Reach past visitors with display remarketing: Google Best Practices

Improve audience segmentation with remarketing lists

Learn how to create effective remarketing list audiences on the Google Display Network.

Focus your remarketing lists based on how someone's interacted with your website or app.

Once your site is tagged, it’s time to define your remarketing lists. You want to create different lists based on each customer’s journey through your website so that you can target them with different bids or ads. Being able to identify which stage your customers have reached in their purchase journey can also determine how valuable they are and result in more effective targeting and messaging that accurately reflects their needs.

A remarketing list is a subset of your site visitors who are segmented by their on-site activities. For example, you may want to show one ad to someone who visited your shoe store’s homepage, and another ad to people who visited a product-level page for a specific pair of shoes.

Tip

As an alternative to the category page viewers segment, some companies use a “Search Results viewers” segment. For example, many airline ticket websites are focused on flight searches, and a search tool often provides the main path into their site.

Below are five remarketing lists we recommend, moving from the largest and broadest to the most precisely targeted. If you’re using dynamic remarketing, these lists are automatically created for you. If you’re using the Google Analytics remarketing tag, the remarketing list set-up is handled in the Google Analytics front end. But the basic setup instructions for your remarketing lists are the same whether you set up in Google Analytics or in Google Ads.

Recommended List Segmentation Strategy
Recommended List Segmentation Strategy
 

As a caveat, list segmentation will vary slightly depending on whether you’re implementing standard or dynamic remarketing. We’ll note the differences below where appropriate.

List 1: Homepage viewers

These people visited your homepage but didn't move any further into your site.

  • Your strategy: Since this list is segmented based on the broadest interactions that a person can have with your website, your messaging should be more general and speak to what your brand has to offer, such as “Discover great deals from Acme Clothing.”
  • How to do it: Create a remarketing list where the URL equals your homepage URL “https://www.YourDomain.com.”
List 2: Category page viewers

These people have visited a category-level page of your site, but not specific products. For a clothing apparel company, a “t-shirts” or “jeans” page would be a category-level page. This list implementation will depend on whether you’re applying standard or dynamic remarketing. Below are steps to creating lists for each type of remarketing:

Tip

As an alternative to the category page viewers segment, some companies use a “Search Results viewers” segment. For example, many airline ticket websites are focused on flight searches, and a search tool often provides the main path into their site.

Standard Remarketing

  • Your strategy: Showcase display ads for different product categories. Since people on this list have indicated interest in a particular product category, let’s say auto insurance, your messaging can speak to special offers or discounts.
  • How to do it:
    • Create separate remarketing lists for each product category using a URL that contains the "category name."
    • Exclude all users who moved even deeper into your site so you don’t overlap lists. You can do this by creating a custom combination list containing your product category page viewers and exclude lists 3 - 5 (Product or offer page viewers, cart abandoners, past converters). Repeat for each category.

Dynamic Remarketing

  • Your strategy: Since ads are automated, the need for creating a remarketing list for each product category goes away. These automated ads can dynamically pull in products that your potential customer viewed and speak to special offers, discounts or new arrivals. You’ll want to create one remarketing list as a catch-all for those who went further into your site to view your category level pages.
  • How to do it:
    • Create a catch-all list for all viewers of your category-level pages using URLs  that contain each “categoryname.”
    • Exclude all users who moved even deeper into your site with custom combination lists so you don't overlap lists.
List 3: Product or Offer page viewers

People who viewed specific product pages on your website but added nothing to their shopping cart. If we continue with the clothing apparel company example, your “Acme Brand shirts with heart” webpage would be a product-level page.

  • Your strategy: You’ll want to re-engage users with dynamic ads containing the product or service the person previously viewed (we’ll get more into dynamic remarketing later in this guide). Your messaging may also speak to special discounts or offers to resonate with your potential customer.
  • How to do it: Create a remarketing list and include all people who have reached specific product pages on your site. Exclude cart abandoners and past converters.
List 4: Cart abandoners

These might be people who added products to a shopping cart but didn’t complete the purchase, or who filled out a lead form but didn’t submit the form. Note: While this list is usually much smaller than the homepage viewers list, both lists have a key role to play. Your cart abandoners list will usually drive stronger performance while your homepage viewers list will drive a higher volume.

  • Your strategy: You’ll want to bring these “almost customers” back to complete the conversion.
  • How to do it:
    • Select “Visitors of a page who did not visit another page”. Choose the shopping cart or lead form page.
    • Now exclude people who actually converted by selecting the “thank you page” or any other confirmation page that indicates that people have converted or submitted a completed lead form.
List 5: Past converters

These people actually bought something on your site, or took some other valuable action like submitting a lead form.

  • Your strategy: You’ll want to upsell or cross-sell to these customers since they’ve purchased from your site before. Your messaging might speak to similar products which these customers may have also purchased.
  • How to do it: Create a remarketing list for people who have reached your purchase confirmation page.

 

We recommend that you limit the overall number of your remarketing lists to the above strategy or similar, depending on your site structure and traffic volume. Fewer lists means you’ll have more people in each of those lists, and that will make it easier for you to optimize with more statistical significance.

Your cookie length duration will depend on your business objective and the length of time you expect your ad to be relevant for the visitor. For example, a shoe retailer may choose a cookie length of 30 days since it may not take as much time for a person to purchase shoes. An auto insurance company, on the other hand, may choose a cookie length of a few months or a year plus due to their longer sales cycle.

Tip

If you use Google Analytics, you can create advanced remarketing lists. While we recommend limiting your total number of lists, this strategy can help you serve more tailored messages to different customer segments or personas.

 

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