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A step by step guide for setting up a kick ass remarketing campaign in Google AdWords


If you have ever felt a banner is following you around the internet, then there is a good chance it probably is! Thanks to Google, re-marketing is now available to any advertiser and it is proving to be hugely successful. The basic premise is very straight forward; a visitor arrives on your website, you drop a cookie, if they leave without buying from you, your advert is shown to them on other websites based on that cookie.

Re-marketing is ideal for advertisers with smaller budgets because you are preaching to the almost converted.  From our own experiences, cli ick through rates are more than double that of a standard banner campaign, cost per click is much lower, and conversions are higher, which then leads to a lower CPA. What’s not to love?

For the purposes of this guide I am going to go through the steps of creating a re-marketing campaign for our domain name products. Note: Re-marketing is only available if you are advertising through the Google Display Network (previously called the content network). It is not available through the search network.

Creating your list

Google’s re-marketing is essentially based around generating lists of visitors. By adding tracking to your target pages you create a list of visitors who will then be served your ads on other websites. Because I want to target visitors who are most likely to be interested in buying domain names from us, I am going to add the necessary tracking to my domain names page.

• Log in to your AdWords account

• Expand the left hand navigation bar (the ones that slides)

• Click on ‘Control panel & library’

• Click on ‘Audiences’

Click on the ‘New Audience’ button and choose ‘Remarketing list’

Add your re-marketing campaigns information and how long you want the cookie to be active for, and then click ‘Save’.

Your audience list will then be created along with the necessary tracking code to add to your website. Place this on the relevant page just before the tag.

Now we are starting to build up our list of people who have visited the domain names page, we also need to create a list of people we want to exclude from being shown our banners. Because the aim of this campaign is to convert people who didn’t buy the first time, it would be a waste of money showing ads to people who did buy. To prevent this, we will create a second list of people who have been shown our order confirmation page (i.e. they bought the product).

Following the same steps as above, create another list, but this time put the tracking on your order confirmation page. Once both those are done, we can create what AdWords calls a ‘Custom combination’.

Click on the ‘New Audience’ button and choose ‘Customer combination’

Name your customer combination and give it a clear description. You can then select from your re-marketing lists to build your custom combination.

Here we will add our ‘Viewed domain name’ list next to ‘all these audiences’, but because we don’t want to show ads to people who converted, I will select  the list that records those who converted next to ‘none of audiences’.  Essentially, our new customer combination list is as follows:

Viewed domain name product page – viewed order confirmation page = Target audience

Adding the list to an Ad Group

Now we have our list, we can apply it to either an existing Ad Group or create a new Ad Group. The methodology is the same once the Ad Group exists so I’ll use the example of applying it to an existing Ad Group.

Navigate to your chosen Ad Group and click on the ‘Audiences’ tab

Click on ‘Add audiences’, click on ‘Custom combinations’ and choose the list you want to add. Click ‘Save’ to apply the list.

As they navigate the internet, our adverts will now be shown to those people who visited our domain name page but didn’t go on to buy anything.

Refining your targeting further

We could choose to leave it there and let our banners/ text ads follow our target list around the internet regardless of where they go. However, from a branding perspective, you are losing too much control and our advert could end up on some websites we don’t want to be associated with. To ensure we only appear on relevant sites we can combine ‘targeting by audience’ with ‘targeting by network’.

The first step is to tell Google that we want to manually choose which websites and categories our ads are shown on. Note, this is done at a campaign level so make sure your re-marketing ad group is not mixed up with others where you don’t want this setting.

At the campaign level, click on the ‘Settings’ tab and then under ‘Networks & devices’ click on ‘Networks’. If it isn’t already chosen, check the radio button next to “Relevant pages only on the placements and audiences that I manage”.

Once that is done, go back to your ad group and click on the ‘Networks’ tab and then the ‘Add placements’ button.

If you have some specific sites in mind you know carry Google adverts, type them in here. If you need help researching and generating a list of sites, click on ‘Try the placement tool’.

Once you have created your list of websites and/ or categories, your adverts will only show up on these websites to your previously created audience list.

