A wise man once told me: “Why would you go hunting with a shotgun when you can use a rifle?”

Although this is a bit aggressive, it’s a comment I’ve always related to when think about remarketing and how campaigns should be run.



Remarketing as a targeting method is not new. In fact, most of the clients I work with have experimented with it, or have at least considered it and developed an understanding of how it works. However, it’s that ‘understanding’ which can give a false sense of knowledge when running remarketing campaigns.

What is remarketing?

Remarketing is a fairly simple concept: You have a group of people within a list or as part of an audience who have carried out a certain action, and you promote targeted messages to them.

But when reviewing or taking on accounts, I have seen so many cases where clients are missing out on conversions due to a poor set up, or failure to take opportunities within the remarketing campaigns.

I frequently encounter campaigns that have been launched with generic advert targeted at all previous website visitors within the past 30 days. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but there is so much more that can be done to improve performance.

In this post I will share some simple tactics that will increase with the accuracy of the targeting, making your remarketing campaigns more effective.

Use the best audience lists

By default, AdWords automatically forms an audience list when the remarketing tag is applied to website. This list will contain anyone who has visited the website and is named ‘All Visitors’.

This is the first list most people will use as a trial before starting to form their own lists. These may consist of users who have visited a certain page, or even an upload of an email list.

This is all well and good, and running campaigns like this can lead to improved performances, but the danger of using AdWords audience lists is that you are restricted in the parameters you can apply when gathering new members. This is where Google Analytics can, and should, be used.

Google Analytics audience lists can be populated by using more flexible and specific parameters than AdWords: Time on site, goal conversions, number of pages visited and channel of acquisition are just some of the conditions you can apply to an audience list, and can be used in combination with each other.

Construct an audience list in Google Analytics and import it into AdWords:

Audience lists in Analytics

Negatively bid against Audience Lists

Refined remarketing lists are highly valuable when targeting messages at their members. However, they are as equally valuable when negatively bidding on them.

This is an opportunity many accounts I come across do not take advantage of, but really should.

For example, you may have a list of all converters, and may choose to negatively bid against it for the next seven days as you have found those individuals are less likely to convert again so soon after.

Strategise your Audience List application

Now that you have your sophisticated audience lists, and now that you know about negatively bidding against audience lists, you can devise a refined targeting strategy.

Here’s how this might work:

You may wish to target an audience list for a duration of 30 days, but negatively bid against another remarketing list with a duration of seven days.

As the conditions may be the same, there will be the same people within both lists. However, you will only be targeting people within the 30 day list who have been on it between 8-30 days.

You may then choose to set up another campaign targeting the seven day duration list with another type of message. You might have found those individuals who have visited the site more recently, are more likely to come back and convert.

These are just three tactics for improving the quality of audience members within your remarketing lists and the targeting of your campaigns. Remarketing is a very useful targeting method, and by refining the audiences, you are likely to see an improvement in performance.

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