Create a remarketing list

  • To run a remarketing campaign, you'll need a collection of cookies from people who visited your website, also called a remarketing list.
  • Your remarketing list can include people who visited a certain page on your website, and you can also create more advanced lists using templates and rules.
  • Go to the "Shared library" in AdWords to create remarketing lists. Once your list is created, you can apply the list to your remarketing campaigns.

About creating a list

If you want to run a remarketing campaign to show ads to people who have previously visited your website, you'll need a remarketing list. A remarketing list is a collection of cookies from people who visited your website. Creating the list is one of the most important steps in setting up a remarketing campaign because you'd use this list to target your ads. You can start creating lists at anytime, but they'll only start getting visitors after you've placed the remarketing tag (a small snippet of code) on your website.

Create as many remarketing lists as you'd like. Once you've created some lists, create new campaigns and then add your lists to your ad groups.

  • To use remarketing on the Display Network, choose "Display Network only" > "Marketing objectives" > "Drive action" > "Buy on your website" when you create your campaign. The default settings in this campaign type can help you to achieve better performance.
  • To use remarketing lists for search ads, select "Search Network only – All features" as your campaign type. Remarketing lists are not available for "Search Network only – Standard" or "Search & Display Networks – Standard" campaigns.

How to create a remarketing list

Tip:

Before you create your list, read about remarketing strategies and best practices to learn what kind of list best suits your goals.

Step-by-step instructions
  1. Click on the Shared library link in the navigation bar, below your list of campaigns. Shared Library Link
  2. Click on the View link in the "Audiences" section.
  3. Click on the + Remarketing list button.
  4. Enter a descriptive remarketing list name.
  5. Choose who you want to add to your list. There are several ways to define who to add to your remarketing list. The simplest of them selects people who have visited a specific page of your website to be added to your list. Here's how to create this type of list:
    1. In the "Who to add to your list" section, make sure that the "Visitors of a page" template is selected.
    2. In the text box, type the URL of the page or section for which you want to create the list.
    3. Either finish typing the value and press Enter, or select one of the suggested options to define your list.

    Bear in mind: When you enter a value, for example a URL, into the text box to define your rule, and then select "URL contains" in the drop-down menu, you indicate that the URL of the section that you're creating the list for contains the part of the URL that you entered, but doesn't have to be equal to what you typed.

    Example:

    If your entire website has a remarketing tag and you enter "electronics" when you create your list, then people who visited any of your webpages with "electronics" in the URL will be added to the list. This will happen regardless of where the term appears within the URL. For example, visitors to http://electronics.example.com/ and to http://www.example.com/electronics.html would both be added to the list.

    Create a remarketing list
  6. Enter the membership duration for your list (the default is 30 days). This indicates how long you want the visitor's cookie to stay on your list. We recommend choosing a duration related to the length of time that you expect your ad to be relevant for the visitor. For more details, read the "More about membership duration" section below.
  7. If you already have a remarketing tag on your website, then leave the "Include past visitors that match these rules" tick box selected, to include recent website visitors who match these rules in your list. Which visitors are eligible also depends on the membership duration that you choose and is capped at 30 days. This works for the Display Network only (and doesn't apply to remarketing lists for search ads).
  8. Click on Save.

If you haven't already pasted the remarketing tag into your website, then you'll need to copy the tag and paste it into your website. As people visit your website, their cookie IDs will get added to your remarketing list. If you have older remarketing tags on your website, then you can still use them, but we recommend implementing the new tag.

You can define more specific lists by using rules and different list templates. See the "Creating advanced lists" section below.

Bear in mind

At first, your list might not have any cookie IDs associated with it. Once you've added the remarketing tag to your website or mobile app, as visitors come to your site or app, they'll start getting added to your list. For the Display Network, your ads will show on your list when there are at least a hundred cookie IDs within the last 30 days. For Google search, your ads will show to your list when there are at least a thousand cookie IDs.

More about membership duration

When you create a remarketing list, you can decide how long a visitor's cookie stays on your list. We recommend choosing a duration related to the length of time that you expect your ad to be relevant for the visitor. In general, the membership duration should be similar to the length of your sales cycle.

