Remarketing With Google Analytics: Getting Started

  |  July 29, 2013   |  Comments   |  

AdWords remarketing allows advertisers to connect with visitors who have previously visited your sites. Here's how. Part one in a two-part series.

In this two-part article, we'll take a look at how to get started with remarketing with Google Analytics and recommended remarketing lists.

AdWords remarketing allows advertisers to connect with visitors who have previously visited their sites. Setting up AdWords remarketing tags can be quite cumbersome for a number of reasons:

  • You have to rely on your IT team to implement the tags in the right places. It doesn't always happen correctly the first time.
  • Additional tags add to the weight of your page, causing delays in page load times.
  • It is difficult to create audience lists based on custom rules, even if you are using custom parameters.

With the advent of remarketing with Google Analytics, things become a lot easier if your website runs Google Analytics.

Remarketing With Google Analytics

It works by piggybacking list-building activities on the Google Analytics tag. This immediately opens up a number of advantages:

  • No additional tagging required! And you immediately gain coverage across your entire website.
  • Speedier page load times.
  • But most of all: the ability to build lists based on Google Analytics' segmentation rules and custom variables.

Setting Up

Not all good things in life come free. There is a little bit of work required to getting everything up and running. Thankfully it doesn't require an overhaul of your Google Analytics or AdWords setup.

Step 1: Modify Your Existing Google Analytics Tag

Find your Google Analytics tag and replace the following line:

ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + 


ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://' : 'http://') + 

If you are using Google Tag Manager to load your Google Analytics tags, then simply tick on the "Add Display Advertiser Support" checkbox.


Step 2: Update Your Privacy Policy

Google suggests you update your site's privacy policy to disclose:

  • That you've implemented and use display advertising.
  • The Google Analytics features you've implemented based on display advertising (e.g., remarketing).
  • Visitors can opt out of Google Analytics for display advertising and customize Google Display Network ads using the Ads Preferences Manager.

Creating Your First Remarketing Lists

Now that we're all set, let's start creating remarketing lists. It's important to realize that you're using Google Analytics to configure list definitions, and that the lists will actually live in your linked AdWords accounts.

You need to be an administrator of the Google Analytics account to get started. Navigate to your web property's administration section and click on "Remarketing > Lists."



1. Select the profile from which you want the lists to be built from.

2. Select the simple list type. You can have a list for all your visitors, visitors who visited a subsection of your site, and visitors who completed a goal.



3. Give your list a name. Make the name something informative so that others who use your list in AdWords know what the list is collecting.

4. Set the membership duration of your list. The maximum membership duration is 540 days. You should align the membership duration with the length of your sales cycle. If you're unsure about the length of your sales cycle, 30 days is a good default value.

5. Finally, select the AdWords account into which you want to save the remarketing list. Once the list starts populating, you'll be able to see it in your collection of remarketing lists in that AdWords account.

6. Click on the "Save Remarketing List" button.

Building Session-Behavior-Based Lists

Now let's build lists that leverage the information collected within Google Analytics.


1. Click on the "+ Add new filter" button.

2. Select "Dimension and Metric Filter."


3. Building the list is as simple as building an advanced segment in Google Analytics. You can leverage most dimensions, metrics, and custom variables. The example below shows a list definition for visitors who came in through a paid brand term result and then bounced.


4. Click on "Save."

Multi-Session Lists

The above list applies rules to single sessions and is not capable of filtering based on behavior exhibited across multiple sessions. This is where "Sequence Filter" lists become useful.


With sequence filters, you can specify behavior over multiple sessions, and in what order they should happen. In the example below, we create a list where someone first visits from an organic search result, and then at a later stage visits via a paid click.

1. Set up the rules for the first step (e.g., visitor came from an organic source).


2. Click on the "+ Add new step" button. Before defining the next step, you need to select whether the next step happens at "Any time" or "Immediately" after the first step. Selecting "Any time" is the more flexible option.


3. Define your next set of rules.

retargetstep2 4. Keep adding additional steps and rules as required.

5. Click on the "Save button."

What Next?

There you have it: AdWords remarketing made simple thanks to Google Analytics. This may all sound exciting, but the real excitement starts once you build meaningful remarketing lists and use them to better connect with your customers. That will be the subject of my next post. Stay tuned!

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Vinoaj Vijeyakumaar

Vinny is managing partner and co-founder of Sparkline, a consultancy focused on optimizing conversion rates. Sparkline is a Google Analytics Certified Partner, Google Analytics Premium Authorized Reseller, Google Tag Manager Specialist, Adobe Marketing Cloud Solution Partner, and Optimizely Certified Partner. Vinny specializes in maximizing revenues for businesses by optimizing their digital presence across desktop and mobile websites, paid advertising, social media, and search engines. His core expertise lies in measurement, data analysis, testing, and insights that deliver results. Prior to founding Sparkline, Vinny was a senior conversion specialist at Google Southeast Asia for 5 years. You can get in touch with Vinny on Twitter @vinoaj, LinkedIn, Google+ or his company's website.

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