We love digital

Call 0845 485 1219

We love digital - Call and say hello - Mon - Fri, 9am - 5pm

The Full Guide to Remarketing in Google Analytics and AdWords

Anna Lewis

by Anna Lewis on 18th March 2013

google analytics remarketingWelcome to the start of our focus on PPC, a week devoted to nothing but paid search. First up we have Anna who is looking at how to use the incredibly powerful remarketing features in Google Analytics to create laser focused advertising on Google AdWords. 

In 2012 Google introduced the functionality to manage remarketing lists within Google Analytics. Previously it could only be managed within the AdWords environment and involved adding code to various pages of your website. This post is going to cover the basics of remarketing, how to set it up through Google Analytics, as well as when and why to use it and different ideas for campaigns.

So what is remarketing?
Remarketing is used to show ads to users who have been on your site before. For every remarketing campaign that you want to run you will use a ‘list’ of visitors to target. Lists are set up by tagging visitors with a cookie when they view certain pages of your site, for example, by tagging users who visit a page about red shoes you can then advertise more red shoes to them. This makes remarketing a very useful tool in a marketer’s repertoire.

Consider these ideas for starters:

  • Advertise flowers at mother’s day to those who bought flowers for Valentine’s day
  • Advertise contract renewals to users who purchased a year’s worth of insurance 11 months ago
  • Offer discounts in ads that you show to users who viewed their basket but didn’t complete the purchase

Even if you don’t have specific seasonal, contractual or basket related ads to show, simply using remarketing to remind previous users about your website can really improve a multi channel advertising campaign, even if the ad itself is not the route the customer takes to the site. Additionally, in some industries retargeted customers are 70% more likely to complete a purchase than non-retargeted customers, according to Criteo.

Getting Started

So now that you’re convinced how beneficial it can be, let’s look at setting it up. As I mentioned earlier, the old method involved adding code from AdWords to the pages that you wanted to tag visitors on. You can still use this method but it is less flexible. It is not recommended that you use both methods alongside each other so please review the pros and cons of each and decide which one to implement.

The new method is to use Google Analytics and I’ve found this method to be easier to implement and more flexible for creating lists. By creating lists in Google Analytics you can utilise the other data available, for example, time on page, location, technology and more! It is also easy to combine these to make your list much more targeted rather than just everyone who viewed the page as it is with the old method. Remarketing requires advanced planning as every list that you set up starts with 0 users on it and needs to gather enough data before you can consider running a campaign on it.

For this reason, it is often beneficial to set up remarketing and build lists before you have the budget available for the campaigns, this will enable the campaigns to be up and running as soon as they are needed. Here’s a quick summary of the different things you will need to do to get remarketing up and running in Google Analytics and AdWords, below these short lists I will explain how to implement everything in more detail.

To start using remarketing in Google Analytics you need to do four things, even before thinking about the lists:

  1. Update your Google Analytics tracking code (tweak one line as shown below)
  2. Update your privacy policy
  3. Make sure your AdWords account is linked to Google Analytics (here’s how) and that you have admin access in Google Analytics
  4. Read and agree to the latest versions of the relevant Terms of Service and Policies

Once this is all done you’re ready to start working out your strategy, setting up lists and gathering the data:

  1. Identify the campaigns which could work for your business
  2. Set up lists to target each type of audience (so that data starts being gathered)
  3. Build campaigns in AdWords and apply the lists to them
  4. Create ads relevant to each list, i.e. red shoes, renew contract or special offer
  5. Check the campaign settings (particularly frequency)

Then as soon as you have enough people in a list (100+ as a minimum but ideally 500+) you can turn the campaign on and start measuring results. So let’s go through each step in a bit more detail.

1. Update your Google Analytics tracking code (See below this code for an important issue and choose which method to use)

The easiest way to get the updated code (if you’ve not modified the code yourselves) is to go to the Admin area in Google Analytics, then Tracking Info. Here you will need to turn the Display Advertiser Support button to On; this changes the code in the box which you can then copy to put on your website.

