How to target ads to the perfect audience in a remarketing campaign

How to target ads to the perfect audience in a remarketing campaign

Dec 23 2016 | by KIEL HANSON

Google Adword’s remarketing campaigns are a powerful and effective means of encouraging users who were close to converting on your website to revisit and fully convert.

This is achieved by targeting ads to visitors who meet criteria on your website and then showing this audience ads over the search and/or display networks. This is made possible by creating an audience in Google Analytics that will act as the target audience for the campaign.

When setting up a very simple remarketing campaign you can target ads at people who visit a particular page on your website however, this can be hugely improved by creating an audience by targeting those who did or didn’t take particular actions on that page.

By being so specific in your targeting, you’re much more likely to target previous visitors who were close to fully converting and are likely to return and complete that conversion. Most of all you want to make sure you aren’t wasting remarketing ad spend targeting people who visited the page and who did fully convert!  

Using Google Analytics advanced segments to create a remarketing audience

By using Advanced segments in Google Analytics, it’s possible to create a very specific audience that can then be uploaded to a linked Google Adwords account to act as the audience for the remarketing campaign. Setting up the advanced segment in Google Analytics also gives you an idea of the potential audience size, ideal for forecasting the campaign.

To make the most of advanced segments, it’s ideal to have event tracking on your website as you can apply tracking to actions on your page to improve the audience e.g. those who visited a page but didn’t click a particular button.

How to create an advanced segment in Google Analytics

  • Sign in to your Analytics account
  • Open the View for the account you are creating the audience for
  • Click the Reporting tab
  • Click + Add Segment

We now have a lot of options to fine tune our audience. We can look at demographics, such as targeting specific genders or age ranges (if you have enabled Demographics and Interests Reports), as well as pretty much anything else Google Analytics can track. For a simple user journey to target however, we want to look at the following two sections:

  • Conditions
  • Sequences

Here we can specify the journey of a user/session you would like to target by including (or excluding) those who take certain steps or actions across your website. It’s also possible to select whether the user/session is ‘immediately followed by’ a page / action or ‘followed’ meaning it may come later in the user journey. This is important to get right as users may land on the target page, visit other pages and then click through to another acceptable page to be targeted for remarketing. If your user journey is very funnel focussed and users must proceed from one particular page to the next, then using ‘immediately followed by’ would be the option to choose. This can also be done for multiple pages with alternating rules.


In this section we can include or exclude particular actions that a user takes on our website. With event tracking in mind, this is where we can include or exclude those who have triggered any events we’ve set up.

Also be sure to specify whether the page / action you’re taking ‘contains’, ‘exactly matches’ or another option. This way you’re ensuring you’re targeting the exact page, action or whatever it is you’re measuring, and not picking up something else with a similar name.

Using the examples shown in the screenshots, this advanced segment will filter those who view a product page then immediately go to the checkout page (perhaps via a ‘buy now’ button) but don’t click the event action ‘Checkout click’ which could be the primary call to action on the checkout page.

This is a basic example but by playing around with all the Google Analytics advanced segment options and combining them with user journeys on your website, will allow you to create audiences to target the exact remarketing campaigns needed to encourage those to return and convert.

Once you’re happy with your advanced segment and believe it will make a good target audience for a Google Adword’s remarketing campaign, we’ll now need to upload it to Google Adwords.

How to upload your advanced segment audience to Google Adwords

Firstly make sure the Google Analytics account is linked to the correct Google Adwords account by clicking ‘AdWords Linking’ in the admin section of the property.

Once Adwords is connected:

  1. Click +Add segment on Google analytics reporting tab
  2. Click ‘Actions’ next to the advanced segment you’ve built and click ‘Build Audience’
  3. The correct View should already be selected but change this if required
  4. For the Destination account, select the Adwords account that is linked to this account and that you’d like to use this audience for
  5. Click ‘Import Segment’ and click the advanced segment that was created for this audience
  6. Give your audience a name

Your audience will now be in Google Adwords and can be found in the ‘Shared library’.

What is shown here is just an example and a fraction of what Google Analytic’s advanced segments can do to help create the perfect audience for a remarketing campaign. The most important thing to do when thinking of a remarketing audience is to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. At what exact point in their journey would you consider them to be perfect for targeting to a remarketing campaign to? The chances are, if you have the right event tracking implemented, and the user journeys in mind, you can recreate this audience in a Google Analytics advanced segment and target remarketing campaigns directly to this audience.  

For much more advanced remarketing campaigns, check out Google’s Dynamic remarketing, which shows previous visitors ads that contain products and services that they viewed on your website.

Kiel Hanson

How to target ads to the perfect audience in a remarketing campaign