Google AdWords ReMarketing – Everything You Need to Know

It’s so new that there was bubble wrap on the account when I unwrapped the new “Audiences” tab. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s the newest toy being made available in AdWords- Remarketing on the Content Network.

Remarketing is not a new concept, the idea of basically, trying again with a potential customer to finish up that conversion that you were trying to get them to complete in the first place. Now Google AdWords is offering the ability to segment, define and target different content network audiences for advertisers to try and remarket to.

If you happen to see it appear one day in your account, be sure to follow a few steps and know a few things before you hit that big “go” button:

  • Remarketing is available in the content network only and applied at the ad group level.
  • The content network setting needs to be for placements, not keywords for maximum reach.
  • The best set up is a new campaign for placements and an ad group with no active placements in it. (See set up section below for more on this.)
  • If you want to get the most out of it, have AdWords Conversion Tracking enabled and running, it will import and use some of the same tags.
  • For even easier management, link your Google Analytics and AdWords accounts through data sharing. Under settings in your GA account, enable the checkbox under “Share my Google Analytics data” and for “with other Google products only.”
  • KNOW what/who you want to remarket to BEFORE you start setting up. Strategy first, then implementation.
  • Experiment! It’s fun!

Getting Started with Google AdWords Remarketing

There are two types of options available in the Audiences tab: interest categories and defined audiences. Interest categories is not actually a part of the remarketing lists tool, but should be treated as another feature that has been bundled up into this and does apply to the custom combinations tool, addressed later on in this post.

Using interest categories does not require a new campaign or ad group, it can be applied to existing ad groups. (Note- This feature may not be available to you yet.)

Interest Categories

This is a huge list of 27 categories with an even bigger subset of categories that allows the advertiser to choose one or several types of audiences to target. Sites included in these categories are placed there per Google’s definition. While advertisers may select certain categories in their AdSense settings, the ultimate decision on what kind of site is in what category is selected by Google. (And yes, sometimes there are manual overrides.)

To utilize this feature, simply select an ad group, select the categories and save. No tags are needed, what you are essentially doing is telling Google sets of users that you want to target, not sites or demographics. (Similar to the Ad Preference Manager- which allows Google users to say if they’re going to see ads, they might as well see ads for things they want or are interested in and exclude the things they aren’t.) In this case, you are marketing towards users that Google knows has a preference for a certain kind of site(s) content.

Using Google AdWords Remarketing Lists

How to get started:

  1. Create a shell campaign targeted to the content network, automatic placements- relevant pages across the network. Target to all devices or whatever your preference and set the maximum CPC to $2 at minimum, $4 for CPM. (If you’re after view through conversions, go with the CPM setting.)
  2. Add a site address in the managed placements list as a placeholder and pause that site. Leave the ad group active.
  3. In settings, set the frequency cap for the amount of times you want to remarket to users, this is particularly useful for CPM campaigns, CPC can forgo this.
  4. If you typically utilize demographic targeting on the content network or have a very specific audience that you use it for, you can layer it into the remarketing settings. However, it will only apply to sites that Google has access to demographic info for- like MySpace, YouTube, etc; It won’t do anything or have minimal impact on any other sites. If you plan on remarketing to a specific demographic of users in MySpace than go ahead and implement those settings.
  5. Populate the ad group with your favorite text and/or display ads.
  6. Add in your usual list of negative sites or placements if you’ve got any. Later on, you’ll be able to add in negative audiences as well. (See the very end of the post for more on this.)
  7. For ad display settings- optimize or rotate, works the same as on the regular content network.
  8. Save and then click on that audiences tab, cause it’s time to start creating some remarketing lists and custom combinations!

Creating Remarketing Lists in AdWords

    1. Click on the Audiences tab and then on the “add audiences” button.
    2. Click on remarketing lists and then on the “create and manage lists” link.


    1. When creating a new list, fill in the name and description, along with the cookie duration. (30 days is the default and recommended length by Google to start with.)


    1. You can generate tags at this step or choose “select from existing tags.” If you generate new tags, the code will be presented to you once you save and click on the Tags/Rules column. If you click on “select from existing tags” the field will populate with your saved conversion tracking definitions from your AdWords Conversion tracking settings. Keep in mind, which ever you choose, it cannot be changed later, this is a permanent setting. (You can edit the cookie duration, name, description and even which tags, but once a segment is created, it can’t be deleted. Mark the segment as “closed” and it will no longer appear as a choice for a marketing list, nor will it apply to your account, it stays in a paused state.)
    2. Click save and you’re done! With that part anyway…..
    3. If you generated new tags, those will need to be placed on the page(s) that you want visitors that hit to be re-marketed to before the program can start working. They should be implemented just like AdWords Conversion tracking, insert the code snippet between the body tags.
    4. You may notice that the column under “Number of Users” is blank at this time. That number represents the number of users that were cookied and are included in your remarketing list. That number will fluctuate with cookie expirations and new additions. It may take awhile for this column to populate.