Example:

If you sell cinema tickets, then you might select a membership duration of a just few days, but if you sell cars, then you might choose a duration of a few months. You'd do this because while it might not take too much time for people to decide that they want to buy cinema tickets, it generally takes longer to make the decision to buy a car. Similarly, if you sell Valentine's Day gifts, then you might choose a membership duration of a year plus a few days, so that you can reach the customers on your list when Valentine's Day comes around the next year.

The visitor's cookie is removed from the list at the end of the duration if there's no new activity. If the person visits your website again, then the clock is reset for another 30 days or for the duration that you've set. The maximum membership duration is 540 days. For remarketing lists for search ads, the maximum membership duration is 180 days. If you set a duration longer than that, then the cookie ID will be removed from the search remarketing list after 180 days.

You can change the membership duration at any time in your AdWords account. Here's how you do this:

  1. Click on Shared library in the navigation panel, right below "All campaigns".
  2. Click on the Audiences link.
  3. In the "Membership duration" column, click on the duration that you'd like to change.
  4. Change the number and click on Save.

Bear in mind

After you change the list's membership duration, the list size that you see in your AdWords account may be temporarily inaccurate. If you change the duration after a list has already accumulated cookies, then the new duration is applied to all current and future cookies on the list. However, in cases where you extend the duration and some cookies have already expired, the new duration won't be applied to the expired cookies.

How to work with URLs

If you'd like to create remarketing lists besides the "All visitors" list that AdWords creates for you when you set up your first remarketing campaign, then you can build rules based on the web addresses or URLs of your website.

URLs usually include words that describe the content of each page. Below are a few examples of how you can create lists based on the your website's URLs.

Imagine that you have a website with this URL structure:

http://www.example-site.com
http://www.example-site.com/sports
http://www.example-site.com/sports/netball
http://www.example-site.com/sports/football

You could create a list called "Category Sports", and the list definition could be "URL contains sports".

Here are other examples:

List definition Matches
URL contains sport www.example-site.com/sport
www.example-site.com/sport/basketball
www.example-site.com/sport/football
URL contains basketball www.example-site.com/sport/basketball
URL contains www.example-site.com www.example-site.com
www.example-site.com/sport
www.example-site.com/sport/basketball
www.example-site.com/sport/football

Tip:

When you create your lists, you can enter your terms using upper or lower case, and they'll be matched to the page without regard to upper-case or lower-case letters. For example, if you enter "CHOCOLATE" but your page URL includes the term "chocolate", then you'll still be able to define the list for that page.

Reach just your homepage visitors

If your homepage URL is structured like www.example-site.com/index.html, then type the homepage URL into the text box. If your site doesn't use index.html, then you need to use rules (see section below). You might want to use "contains" instead of "equals" when you create your list. If you use "equals", the page URL needs to match exactly what you enter, and the URL might or might not include "www" or "https".

Websites with descriptive URLs

Let's say that your website has this URL structure:

www.example-site.com/clothing
www.example-site.com/clothing/women
www.example-site.com/clothing/women/dresses
www.example-site.com/clothing/accessories
www.example-site.com/clothing/accessories/women

To create a list of visitors to your clothing pages and to all sub-URLs, but don't want to include visitors to pages about accessories, then select "URL contains" and add "clothing/" in the text box.

Websites without descriptive URLs

Some websites don't have descriptive URLs. Here's an example: www.example-site.com/index.html?page_id=245&session_id=adfasf1345092kj9

Usually, you can't use this type of URL to define remarketing lists; you can use custom parameters instead. However, there are some non-descriptive URLs that you can use to define lists. If you use IDs to identify a category or product, and know what the ID is, then you can use your URLs to create lists. Here's an example:

URL: www.example-site.com/?category_id=23&product_id=456
List name: Category electronics
List definition: URL contains category_id=23

Creating advanced lists

AdWords provides powerful tools so that you can categorise your website visitors. This enables you to show more tailored ads and to optimise bids for your lists, which can lead to better performance. The best way to create more specific remarketing lists is through templates.

