How to Launch Your First Google Ads Remarketing Campaign

Remarketing is a wonderful concept.

When remarketing campaigns are executed with thoughtfulness and intent, incremental conversions and sales can be fruitful.

It is a chance to re-engage your target audience and get a second chance at their attention.

To launch an effective Google Ads remarketing campaign, the success comes within the setup.

Below are the five crucial steps to complete your campaign.

1. Ensure Proper Tagging Is In Place

In order for a remarketing to serve impressions, it is vital that the proper tracking is on a website.

Most websites will use either Google Analytics or Google Ads tracking, I recommend having both sources as options.

Google Ads Tag

If your Google Ads account is starting from scratch, a Global Site Tag will need to be implemented.

To find this specific to your account, navigate to: Tools & Settings > Audience Manager > Audience Sources.

Depending on your relationship with the account, select one of the 3 options for the Tag setup. The most important part of the step is the placement of the tag.

Per Google’s instructions, the tag must be placed between the tags of every page of your website.

Google Analytics Tag

Google Analytics tracking is required before being able to create any remarketing list within the platform.

To find the tracking code, navigate to Admin > Property View > Tracking Info > Tracking Code.

Checking for Tag Implementation

The easiest way to check if tags have been implemented properly is to download the “Tag Assistant” extension in a Chrome browser.

Navigate to your website and run the Tag Assistant. If implemented correctly, the results should look similar to this.

The green happy face means that the tags are in the proper place.

2. Create Intentional Remarketing Lists

Now that you have ensured tracking is in place, it’s time to create intentional remarketing lists.

Intention is extremely important when crafting remarketing audiences.

If you simply targeted “All Visitors” to your website, you’re doing it wrong.

Google Analytics and Google Ads provide an immense amount of options to segment your site viewers as granular as you want.

Keep in mind, a list that is too narrow will have a hard time serving.

The key is to find a balance of audience size and their intent.

Google Analytics Lists

My personal preference is to create remarketing ads in Google Analytics.

Because there is onsite behavior data to layer onto lists, it gives more options to qualify that audience.

To create an audience in Google Analytics, navigate to: Admin > Property View > Audience Definitions > Audiences.

Note: This is under the assumption that a user has already linked the proper Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts for data sharing.

Now, it’s time to get creative.

The key is to create multiple remarketing lists based on the categorization of your website.

A few starter ideas to consider when creating a remarketing list portfolio:

  • Category page viewers.
  • Purchasers/Leads (to exclude in campaigns).
  • All Qualified site traffic (determined by time on site, whatever amount is considered above average for your business).
  • Quality Blog Viewers (determined by time on site, whatever amount is considered above average for your business).
  • Cart Viewers.

In this example, I want to create a remarketing list of anyone who visited a specific landing page but stayed on the site for at least 10 seconds.

Navigate to Advanced > Conditions.

The two key pieces of information to input would be “page” AND “session duration” (not “OR”).

Once completed, don’t forget to choose your audience destinations.

Always be sure to choose the Google Ads account for the list to import.

By doing so, the list can be used for Remarketing campaign purposes.

Google Ads Lists

To create lists in Google Ads, navigate to Tools & Settings > Audience Manager > Audience Lists.

There are five different types of remarketing lists available to create:

  • Website Visitors
  • App users
  • YouTube users
  • Customer list
  • Custom combinations

This article gives a more in-depth breakdown of how to create effective YouTube remarketing lists.

Depending on the goal, create your necessary remarketing lists and choose a list duration. The maximum duration a user can stay in a list is 540 days.

The benefit of Google Ads remarketing lists is that they give the option of pre-populating the list with users in the past 30 days. Google Analytics does not offer retroactive audience filling.

3. Determine Proper Assets

The most popular remarketing campaign type is within the Google Display Network (GDN). However, there are Remarketing Search campaigns.

Before creating the proper assets, ask these questions first:

  • What is the user being asked to do?
  • What should the message consist of?
  • Does the landing page experience match the ad messaging?

There are key components to consider when creating remarketing assets. Below are some of them:

  • Static image formats
  • Responsive image formats
  • Headlines and descriptions (if using responsive format)
  • Landing page experience

The full list of uploaded display ad specifications for Google Ads can be found here.

It is important to note that if using the Responsive Ad format, images must be ratio based and are not the same as static image requirements.

4. Create a Remarketing Campaign

Remarketing campaigns can be built in either Google Ads interface or Google Ads Editor.

Start with the campaign name, budget, and settings. If you’re creating multiple remarketing campaigns, keep track by putting the audience name in the campaign.

The campaign settings can make or break performance. When they are not properly managed or maintained, expect some volatility in performance. These include:

  • “Observation vs. Target” setting
  • Bid Strategy setting
  • Targeting Expansion setting
  • Location setting
  • Frequency Cap setting

When adding audiences to a remarketing campaign, choose the “Targeting” setting instead of “Observation”.

By keeping it at “Observation” mode, audience targeting is not narrowed at all.

When selecting a bid strategy, be sure to select one based on your goals.

For example, if you are to use “Target CPA” and set the bid too low, Google will throttle impressions and the campaign will be at risk to serve.

Lastly, be competitive with bids because the targeted audiences have already been introduced to your brand.

The next setting, “Targeting Expansion,” is one that Google has conveniently hidden within the Ad Group settings.

Always set this to zero in a remarketing campaign.

If you went through the trouble of creating a targeted list, why on earth would Google want us to expand to lookalike users in the same campaign?

The default setting is “People in, or who show interest, in your targeted locations”.

While this is the recommended setting according to Google, I recommend changing to “in or regularly in targeted location.” By changing it to the middle selection below, it allows for narrower targeting.

Lastly, frequency cap settings are still important because seeing the same ad multiple times per day creates a bad user experience.

Be sure to set frequency caps at a moderate level per user.

5. Analyze, Refine & Optimize

You’ve officially launched your first remarketing campaign!

That’s all there is, right?


It is important to keep a pulse on campaign performance early on. Some of the key items to watch for in the early days include:

  • Ensure audience size is large enough to show impressions.
  • Placements (where ads are showing).

After a few weeks of data (give or take, depending on the audience size), there should be enough information to start making optimizations based on performance.

The goal is to continually refine.

Remarketing campaigns are not a “set and forget” strategy.

Pulling It All Together

Pulling off a remarketing campaign requires the areas of technology, audiences, messaging, and settings to come together.

Without even one of these areas present, a campaign cannot truly live up to its potential.

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, June 2020