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About remarketing lists

A remarketing list is a collection of website visitors or app users gathered by snippets of code added to your site or app. When you create a list, you set rules for when visitors or users should be added to the list. You also specify a membership duration for how long you want your visitors or users to stay on the list. Once you've created remarketing lists, you'll need to add them to your campaigns' ad group targeting so that you can show ads to visitors or users on your lists.

Starting in October 2017, advertisers who set up the AdWords tag for remarketing in the new AdWords experience will see the new AdWords tag that consists of a global site tag and an optional event snippet. If you have the previous AdWords tag installed on your website using JavaScript, it will still work; however, it’s recommended that you use the new AdWords tag. Learn about the Changes to the AdWords remarketing tag.

This article contains information to help you understand how remarketing lists work.

Before you begin

If you aren't familiar with remarketing, you should read about how remarketing works first.

Advertisers can’t use sensitive interest categories to target ads to users or to promote advertisers’ products or services. Read the Personalized advertising policy to learn more.

About website visitors

Visitors are added to a remarketing list within seconds after visiting a page with either the global site tag or with both the global site tag and a remarketing event snippet. Every time someone visits a page on your site containing an event snippet, the visitor's timestamp is updated so the person remains on the list for the amount of time specified by the membership duration.

If people visit multiple pages on your website that contain remarketing event snippets, they can be added to multiple remarketing lists. When this happens, all the ads included in the remarketing campaigns for those lists are eligible to serve. The ad with the highest ad rank will then compete for placement in the auction.

Visitors or users

When you first create a list, it won't have any visitors or users. As people visit your website or use your mobile app, they'll be added to lists based on the rules you've set. You'll want to make sure you've tagged your website or enabled remarketing on your mobile app so that visitors or users can be added to your lists.

Rules

Rules are conditions that must be met in order for a visitor or user to be added to a remarketing list. You can use rules to create remarketing lists beyond the default lists that AdWords creates for you.

Example

An airline wants to show ads about flight deals to people who visited a product page on their website in the past month. They create a "Flight deals" list with a membership duration of 30 days and a rule to collect all visitors to a webpage that has a URL that ends with "flight-deals.html." When people visit this flight deals page, they're added to the "Flight deals" list which the airline can target with an ad campaign about flight deals.

For detailed instructions about rules, see Use rules for website remarketing lists.

List size

Remarketing lists targeting the Google Display Network must have a minimum of 100 active visitors or users within the last 30 days for your ads to show; lists targeting Google search must have a minimum of 1,000 active visitors or users. Based on the number of visitors able to be reached on each network, the list sizes may vary.

List status

When you create your remarketing list, you'll be able to decide if it should be "Closed" or "Open". You can change this status at any time — they don't affect your event snippet or the list settings. However, if you set a list to "Closed", and the membership duration is too short, the list may become too small to use for targeting. 

  • Closed: This means that your list won't continue to grow and add more users or visitors. Your event snippet  will still be working, but Adwords won't add those people to your list. Your targeting will also still work — however the audience you're targeting won't increase in size. 
  • Open: This status means that your list is growing. AdWords will continue to add more visitors or users to your list. Keep in mind, if you don't use the list in your campaign or ad group targeting for 540 days, AdWords will automatically close it. However, you can reopen lists at any time, and they'll start adding users again. 

Membership duration

You can set a membership duration for how long a visitor or user stays on your list. Visitors or users are removed from your list by the time their membership duration expires, unless they use your website or app again (in this case the clock is reset for the duration you've set).

Network Default duration Max. duration
Display Network 30 days 540 days
Google search 30 days 540 days

 

  • If you set a duration longer than the maximum, the visitor or user will be removed from the remarketing list at the maximum duration.
  • If 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 membership duration after a list has already accumulated visitors or users, the new duration is applied to all current and future visitors or users on the list. In cases where you extend the duration, existing memberships (up to maximum duration described above) will be activated and added in user list size count.

You should choose a duration related to the length of time you expect your ads to be relevant for your visitors. In general, the membership duration should be similar to the length of your sales cycle.

Inactive lists

If your remarketing lists haven't been used in your targeting for 540 days, they'll be automatically set to the "Closed" status. These lists won't add more visitors or users, but they'll still be visible in your Audience table. You can reopen lists at any time, and people will be added to the list again.

 

Example

If you sell movie tickets, you might set a membership duration of a few days. However, if you sell cars, you might choose a duration of a few months since it generally takes longer to make the decision to buy a car.

Similarly, if you sell Valentine's Day gifts, 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.

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