Google has recently introduced Customer Match, a feature that lets advertisers upload and target email lists using Google AdWords.

The new targeting option allows advertisers to upload email lists in order to display ads to existing contacts and similar audiences via Google Search, YouTube, TrueView and the newly launched native ads in Gmail.

Advertisers have previously been able to serve ads to their website visitors with search and display ads, using remarketing lists captured in Google Analytics. However, these lists are built using cookies, which users can easily delete or block, while the use of cookies isn’t ideal for targeting mobile users.

Using email lists is an ideal method of targeting ads across devices, as ads are now able to be displayed to users that are signed in to Google using an email address that’s been uploaded to a remarketing list in Adwords, regardless of the device they’re using to sign in.

This latest development ensures Google is able to offer similar advertising services to those already available on both Facebook (Custom Audiences) and Twitter (Tailored Audiences). In particular, Custom Audiences has proved an incredibly useful feature for Facebook advertisers, so it’s encouraging to see that Google’s email ‘Match Rate’ is actually better than Facebook’s in early studies.

What This Means for Advertisers

what does this mean for marketers

There are a number of ways that advertisers can take advantage of this new feature, but much like email marketing, the results you’re able to achieve will differ based on the segmentation and grouping of your email lists.

1. Target Users at Different Stages of the Buying Cycle

By uploading well segmented lists to AdWords, advertisers are able to serve different ads or modify their bids based on users at different stages of the buying cycle. For example, you may have a list of users that are classed as new leads, a list of existing customers, and a separate list of frequent buyers. As long as you have their email addresses, Customer Match allows you to reach them by targeting different ads depending on the email list those customers have been added to.

2. Exclude Existing Customers

Customer match lists are similar to remarketing lists for search ads, but not reliant on Google cookies and therefore a more reliable method of exclusion. For example, if there is an certain non-branded keyword that you specifically want to use to target new customers, you can exclude existing customers using campaign exclusions.

3. Cross-Sell to Existing Customers

Customer Match can help advertisers cross sell their services by displaying content for supplementary or complementary products to those already purchased by a particular email list. Again, this relies on having a well segmented email database, but there is clearly huge potential for advertisers to start cross selling to existing customers based on previous purchase history.

4. Use Existing Data to Find Similar Customers

Customer Match allows advertisers to create cohorts of customers and use the similar audiences tool to look for others with the same characteristics. This allows advertisers to target additional users based on previous browsing behavior, keyword searches, and other contextual factors.

How to Set up Customer Match

Similar to creating standard remarketing lists, advertisers can upload email addresses into the Audiences tab in AdWords. Google will then match these email addresses with any Google accounts that share the same email address.

adwords lists

Google has already provided detailed instructions on how to upload customer email lists here. It is worth noting that there is no limit to the number of lists you can upload. However, you will need to have a minimum of at least 1,000 ‘targetable‘ customers before you can create a list. This figure is based on the amount of email addresses you upload that are signed up to Google services, as the email address on your CRM must match the primary email addresses registered on a users Google account. This is a much larger match rate than Facebook Custom Audiences requires, with the goal of increasing anonymity for both advertisers and customers.


Segmenting customers into lists based on CRM data will allow advertisers to target users with way more relevant messaging, across multiple devices. This is a much more reliable method of targeting than using remarketing lists generated using website cookies, meaning it has the potential to generate better results. The early signs certainly look promising for advertisers, which is why I’d suggest Google Customer Match should become a major part of your paid advertising strategy.

If you’ve already started using Google Customer Match, I’d love to hear about the results you’re seeing so far. Please feel free to use the comments section below, or find me on Twitter via @iambenwood.

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