The change itself is half a line in the second half of the code. Currently, the bottom part of your Google Analytics code will look something like this:

(function() { var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js'; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })();

To get remarketing to work, the middle one of these lines (starting with ga.src) needs to be edited to the following:

ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://' : 'http://') + 'stats.g.doubleclick.net/dc.js';

Update 05/06/13 – the important issue outlined below (now in italics) has been resolved and is no longer required:

The Double Click cookie used in remarketing has been added to the EasyList whitelist meaning that it will now be able to fire within browsers using Ad Blocking tools. EasyList powers the main browser based ad blocking tools such as Ad Block.

The update and reasoning is shown in this post.

IMPORTANT ISSUE
It is important to understand that by using the DoubleClick remarketing code on your site, users who use ad blocking software are likely to have the whole code blocked, meaning you will not be able to collect standard Google Analytics data from them in addition to not being able to add them to your remarketing list. The best way to get around this is to use a solution outlined by Andre Scholten in which you add a JavaScript file called advertising.js to the root of your site, this file needs to contain the following line: adblocking = false;

You then use the following Google Analytics code, with your own UA code and make sure you include any cross domain or enhanced link code that you might already be using:

<script> var adblocking = true; </script> <script src="/advertising.js"></script> <script> var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXXXX-1']); _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']); (function(){ var s ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; if (!adblocking) { ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://' : 'http://') + 'stats.g.doubleclick.net/dc.js'; } else { ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js'; } s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })(); </script>

I recommend that you use this method as this will minimise the lost data to around 2% instead of potentially much more than that.

And resume…

2. Update your privacy policy

Google explain that it is essential to let users know all about the cookies you use for this, how you use them, how they can opt out and how they will be shown ads as a result of this. For full information of the areas to cover you will need to read this guide.

3. Make sure your AdWords account is linked to Google Analytics

It is essential that your Google AdWords and Google Analytics accounts are linked in order for the data to be passed across from one to the other. Luckily, I wrote a guide on this a few months ago.

4. Read and agree to the latest versions of the Terms and Policies
Read and agree to the following, these are sometimes updated so even if you read one a year ago you will need to read it again:

Terms of Service of Google Analytics
Display Advertisers Policy
Google AdWords Remarketing Policy

Strategy & Lists

Identify the campaigns that could work for your business
As with every marketing activity you do, a strategy will help you identify the best plan of action and spot measurable objectives to help you assess the results and value of the activity before, during and afterwards. By identifying how many campaigns you need as well as what the purpose and budget of each one should be you will be able to decide how many lists you need and other levels of time and investment required.

Set up lists to target each type of audience
Now we get to the fun bit! Well, I found it fun… To set up remarketing lists in Google Analytics, that is, to capture visitors matching a certain set of criteria, follow these steps:

  • Open the relevant account in Google Analytics
  • Click Admin
  • Select Remarketing Lists
  • Click New Remarketing List
  • Choose the Google Analytics Profile to apply the list to (the profile must be linked with AdWords)
  • Select which type of remarketing approach to use from the following:
    • All of my site visitors – Use this to capture all visitors tracked within the chosen profile
    • Visitors who visited a specific page/section of my site (e.g. homepage, landing page, shopping cart) – Use this when the URL contains a string, which can be entered here to gather users who visit these pages
    • All visitors who completed a conversion goal – Use this to choose a goal from the drop down that appears and all visitors who completed that goal will be added to the list
  • Create your own remarketing type using Visitor Segments – This is where it gets fun, you can add filters to create your own segmented list. I’ve included some examples below, in the list ideas section
  • Give the list a name – This cannot be changed so make sure it truly reflects what the information above collects
  • Membership Duration – How many days you would like the visitor’s data to be kept for before they are removed from the list. This is important as you need a long enough time frame to always have enough users on the list, however some lists will need to be shorter than others. If you want to remarket to someone to renew a year’s contract you will need to set the duration to around 365 days. Alternatively, if you want to advertise Mother’s Day flowers for people who purchased at Valentine’s Day, there is only a month between them so the duration needn’t be so long. If there’s no time frame on your product then go for 540 days
  • Click “Get estimate” each time you modify your remarketing type (including filters) and duration so that you can work if the size of the list is feasible. You want to be looking to gather over 100 users in order for the campaign to hit the ground running. Do remember though, this is an estimate and the list will start with 0 users and needs to gather them once the list is set up and the tracking code and other requirements updated.
  • Choose which AdWords account this list should be accessible in
  • Save remarketing list

Now all you have to do is wait for the list to gather users, while it does this you can set up the campaigns for each list in AdWords so that they’re ready to run when the audience is there.

