears since they do not want or need what you’re offering or have no capacity to buy.

Remarketing is an excellent strategy that helps you reach a specific audience with a vested interest in your products or services, which increases your likelihood of success.

Always have perfect timing

When delivering targeted ads to prospective customers, timing is everything in ensuring the effectiveness of your ad campaigns.

The challenge comes from being unable to determine whether the people you’re reaching are in the right stage of the customer journey.

Do they need your product or service?

Are they even interested?

With remarketing, because you’re targeting people who’ve recently interacted with your brand, you already know they have an active interest in your products or services.

This means that with a retargeting ad, it’s always the right time to advertise your message.

Recover abandoned carts

Cart abandonment occurs when customers add items to their cart but leave without completing the purchase.

It is caused by several reasons, from problems encountered during the checkout process to distractions pulling the user away from the shopping site.

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While this is a common reason for reduced conversions for most businesses online, the opportunity cost is even greater, which is estimated to cost ecommerce companies a staggering $18 billion annually in lost sales.

Fortunately, remarketing can help bring customers back and get them to complete their purchases:

Increase conversion rates

The main point of any digital marketing campaign is to generate conversions as it leads to higher revenue – the more conversions you generate, the higher your revenue will be.

And in this regard, having a remarketing strategy offers a distinct advantage.


Well, it simply leads to more purchases.

On average, only 2% of website visitors will make a purchase on their first visit. This means an astounding 98% of prospective customers will leave without performing a single meaningful action.

But by targeting the right people at just the right time, these customers are able to reconsider your offering and return to your website to complete their purchase.

This is how retargeting campaigns can enjoy 147% higher conversion rates than regular campaigns.

Score higher ROI

The return on ad spend (ROAS) is an important metric that determines how much profit you’re making from running an ad campaign.

Essentially, you want your ad costs low and your conversions high. This is why adjusting your bidding strategy is always recommended to ensure you’re meeting your campaign goals with minimal spending.

On that note, this is where remarketing campaigns offer the final benefit.

Through remarketing, reaching your target audience becomes significantly easier. Moreover, with reduced ad spending delivering a higher conversion rate, remarketing is really worth the investment.

Optimize your Google Ads Remarketing campaigns for maximum impact

Google Ads remarketing can transform your marketing strategy, but it’s not just about set-it-and-forget-it type of marketing. To truly make the most of it, you need a strategic approach. Here’s how you can get the most value from your Google Ads remarketing efforts:

1. Set clear objectives

Understand that remarketing differs from standard PPC. Its power lies in reinforcing brand recall and nudging those who’ve shown interest in conversion.

Expectations of immediate conversions or massive traffic influxes are probably unrealistic. Remarketing is a marathon, not a sprint, focusing on long-term engagement over instant results.

2. Strategize thoughtfully

Jumping straight into campaign creation without a solid strategy won’t yield the best results. You might see competitors getting great results from remarketing and want to jump the gun and immediately set up your campaign.

But your competitor’s campaigns are doing well because they put the time into setting them up with intention. Google itself offers a guide with 19 remarketing strategies, providing a range of ideas to kickstart your planning.

3. Use UTM codes

UTM codes are essential for tracking the performance of your links across campaigns. By adding these codes at the campaign level, you can save countless hours and precisely track which activities drive conversions. This granular data is invaluable for refining and optimizing your remarketing efforts.

4. Implement a Privacy Policy

Transparency is key when collecting data for remarketing. Google advises users of its remarketing services to clearly inform site visitors about data collection practices for remarketing purposes.

A robust privacy policy that complies with Google’s recommendations not only builds trust but ensures you’re on the right side of regulations.

5. Manage your budget with exclude lists

Budget constraints mean you need to be strategic about who sees your ads. You can ensure your budget is spent targeting new or undecided users by excluding users who have already converted or completed the desired action. This strategic use of exclude lists prevents wasting unnecessary ad impressions.

6. Experiment with Dynamic Remarketing

Dynamic remarketing takes your campaigns to the next level by using visitor behavior data to customize ads. This method is especially potent for ecommerce, where ads can showcase products a visitor viewed with up-to-date prices and details.

7. Leverage Google Analytics for list creation

Enable remarketing in Google Analytics (GA) to unlock the potential of GA’s vast metrics for list creation. These lists are seamlessly integrated into Google Ads, allowing you to target or exclude visitors based on almost any behavior tracked by GA. This integration opens up endless possibilities for targeted, effective remarketing campaigns.

The takeaway

Remarketing is a powerful tool that can help you re-engage with previous and existing customers. As a result, you create additional opportunities for customers to complete their purchases, which translates to higher conversion rates and recovered revenue.

When done right, Google Ads remarketing campaigns can generate significant growth for your business. However, this requires proper planning and execution to achieve the right results — something that a true expert can help you with. Get in touch with us.

This article has been updated and was originally published in August 2023.

The post How to Set Up a Remarketing Campaign in Google Ads appeared first on HawkSEM.
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