Step-by-step instructions

To create lists based on different templates, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Shared library link in the navigation bar, below your list of campaigns.
  2. Click on the View link in the "Audiences" section.
  3. Click on + Remarketing list.
  4. Enter a descriptive remarketing list name.
  5. In the "Who to add to your list" section, select a template from the drop-down menu and fill in the information.
  6. Enter the membership duration for your list (when available).
  7. Leave the "Initial list size" tick box selected if you'd like to include past visitors who match your rules (works on the Display Network only).
Using rules

Here's how you can start using rules:

  1. Click on + Rule in the right-hand side of the text area, below the template drop-down menu. A dialogue appears where you can add all the conditions that a single page needs to match.
  2. Select the information about the page that you'd like to create the list for. You can choose a basic option (such as URL), or you can choose more advanced options (such as referrer URL), or parameters sent through the tag and attributes from the Google Merchant Centre.
  3. Select an option, such as "contains", "equals" or "starts with" from the second drop-down menu.
  4. Type in the value, which can be words, a number or a date, depending on the type of list that you're creating.
  5. Click on Finished.

You can add multiple conditions. Simply click on the "+" button to the side of the condition to add another row.

Example:

Let's say that John, a travel agent, wants to create a remarketing list of people who searched on his website for flights from JFK airport but not to JFK airport. John would have to create a rule: "URL contains origin=JFK" and "URL does not contain dest=JFK".

Bear in mind:

  • When you add more conditions, visitors are added to the list only if they've visited a page that matches all of the conditions added ("AND" relationship).

    Example:

    Let's say that you have two conditions: "URL contains category" and "URL contains furniture". People who visited "http://www.example.com/category/furniture" would be added to the list, but customers who visited "http://www.example.com/category/electronics" and "http://furniture.example.com" would not, since neither of these two pages match all the conditions at the same time.

    All the conditions need to refer to the same page. For example, you should not use rules to create a list of people who visited a page but didn't visit another page, or people who visited two different pages, since these rules refer to two different pages. To create such lists, you should use custom combinations.

  • When you add conditions by typing into the text box, visitors are added to the list when the pages that they've visited match any of the conditions ("OR" relationship).
  • These two types of conditions can also be used together in a rule. In this case, people should visit pages that match any of the general rule's conditions, but if any of the conditions were added using rules, then pages need to match all the information in all the rule rows.

    Example:

    If you create a rule with two conditions:

    • The first one is added using the text box where you enter your value: "URL contains purchase"
    • The second condition is created using rules, and it has two rows: "URL contains category" and "URL contains electronics"

    Only people who have visited a purchase page or accessed the electronics category page will be added to this remarketing list.

Create a list for a specific page

If you want to create a remarketing list for a single page, for example the homepage, then select "equals" from the drop-down menu, and enter the full URL in the text box.

Make sure that you copy the URL exactly as it appears on your website. Include "http" or "https" in the URL, depending on your website's protocol. If you don't know the protocol or have a page that uses both protocols ("http" and "https"), then you might want to define a rule by selecting "contains" instead of "equals" from the menu. The rule would look like this: "URL contains www.mysite.com/index.html".

You can create remarketing lists using "equals" in your defined rule for the homepage, conversion pages or specific pages where you don't want to use any URL other than the one that you specify.

Did you know?

You can also create more sophisticated remarketing lists based on the custom parameters that you implement in your tag. For example, your tag could pass to AdWords the value of the product viewed (the custom parameter in this example would be "value"), and you could create lists of people who viewed products with a price of less than £100, £100-£500 and £500+.

Templates for creating remarketing lists

Visitors of a page

When to use this template

This is the most common template, and is set as the default option when you create a new remarketing list. You can use it to create lists of people who visited a certain page or group of pages.

Example:

A furniture shop creates a remarketing list of people who visited the Home & Garden section of their website, and decides to show these visitors ads about outdoor furniture. The advertiser would then have to create a remarketing list of people who visited pages that have a URL which contains "example.com/homeandgarden".

How to use this template

After selecting this template, you must enter the rules that visitors of a page need to match in order to be added to the remarketing list. AdWords provides different ways to add people that you want to engage with:

  • You can create lists of people who visited specific pages of your website by selecting the condition "URL contains".
  • Create lists to reach people based on the URL they were on before they came to your website by selecting the condition "Referrer URL contains". For example, to create a list of visitors who accessed your website from Google's search results, you can define a rule "Referrer URL contains www.google.co.uk".