Building the remarketing campaigns in AdWords

Remarketing campaigns work in almost the same way as standard display campaigns in AdWords, the only difference being that you select your predefined list as the target audience instead of using placements, topics or interests. Here are the steps to take to set this up:

  • Open Google AdWords
  • Open the relevant account
  • Create new campaign – choose Display Network Only
  • Select Remarketing
  • Choose your settings
  • SET FREQUENCY – This is very important as showing ads too frequently to users can do more harm than good
  • Save
  • Create ad groups
  • Upload ads
  • Choose dedicated landing pages (or design new ones!)
  • Navigate to Display Network tab
  • Choose Interests and Remarketing
  • Select ‘Change display targeting’
  • Choose your list
  • Run when list has 100+ users
  • Manage campaign exclusions (Display tab, Exclusions at bottom, Categories, exclude all weird ones!)

There are a couple of different methods you could use to organise lists through campaigns and ad groups. Ideally, you would have one campaign for each list and a new ad group for every variation of your creatives (i.e. all sizes for the blue ad in one ad group and all sizes for the red ad in another ad group). But you could also have an ad group per list and put all ad variations within the ad group, this can be beneficial when you want to see which lists outperform others or how much budget each will require for the desired cost per conversion (CPA).

Creating Ads

Using the display network enables you to run text, image, rich media and video ads. Image ads can be static or animated. This means you can reach users with a great variety of ads. It is recommended that you use more than just text ads as images can have much better Click through Rates (CTR). Before you get creative make sure you are familiar with the policies.

It is best to create image ads in every variation of sizes to increase the amount of times that your ads can be shown as different sites will use different sizes. If you have an animated ad, make sure you also use standard PNG or JPEG versions to ensure maximum visibility, should the animated ads not be able to be shown. I can’t advise you on exactly what your ads should look like but as a rule you should:

  • Make it clear what the user can expect on your site
  • Include a call to action
  • Include USPs

It is also best practice to create well targeted lists that can match up with specific product areas, for example, collect a list of users who browse high heeled shoes but don’t convert and show ads about high heeled shoes on offer or with free postage.

Ideas!

Here are some campaign ideas to get you inspired:

  • Product areas
  • Cross sell other products
  • Remarket when contracts end
  • Busy times of year (holiday sales in new year etc)
  • Seasonal occasions (remarket for Mothers Day if someone bought for Christmas)
  • Locations (free local delivery, local services)
  • Tech (‘download our iphone app’ ad if users are on an iphone)
  • Abandoned check out process
  • Using sales/deals to get customers back
  • Upsell similar/related products to previous purchases
  • If a user reads a blog post, promote a whitepaper / book
  • Spent XX seconds on site

You can even use additional Google Analytics profiles to tag and gather audiences from your Facebook page, email marketing, guest posts, YouTube channel etc, then advertise to these users to get them on your site.

If that was’t enough, Sam has put together a post with some Cracking Examples of Effective Remarketing and tips on how you can compete!

We’d love to hear the creative ways you have used Remarketing through Google Analytics so please leave them in the comments below.

Post updated – 5th June 2013 – The AdBlock issue has been resolved so no code tweaks are required.

Anna Lewis

Anna Lewis

Our resident analytics specialist is Anna Lewis. Anna is unbelievably attuned to anything analytical and can fill you in on all the latest news, tips and advice to get ahead in this evolving market.

down arrow

Your Free Whitepaper

Understanding The Google Display Network & Remarketing

Understanding The Google Display Network & Remarketing

Download this whitepaper now and get a new one every month!

21 Comments

Subscribe To The Koozai Blog