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How to Set Up Google Adwords Retargeting

Note: This post was part of the “Marketing That Works” Ideas Contest, showcasing 20 of the most innovative marketing ideas from the blogosphere’s up and coming marketers. We’ve since picked a winner – check out this post for the details! 🙂

adwords retargetingSeventy percent of online shoppers abandon their shopping cart without completing a purchase.

For a small business owner, this can mean losing a lot of potential revenue. One of the most powerful ways to get website visitors that didn’t buy back to your site to increase the chances of gaining that lost revenue is through a strategy called “adwords retargeting.”

For business owners that aren’t familiar with the term, retargeting means targeting online ads directly to people that have been to your website in the past. Retargeting is done through building a targeted list of visitors and displaying your ads to those specific users on different sites across the web. Google AdWords Remarketing is a great way to set up retargeting and increase the overall ROI of your organic and paid search strategy across the Google Display Network.

Retargeting strategies can become very complex. You can set up campaigns and ad groups that target just about any landing page you choose with appropriate messaging to get the results you want. Here’s just a few examples of ways retargeting can help:

  • Keyword specific retargeting campaigns
  • Product specific retargeting campaigns
  • Landing page-specific retargeting campaigns
  • Cross-sell previously converted visitor additional products
  • Stay top of mind!

Without implementing retargeting in your online strategy, you are missing a highly valuable opportunity to continue displaying your message about relevant products that consumers are looking for once they leave your website or abandon their shopping cart. Here’s how you can get started right away!

Quick Note: “Remarketing” = Google Adwords name for “Retargeting”

Download your time-saving checklist for the entire process.

google adwords retargeting
Getting Started

Under the campaign tree in your Adwords account, select Shared Library > Audiences.

Once you’ve accessed the Audiences tab, select “New Audience.” Here, you’ll create your remarketing list name, enter a description and dictate the campaign duration for that list. I generally recommend that audiences on any one particular list are there for no more than 30 days.

how to set up adwords retargeting

Now that you’ve set up your list profile, grab the remarketing code that Adwords automatically produces for the campaign. You (or your webmaster) will need to add this code to the landing page you wish to create your list from. This is completely different than the conversion code, so be sure it goes on the actual landing page and not the conversion page. As more visitors land on your page, they’ll be cookied, added to this campaign and will soon begin seeing your remarketing ads.


Now that your list profile has been set up and the remarketing code has been added to your landing page, it’s time to start building out your campaign.

1. Select Campaign Settings > Networks and devices

2. Select Display Network > Show ads only on pages that match all selected targeting methods

adwords retargeting ideas

3. Select Frequency capping and indicate your preferred impressions per individual user

This is an important step in setting up your campaign. You need to find the right mix of impressions for your list group. Be sure to limit the impressions that members of your campaign see so you aren’t bombarding them with your advertisement online all day, every day.

Instead, think of your retargeting/remarketing campaign as a multi-touch marketing effort.  You don’t want to overwhelm or annoy potential customers, you want to market to them strategically with fresh, relevant messaging at different intervals during the marketing lifecycle.

adwords retargeting guide

You can also add additional layers of targeting by including topic targeting and demographic targeting.

4. Create your new Ad Group

Now that your campaign settings and frequency capping is complete, you’ll need to create your Ad Groups within your remarketing campaign and add the audience you wish to target for each particular Ad Group.  For consistency, I usually name my Ad Group the same name as the remarketing list.

5. Create your new Ads

Be sure to test both image and text ads for your remarketing campaigns. It is a great way to test ad copy and imagery to a somewhat familiar audience. If you are setting up a multi-touch campaign, be sure to use different messaging and imagery during the course of the campaign. Keep it fresh!

6. Select Audiences > Remarketing Lists

 the best adwords retargeting strategy

7. Add the appropriate Remarketing list to the campaign you wish to target

adwords retargeting

Adwords Retargeting/remarketing can be a complex online marketing strategy—in fact, many companies choose to outsource to retargeting agencies. However, if you have the in-house capability to manage the process through Google Adwords, the ROI it can provide is well worth the time and effort.

For more information to help you get started, visit the AdWords help center.

Ready to put your retargeting campaign into action? Join our community to get a free step-by-step checklist to help you get started!

Create Your Google Retargeting Ads with Confidence

This simple 6-step checklist will walk you through the process of setting up your Google retargeting ads.

Google Ads Retargeting Checklist


About Dominick Frasso

Dominick Frasso (@dominickfrasso) is the SEO/SEM Specialist at Vistage International, an executive coaching organization that helps CEO members build better companies through unique business coaching opportunities.


  1. Kristina says:

    Thanks for this post. I setup my remarketing campin yesterday and watching for amazing results.

  2. Matt says:

    Being able to follow up, is an important aspect in marketing. Unfortunately, most people over look this fact. Remarketing is a way to follow up when people don’t leave you their information. Granted, it is very one side in that you “technically” don’t have a way to talk to them. Remarketing does give you the opportunity to keep trying to communicate with them.

    As for the post, thanks for posting this. This is something that I have been looking into for quite some time. There are only a few companies that are in this business and they want a large budget to market with. I think being able to do this in house is a great asset for a small/startup business.

  3. Discover Auctions says:

    Hi Dominick, thanks so much for this post. This a tip I was unaware of. I will be putting this info to good use directly. Thumbs up to Firepole Marketing and Danny Iny for choosing your post as one of the Innovative Marketing Ideas.

  4. Rajesh R says:

    Hello Friend, Where we need to put that Re-marketing code? Should we use it like “conversion Tracking” code?

    1. Hi Rajesh-
      You’ll want to place the conversion code on your ‘Thank You’ page, or ‘Confirmation Page’. The remarketing code should be placed on the actual landing page (not the confirmation page). What you can do is place an exclusion cookie on the confirmation page, to create a list of converted users which you can then use to create a custom combination to exclude additional retargeting efforts to. Sounds complicated, but trust me it’s simple….and I’m happy to go in to further detail if necessary! 🙂

      1. Rajesh R says:

        I got your point. I’ll ask you if i need more guidance in future.
        Thank you Dominick 🙂

  5. Benji says:


    Great article! You’ve opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities with retargeting. Thanks!

  6. Raina says:

    Great article Dominick! I often “window shop” online and leave items in my cart. I tip my hat to the stores that email me later and remind me about my forgotten items. I usually do complete my transactions after that little nudge. The strategy definitely works.

    1. Thanks Raina. I think the key here is a ‘nudge’ and not a stalking mentality. Have you ever been bombarded constantly by companies retargeting tactics? I know I have, so it is a delicate balance between nudging and overwhelming!

  7. Hey Jason. Site retargeting is awesome, and just like you said the strategy can and is used for email. Now, what’s recently evolving is Search Retargeting. Where you can target based off of search query, which means users don’t even need to land on your site/page!

  8. Jason Fonceca ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Do we have an Adword superstar in the house?

    Great post, Dominick!

    I don’t have an adwords campaign going currently (but I have in the past), and this is a really sharp move.

    Targeting people who’ve been there before could make a really personal connection, which I think what is most appealing about it to me 🙂

    I could see it adapted to email marketing, send to a segement of your list who has clicked through to your sales page before or something 🙂

  9. David Sneen says:

    This article could not have come at a better time for me. I have just achieved my initial goals—page one in two rather long tailed search terms. Now, with a bit of confidence; I need to select searches that are really going to bring visitors!!!

    This article will be my study material as I eat breakfast. Time to study and apply. Thanks!

Comments are closed.

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