Example:

Say that John, a travel agent, wants to create a list of people who searched on their website for flights either from or to New York City. But in the URL of the search results page there isn't any information about the origin or destination city – just the IATA codes of the airports. To create the remarketing list, the travel agent should then create a rule with three conditions:

  • "URL contains LGW" (for London Gatwick Airport)
  • "URL contains LHR" (for London Heathrow Airport)
  • "URL contains STN" (for Stansted Airport)

Anyone who visits a page with a URL that has any of the following codes would be added to the list: "JFK", "LGA" or "EWR".

A note about referrer URLs

If someone visits "website A" and then "website B" by typing the URL of "website B" into the address bar, then the URL of "website A" can't be used as referrer URL for "website B". It is essential that the referrer page must have requested the other page to load. This generally happens when the page loads from a click on a link or a button.

You can add more conditions to your rule. Just start typing after the existing condition, and a drop-down menu will appear with suggested conditions. After adding a new condition and then saving the list, visitors will need to match any of the conditions in the rule (though not necessarily all of them) to be added to the list. This is an "OR" relationship. The order of the conditions doesn't affect which visitors will be added.

Example:

John, a travel agent, wants to reach people who searched for flights either to or from London, or people who visited the travel agency's section about visiting London. He could create a rule with these conditions (as shown in the example above):

  • "URL contains LGW" (for London Gatwick Airport)
  • "URL contains LHR" (for London Heathrow Airport)
  • "URL contains STN" (for Stansted Airport)

And then, he could add another condition: "URL contains www.example-site.com/londoncity".

To be added to John's remarketing list, visitors need to match at least one of the conditions in the rule – but not necessarily all of them.

This is how this rule would look in AdWords:

Adding remarketing conditions

Tip:

Have you Added a new condition, but then want to remove it from the rule? Just click "X" at the side of the condition to remove it.

Although you can add as many conditions as needed to a rule, bear in mind that the rule should try to represent your audience. Adding more conditions means increasing the chances of visitors being added to the remarketing list, which could lead to a very large list that includes people who simply aren't your intended audience.

Narrowing down the conditions

Each condition that is used to define a remarketing list has information about a single page. People need to visit a page that matches the conditions in order to be added to the list. However, conditions like "URL contains" or "Referrer URL" may not be specific enough to define the characteristics of a page.

Example:

Let's go back to John, the travel agent. Say that he wants to create a list of people who are looking for flights from LGW airport, but not to LGW airport. For example, the URL of his website for someone who's looking for flights from LGW to Mexico (MEX) would look something like this: www.example-site.com/search.php?origin=LGW&dest=MEX

Conditions like "URL contains" aren't specific enough to define that people are looking for flights from LGW but not to LGW. John, the travel agent, needs something to specify that "origin=LGW" is accepted, but "dest=LGW" is not; he needs to use rules.

Visitors to a page who did not visit another page

When to use this template

Use this template if you'd like to reach people who have visited a certain page of your website and have not visited another page (or have not completed an action, such as a purchase).

Example:

You own a travel agency, and want to reach people who have come to your website looking to buy a plane ticket, but haven't purchased anything. You could create a list of people who have visited your search results page and have not visited the purchase page.

How to use this template

  1. When creating a new remarketing list, select Visitors to a page who did not visit another page from the drop-down menu.
  2. Enter the rules about the page that people need to visit to enter the list.
  3. Enter the rules about the page people must not have visited to enter the list.
  4. Complete all the other required fields to create your list.
  5. Click on Save.

When you create a list using this template, you narrow your audience. People can be added to your remarketing list only if they meet both conditions in your list definition. To be on your list, visitors need to visit the page defined in the first rule AND not visit any of the pages defined in the second rule. This is what makes this template different from the "Visitors of a page" template. When you create a list using the "Visitors of a page" template, you can add different conditions to the rule, but people who match ANY of the conditions (as opposed to ALL of the conditions) will be added to the remarketing list.

Visitors to a page who also visited another page

When to use this template

Use this template to create your remarketing list if you think that when a customer visits two different pages on your website, they are more likely to convert.

Example:

You sell electronics and offer two different versions of a specific laptop computer. People who visit the two product pages are likely to be comparing the two products, and these visitors are potential converters. So you create a list using this template to reach these customers.

How to use this template:

  1. When creating a new remarketing list, select Visitors to a page who also visited another page from the drop-down menu.
  2. Enter the rules about the first page that people need to visit to enter the list.
  3. Enter the rules about the second page people need to visit to enter the list.
  4. Complete all the other required fields to create your list.
  5. Click on Save.

