Remarketing Best Practices: Creating Audiences

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By Angela Seckinger — Oct 18, 2018 11:00 AM



Welcome to part two of our remarketing blog post series. In our previous post, we walked through the basic settings for activating remarketing in Analytics and preparing your platforms for remarketing campaigns. Today, we explore how to set-up and segment remarketing audiences. In part three, we will explore best practices for creating and optimizing remarketing ads.  

From part one, we reviewed how remarketing is an excellent way to trigger your potential visitors’ memory about their interest in your website and boomerang them back. If done correctly, remarketing is the most cost-effective advertising method that increases customer retention and engagement. In this post, we are empowering remarketing by setting up micro-targeting through audience segmentation.

With these details, you will be able to specifically align messaging that addresses visitors along the different stages of their conversion journey based on their visitor behavior. Plus, segmentation is a powerful tool for managing your remarketing budget with the ability to bid for visibility differently for each list within your ad platforms. Segmentation also helps track list performance and easily identify the most profitable groups. Basically, audience segmentation helps you create specific, highly-engaging remarketing campaigns for each group, relative to their journey with your website.

Segment Website Visitors by Marketing Funnel Stage

There are a number of different ways to segment visitors into audience groups including visit behavior patterns, time on site, page depth, new versus returning, location, existing customers, and more. For example, a person reading a blog post might be in a very different stage of the marketing funnel than a visitor to the admissions page. Or, when a visitor has only visited the homepage, you might target them with messaging geared towards increasing brand awareness.

Overall, focus on ensuring that you are segmenting your visitors into groups that make sense in terms of categories that affect buying behavior as they relate to your offers throughout the buying or conversion cycle.

In these next steps, we will be using browsing data from Google Analytics to create audiences for:

  • All Visitors (to start gathering performance data)
  • Visitors that visit specific category pages.
  • Visitors that stay on site more than x minutes (based on your minimum avg. site patterns).
  • Visit that visit your conversion page.
  • More advanced tactics such as targeting visitors that are in specific interest categories. This tactic involves using other targeting methods alongside remarketing audiences, including Google Ads and Facebook. The lists created in Analytics can be layered with other audiences, excluded with other refinements from those platforms and further refined within the advertising platforms themselves. For example, although not addressed in this post, if set up in Google Ads, the login data of it’s users can also be layered with your Analytics audiences to target visitors with ads if they visit other websites that have similar products or themes associated with your website. This is dynamic remarketing, which is a bit out of the scope of this post, but it is yet another great tactic to potentially reach new prospects. We will explore Google Ads further in part three of this series.

Define Audiences in Google Analytics

To begin, you should already be familiar with the audiences tab in Google Analytics from part one. Visit your Google Analytics account, go to your admin screen and under the Property column, click Audience Definitions. Then, drop down to Audiences. Next, click + New Audience.

Here is the what the “new audience” screen looks like:


We recommend starting with the ALL Users list (aka All Visitors). These are all those visitors that accepted the cookie when they came to your site so it does contain both quality and poor quality visitors; however, although this list is the least efficient of all, it is a good basis to learn more about the quality of your visitors and for general campaign testing. Eventually, the poorer quality visitors can be excluded to trim ad expenses and improve performance.

Create Additional Lists

For additional lists, you can choose from pre-built Smart Lists or other built-in lists, as seen in the screenshot above. To create custom lists with your specific page visit, and other criteria, add in any segments to build each audience. The segments come from with your Analytics account. Here’s how to create an audience from a segment:

  1. Open the view that includes the preferred segment.
  2. Open ‘Reports’ then select any report to get started.
  3. Click + ‘Add Segment’.
  4. Open the segments list.
  5. Find the segment for the basis for the audience
  6. Click ‘Actions > Build Audience’

Another tactic for building a remarketing list is to create a list based on ‘time on site’. Here, only include visitors that meet the minimum time based on the minimum average site performance. As a reminder, typically, less time on site indicates less interest. You could also layer geography data with time on site to create a list of target users in a certain geographical location who stayed on the site for at least 3 minutes. These types of lists help you refine targeting to the most engaged visitors.

List durations dependant on goals is another way to retarget visitors. For example:

  • If targeting visitors for an annual purchase (car insurance for example) then set the list duration to at least 13 months.
  • A service that requires people to sign up after 30 days (for example, if offering a secondary course to a basic class) create a list with a membership of around 60 days so users will be targeted for a reasonable amount of time after the initial class to encourage sign-up.

Ultimately, your long-term goal is to narrow down your remarketing so it only targets users who have had a quality interaction with your site. These refinements include adding the following criteria to your lists:

  • Exclude bounced visitors
  • Exclude visitors with time on site less ten seconds (based on your analytics averages)

To do this, you’ll need to create these lists within Google Analytics and then once in Google Ads where you launch ads, you will select these custom combination lists within Google Ads and specifically exclude those lists that contain members that meet your exclusion criteria. Be sure to link your Google Analytics account to your Google Ads account within Analytics to fully empower all the options.

Keep in mind that customers don’t always follow a linear buying pattern. Visitors may have visited your website or completed a form, but that doesn’t mean they are ready to convert. Giving the visitors more information will assist them in their purchasing journey. We will take a look at specific ad strategies in Part Three.

After gathering some performance learnings, be sure to refine the targeting within each of those lists to reach visitors that are more likely to convert.

It is also especially important to build the audience lists first, then keep an eye on the list size in each group. The list size can help provide clues as to what portions of the content within the website might need additional attention, to either improve the page or improve the navigation to that page in order to increase the list size.

For more on creating and editing audiences, visit this Google support page.

Remarket to Existing Customers, Too

Although we have not mentioned existing customers, it is also a good strategy to run a remarketing campaign by uploading your current customer list to all available platforms, especially Google Ads and Facebook. Further refine the quality of those customer lists and find your most valuable customers by retargeting only those specific segments.

Setting up lists isn’t just important at the beginning of your remarketing project. Experiment with your lists and combinations as part of your continuing optimization process to see which combinations work most effectively.  Now that you have had a chance to better understand microtargeting through creating segmented audiences, be sure to apply related ads to these groups to fully launch effective remarketing campaigns. Learn more about creating ads for remarketing in Part Three.