Even more refinement

Other areas to consider to laser target your adverts even further are geographic targeting (e.g. people in the UK only), targeting by device (e.g. Computers only) and choosing what time of day you’re your ads are shown (e.g. 9am to 7pm Monday to Friday).


In summary, our top tips for creating a successful re-marketing campaign are:

• Never use a one size fits all approach, create multiple targeting lists

• Drop the cookie on the product page, not the home page

• Create ad groups for each product with tailored creative

• Target specific categories

• Don’t just turn it on and leave it at that, monitor it every day and make changes

• Run weekly reports to show where your banners appeared and if necessary add negative website lists

• Keep your branding in mind as well. Do you really want to be seen on a low quality spam site?

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  • Adrian
      30 December 2010 at 9:29

    A trully awsome post. You really live up to your name when you say that this is a step-by-step guide. Have you used the display network like this to promote anything other than domain names? I would be interested to know if other types of business, like retail outlets for example, get similar results?


    Editor of AdWords Adviser, making AdWords more profitable for small business.
  •   04 January 2011 at 9:51


    Thanks for the positive comment. We have used the re-marketing service for a couple of our products and short term promotions and been very happy with the results.

    I've noticed John Lewis and a number of the electrical/ furniture stores using re-marketing over the Christmas period with their banners showing me the products and related deals I looked at on their website. I can only see this expanding and becoming more sophisticated in 2011.

  • Bastian
      09 January 2011 at 22:09

    Awesome guide.

    To avoid to be published on spammy or dubious sites, you could add the possibility to exclude whole categories of placements (e.g. Streaming sites, etc) as negatives on the placement tab (scroll down ->add negative on campaign level-> exclude category)

    It seems also reasonable to add negative keywords to avoid sites like this from the very beginning.

    Thanks for your input!


    Online Marketing Manager, Groupon Europe
  •   10 January 2011 at 9:20


    100% agree, negative keywords and placements are so often over looked.


  • Tasha
      18 February 2011 at 14:19

    Hello Matthew,

    Thank you so much for your post. I found it very helpful! Could you please let me know how long it should take, once the tag/link remarketing code has been copied into the landing page to see some effects of remarketing? There was no closing body tag on the landing page I used, so I just addedat the start and end of the remarketing code. Could you please advise?

    Or even if you don't mind checking if this is working or not...that would be great http://www.greenhousesensation.co.uk/product-range/pod-range/vitopod-propagator.html Kind thanks,

  •   18 February 2011 at 15:29


    I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. Looking at your HTML, you have placed the code Google provided you with pretty much in the centre of your file, is there a reason you did this? Google's help docs recommend placing it close to thetag for accurate reporting. Yourtag is at the bottom of the file just above . Do you have Google's conversion tracking added to your order confirmation page? You'll need this to make sure your adverts are not being shown to people who have already bought that product.

    In terms of when to expect results, unfortunately there is no hard fast rule. It will vary from site to site depending on how much traffic you get on the page, where you are advertising, how much you are bidding (CPC or CPM) and how effective your creative is.

    I hope this helps.

  • Tasha
      21 February 2011 at 15:35

    Hello Matt,

    Many thanks for your reply! Much appreciated.

    I just placed the code google provided at the bottom of the span style for the page in the meta description. Is this incorrect? If so, where should the tag be placed? Yes, we do have google conversion tracking on our order confirmation page.

    With regards to the link I provided in my previous comment, when looking at the Audience section in google campaign management it says 'too small to target'. Could you please advise? We usually have 2,000 page views per week for that page alone. I understand that this is a niche market and must be small compared to other markets - is that the reason why it says 'too small to target'? Any help would be much appreciated!

    Many thanks, Tasha
  •   21 February 2011 at 16:03


    In terms of placement, I would put it near your closing body and html tags, next to where you currently have the Google analytics code.

    I haven't read anything about a list needing to be a certain size and can't find info about it in Google's help pages to suggest that is the case. They do offer these ideas to help grow a list size though http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=176533

    The easiest way to check if your adverts are being shown is visit the page so the cookie is dropped on your computer and then visit one of the sites you want to be seen on. Don't forget, you might not be the only advertiser who wants to be seen on a website and placements are limited so only the top few bidders will be shown on a site at anyone time.




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