Tip:

This template lets you to create lists based on people who visited two pages, but if you'd like to create a list of people who visited three or more pages, you can create a custom combination. For example, to create a list of people who visited pages A, B and C, then first create a list of people who visited pages A and B using this template. Next, using the "Visitors of a page" template, create a list of people who visited page C. Then create a custom combination using these two lists.

Visitors to a page during specific dates

When to use this template

Use this template to create lists of visitors who came to your website before, after or in between specific dates. For example, retailers see an increase in the number of visits to their websites during Christmas time. Using this template, retailers are able to create lists of customers who visited the website during Christmas time, and engage these visitors again just before the New Year holiday by targeting these lists in a remarketing campaign.

Bear in mind

When creating lists with specific dates, the membership duration of the lists may also determine when people are removed from the list. Visitors are added to the list if they've visited pages on selected dates, and will stay on the list for the amount of time specified in the membership duration of the list.

How to use this template:

  1. When creating a new remarketing list, select Visitors to a page during specific dates from the drop-down menu.
  2. Enter the rules about the page that people need to visit to enter the list.
  3. Enter the dates on which people need to visit the page to be added to the list.
  4. Complete all the other required fields to create your list.
  5. Click on Save.
Visitors to a page with a specific tag

When to use this template

You may have some older remarketing tags implemented on a few pages. Although we recommend implementing the remarketing tag on all the pages of your website, you can still use the older tags to create remarketing lists of people who visited pages where these older tags remain implemented.

Example:

Let's say that a while ago, a large sports clothing retailer added a remarketing tag to sections of their website about products from a popular brand. Creating a rule based on the URL for those sections would be just too complex using rules. The shop could create a remarketing list of people who visited sections of their website related to the popular brand by using the "Visitors to a page with a specific tag" template, and then selecting the tag that was implemented some time ago on those pages.

How to use this template

  1. Select the "Visitors to a page with a specific tag" template from the menu.
  2. Select one or more tags from the "Tags" box. If you add more than one tag, then visitors in any of the selected tags will become part of the new remarketing list.

Tip:

When you use this template, you can select existing AdWords Conversion Tracking tags as well. These tags are listed with the same names as the ones in the Conversions tab in AdWords. Selecting a Conversion Tracking tag can be helpful if you haven't been able to add the remarketing tag to the conversion page but still want to reach or exclude this audience.

Using advanced rules

Advanced rules give you more flexibility when defining conditions that must be matched by a single page. To use them, click on Show advanced options, which is below the text box when creating or editing a remarketing list.

You can use advanced rules when you want to create a rule that applies to multiple conditions that have something in common. For example, you could use this tool to create a list of people who are looking on your website for information about travelling to any of three destinations (LGW or LHR or STN) and who are also departing from MAN.

You can add a condition by clicking on + New condition if you want to include visitors who viewed URLs that contain one or more of your terms. Each condition that you add stays within the brackets of the set. This means that the list that you define will include visitors who viewed any URL that contains any of your terms. (This is an "OR" relationship.)

You can add a new set of conditions by clicking on + New set if you want to include visitors who viewed a URL that has all the terms included in the same URL path. When you add a set, you'll see new brackets added to your list definition. This means that your list will include visitors who viewed any URL containing all your terms. (This is an "AND" relationship.)

New sets of conditions (ANDs/ORs)

Here are some examples on how to use advanced rules effectively to define your remarketing lists:

Adding a new condition (using OR): If you create a list that looks like this: [Matches any of these conditions: "URL contains electronics", "URL contains components"], then the remarketing list will include visitors who viewed any URL that contains "electronics" or any URL that contains "components".

Adding a new set (using AND): If you create a list that looks like this: "URL contains electronics" AND "URL contains components", then the remarketing list will include visitors who viewed any URL that contains both "electronics" and "components" in the same URL.

Bear in mind:

  • Important: You can't combine different pages using "AND". However, "any of these conditions" (OR) applies to different pages.
  • You can't add a new set of conditions ("AND") to create a rule-defined list that includes people who visited a combination of different web pages. For example, you can't create a rule to include people who visited the "electronics page" AND the "components page". If you'd like to combine different pages, then you need to use custom combinations.

Next steps

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