  1. Once the list is completed, there will be a few edits you can do from the ad group screen, but to edit the list and settings itself, click on the “add audiences” button -“remarketing lists” – “create and manage marketing lists” and then the little pencil icon.
  • Bids can be set at different levels for different lists, so be sure to assign the right value to each list by the users you’re targeting. A visitor that abandoned a full cart is more valuable than one that doesn’t add to the cart at all and should be treated as a higher value visitor.

Custom Combinations
This tool uses Boolean logic to help filter out those that you do not want to remarket to or layers that you want to create. For example, if a user frequents a specific site and is also a customer of yours, you can opt to have your ads not to show to them while they are using that site. Instead you can save your advertising dollars to capture those that engaged your site but did not convert. In this option, you can layer audiences using the values of AND, OR and NOT to pull in and exclude from specific interest categories and other remarketing lists.
To get started on a custom combination, you’ll need to have the remarketing lists you want to work with already set up. In this case, I have two set up- one for those that completed a transaction and one for those that added an item to their cart, proceeded to checkout to the sign in page and then left.

Creating Custom Combinations in AdWords

  1. Click on the “add audiences” button and select “custom combinations.”
  2. Name your combination, provide a description and using the drop down menus select “all these audiences” “one or more of these audiences” or “none of these audiences” that goes with your goal.add-custom-combination.jpg
    For example, I want to exclude previous purchasers, so I would choose “none of these audiences.”
  3. Click the “select audiences” button, which will populate with interest categories and your saved remarketing lists. In this case, we would select the remarketing list “completed checkout” that I made earlier.adwords-custom-combination.jpg
  4. Now I need to go back to the ad group that I want to use this list in conjunction with and apply it. So open up the ad group you want add audiences to and click the audience tab and select the ad group.
  5. Click “add audiences” “custom combinations” and add the combination you just created. Make sure the ad group you want it applied to is selected and click “save.”
  6. You should now have a couple of enabled audiences showing at the ad group level.
  7. audiences.jpg

Additional note:
If you set up remarketing lists with different cookie durations, you can create custom combinations targeting visitors at these date ranges. For example, a 30 day list, a 14 day and a 7 day.

To reach 30-day visitors, within the “New custom combination” panel, next to Users included or interested in…, select “all these audiences” for your 30-day list and “none of these audiences” for your seven-day list or 14-day list. This ensures that your ad group is reaching users who have been on your list only for 15-30 days, and won’t include users who have been on your list for a shorter period of time.

You’ll likely see a greater response from users who have visited your site more recently, so you can bid higher for users on your seven-day and 14-day lists, and bid lower for users who have been on the list for 15-30 days.

Setting Negative Audiences in AdWords

One last thing when setting up a remarketing list, there is the option to weed through the Interest Categories and add negative audiences. So if you sell a children’s game for example, that has the same name as a highly technical piece of software or hardware, you might want to exclude the interest categories of “Computers and Electronics” to help filter out remarketing to users who frequent sites unrelated to your products. (Note- Interest Categories are not available in every account yet!)

Don’t forget! You’re excluding a type of group of user, not sites themselves.

Negative audiences can be set at the ad group and campaign levels. Simply open up the ad group or campaign and scroll down to the bottom where it says “Negative audiences.” Expand, add in your selections and save. Just like adding negative keywords!

So how does this new tool work? Well, that’s another post all by itself, I’m still playing with the bubble wrap! This post itself is really a work in progress as well, so if you’ve got more info or correction that you’ve found, just let me know!

*And no, I don’t know what the “Pre defined Audiences” selection does yet, I’ve got a question in to Google re that and will update the post when I find out more.

Special thanks to Lauren Cooperman at Google, who walked me through a lot of this material!
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  1. Thank you Elizabeth. This is the best overview I have seen about the new remarketing feature in Google Ads.
    I have several accounts and for some reason the Auduience Tab and the selection arrow are not showing on any of my accounts. I cannot find anything in Google help to assit me. I was wondering if you have seen this issue?
    Thanks again for a great blog.

  2. Wow – thanks for taking the time to put all this together. Good stuff! I think the announcement can only mean good things for advertisers and consumers alike. And to reiterate your point, retargeting isn’t new, it’s just new to Adwords. The fact that Google is now utilizing this marketing technique just validates that it works. But it’s also important to note that Google’s content network for display ads is only the 6th largest so it’s important for advertisers to run across multiple networks.

  3. Hello,
    Harry, I have the same issue.
    No “audience tab’ on my account.
    I will contact the adwords support team to see if they can fix my account.

  4. Good Stuff.. Thanks Elizabeth.. I don’t see interest categories in all tabs including audiences tab. Please help me.

  5. Well, love them or hate them, the big “G” really do have some brilliant ideas. This is something I will be having a go at.
    It suits my market perfectly (restaurant business)
    Thanks Google
    Lynsey Pat

  6. Great Article,Thank you.I’ve been cofusing with if i have keyword in ad group and with remarking list,would ads show on visitors which are not on my list?
    thanks again
    Great job

  7. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!
    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

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