Remarketing with Google Analytics

Published September 2, 2014
People are visiting your website, they’re checking out your products or services, but they’re not converting or buying. It’s frustrating – right? We’ve all been there.
Some folks need an extra nudge to move from browser to buyer; remarketing supplies that nudge. With Google Analytics, you can isolate visitors based on their behavior, and create a remarketing list to show them targeted ads and nudge them toward conversion.
While it does take some setting up, the results are worth it. Here’s how to do it.

remarketing with google analytics


What is Remarketing

Have you ever been browsing a website and noticed an advertisement for something you had just been looking at a day or two ago? For example, maybe you were checking out the Nikon D300 on your favorite camera Ecommerce site yesterday, but didn’t make a purchase. Now, you are reading a camera review blog, and you see an advertisement for the Nikon D300 from the site you visited yesterday. Coincidence? Probably not. Most likely, it is an example of remarketing.

With remarketing, you place an advertising network’s cookie on your website that keeps track of visitors. The advertising network then knows who visited your site and can show those people your ads when they are browsing other websites that participate in their network. Here is an overview of how remarketing works on the Google Display Network.

You can use Google Analytics to select the site visitors that you want to see your remarketing ads. For example, you might want to show ads to all visitors except those that bounce. Google Analytics can create a list of those visitors and pass it over to AdWords for use in a remarketing campaign.

Creating a Remarketing List in Analytics

The first step is to create a remarketing list using Google Analytics. In the Admin panel, select Remarketing from the Property column.


select remarketing from google analytics admin panel


Next, click on Audiences (under Remarketing) and select “+ New Audience” to begin defining your remarketing list.


create a new remarketing list in google analytics


As you can see in the image above, there are a few steps you’ll need to complete before you can begin working with remarketing lists. First, you’ll need to ensure your website includes an acceptable privacy policy. Second, you need to make sure your tracking code has been modified to support display advertising.

There are five choices for defining the remarketing list, which Google labels in this form as “Remarketing type.” In this example, we have selected “All of my users.”

Smart List – Google uses its proprietary machine learning algorithms to identify which of your customers are most likely to convert with remarketing. These algorithms look for onsite behavior that correlates with purchases. Powerful stuff! To use this, you will need to have Ecommerce tracking set up, and also generate at least 500 transactions a month and 10,000 daily pageviews.

All of my users – Google uses every visitor to your site to construct the remarketing list.

Users who visited a specific section of my site/app – Google builds the remarketing list using only the users who visit a page in the specified sub-directory of the website. For example, if we wanted to remarket to users who had shown genuine engagement by visiting one of our support pages, we would use this option and set the section to ‘/support.’

All users who completed a conversion goal – This is a great option if you have a goal set up that indicates readiness to buy. In the case of Megalytic, we might build a remarketing list from users who had created a trial account, since we have a goal set up for tracking trial account creations.

Create my own remarketing type using Segments – When you select this option, Google uses a segment you define in Google Analytics to determine the users who are included in the remarketing list. For example, you can do things like select any user who has visited at least twice and spent three minutes or more on your site. The next section of this post looks at this option in more detail.

The Membership duration option tells Google how long users should stay in the remarketing list. In this case, we’ve entered 90 days. So, all users who visit our site will remain in the remarketing list for 90 days. If they come back to the site at any point, the counter is reset and they will remain on the list for another 90 days from the time of their last visit.

Note that Membership in the remarketing list is cookie-specific. If the same user visits from different devices, the remarketing list features in Google Analytics have no way of tying those visits together. So if John comes by my site via desktop, he will not see my remarketing ads when he is browsing on his phone because his desktop browser has a different cookie than his phone browser.

Lastly, you need to select the AdWords account for your remarketing list. This requires that your Analytics and AdWords accounts be linked.


saved remarketing list in google analytics


Once you have completed the configuration of your remarketing list, click “Save Remarketing List” and your list will now appear.

Once created, it’s time to use your list in a campaign.

Using a Remarketing List in AdWords

To use the remarketing list, we log into our AdWords account and navigate to the Shared Library. By clicking on “Audiences,” we can see our newly-created remarketing list – “Megalytic – All Users” – at the bottom of the table.


remarketing list in the adwords shared library


From here, we click on “Add to ad groups” to activate the remarketing list in one of our campaigns.


add remarketing list to adwords campaign


We’ve added this remarketing list to the campaign “Display Network – Opt,” in the “Remarketing” ad group.

Using Segments to Create Remarketing Lists

Google Analytics Segments offer a powerful approach to creating remarketing lists by targeting a specific group of your website visitors. For example, maybe you want to reach users who have been engaged with your site content, but have not yet made a purchase. You know these users are already familiar with your product or service, and you want to nudge them toward conversion by showing them a special promotion, or an advertisement featuring a free trial.

To do this, first create a segment that identifies engaged users. We are going to create a segment including users who have visited at least twice, have not purchased and who have signed up for a free trial.


creating segment for remarketing in google analytics


Under the Behavior section of the Segment Builder, we have defined “Sessions >= 2” and “Transactions = 0.”


additional conditions on segment for remarketing


Under Advanced > Conditions, we have specified the goal “New Account – Trial” has been completed. We have named the segment “Engaged Trial Users.”

Next, we open the Admin section of Google Analytics, open the “Remarketing” section (as we did in the first example) and select “Audiences.” As before, click “+ New Audience.” But, this time, we are going to import our newly created segment.

Under “Remarketing type,” select “Create my own remarketing type using Segments,” set the “Number of days to lookback” to 30, and click “Import.” (If you want to target more recent visitors, you can set the lookback as low as 7 days.)


viewing remarketing segment in google analytics admin section


Once you have created your list, give it a name. Using the same name as the segment will make it easier to keep things straight between Google Analytics and AdWords. At the bottom of the screen, click “Save Remarketing List.”

Now, you can go into AdWords and add this remarketing list of engaged users to an existing campaign, or create a new campaign with a particularly relevant message, like – “Sign up Now and Save 20%.”


Remarketing combines the power of Analytics to identify groups of users based on behavior, with the reach of AdWords to target customers with specific messages to nudge them toward conversion. It takes a bit of effort and practice to master this technique, but the payoff is worth it: Highly targeted advertising to reach an audience ready to convert.


When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.


Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.