Creative Edge Consultants

What Is Remarketing? A Step-by-Step Guide (Updated for 2023)


Shoppers are flooded with choices. 

It’s easy for them to forget why they came to a store in the first place, and for them to quickly get distracted in favor of the newest, shiniest thing. It happens to the best of us. Because of this, brands are tasked with winning back shoppers who have shown interest in their products in the past—and remarketing is a successful way to do this.

What is remarketing?

Remarketing is a marketing strategy that sends targeted ads to shoppers who have already visited a website or product page without taking action. For example, if a shopper adds an item to their cart but doesn’t check out, remarketing uses that information to serve them ads on social media, Google, and other sites to encourage them to buy the product.

It’s called remarketing because you’re essentially “re”-marketing to people who have already discovered your brand and interacted with it in some way, whether that’s by browsing a product category, adding an item to their cart, or visiting a landing page without signing up for your newsletter. It’s a second chance to convert and a particularly useful method for re-engaging past customers and reminding them why they chose you in the first place.

How remarketing works

Remarketing tracks user data to understand where users have been on your site and what actions they have taken (or, more importantly, haven’t taken). It’s most commonly used to serve ads to consumers based on their previous browsing history, which can make campaigns incredibly targeted and personalized.

In simpler terms, remarketing works like this: 

  • A shopper visits your website.
  • That shopper leaves your website and is tracked through their cookies (more on that below).
  • The shopper sees your remarketing ads on other websites, on social media, and in their inbox.
  • The shopper clicks on your ads and returns to your website.
  • The shopper takes the action you want them to take.

Three out of five online users notice (and consider clicking) ads showing products they’ve previously viewed, making remarketing campaigns a powerful tool for online retailers.

Remarketing vs. retargeting: What’s the difference?

You might see the terms remarketing and retargeting used interchangeably. While they are fairly similar in their end goal, there are a couple of key differences.

Retargeting is mostly focused on paid ads. It uses shopper data to automatically serve relevant ads on Google and social media.

Remarketing, on the other hand, collects customer information and uses that to create lists and send targeted emails. Landing directly in shopper inboxes creates a deeper, more personal connection and allows for more specific upselling and messaging.

Example of remarketing emails in an inbox

Linenbundle and Lazy Oaf both use remarketing ads in Gmail to re-engage shoppers who have previously visited their sites.

Using remarketing lists

Remarketing lists are lists of shoppers who have taken (or not taken) a specific action on your site. You can create a list of people who have visited a product category page, the checkout page, or even your homepage over a certain period of time.

When a customer visits each page on your site, they leave a cookie in their wake, which remarketing tools can use to collect their information and map out their customer journey. When customers land on your homepage, a product category page, or the checkout, their cookie is added to the remarketing list associated with the specific action they’ve taken.

You can create as many remarketing lists as you like and get as detailed as you wish, creating lists for highly targeted actions like visiting a specific offers page or product page. You’re then able to send ads and email campaigns to each of these email lists, personalizing the messaging to match their browsing behavior.

Using remarketing pixel tags

Remarketing pixel tags are small pieces of code on a webpage that allow your site to place and track customer cookies (a.k.a. the crumbs left by past visitors—hence their sweet-treat name). This is possible because every visitor has an individual ID that enables their activity to be tracked.

The ad server or remarketing tool you use can access these unique ID codes and add them to the most relevant remarketing lists. If someone signs up for your newsletter and makes it through to the “thank you” page, they’ll be added to one list, and if they add an item to their cart but don’t purchase it, they’ll automatically be added to another list.

4 types of remarketing campaigns

Remarketing is a versatile marketing strategy. The way you use it will depend on what you hope to achieve, the type of customers you want to reach, and how you want to reach them. There are several ways remarketing can help you do this with four different ad types

1. Standard remarketing

Standard remarketing is the most common form of remarketing. It tracks and targets customers who have visited your website using pixel tags and their cookie data. For example, you can remarket to everyone who has visited your homepage in the past month via a banner or text ad on Google, an email, or a social media ad.

Example of standard remarketing ads by Fanatics

Fanatics showcases a selection of products to shoppers who have previously visited the brand’s website. 

2. Dynamic remarketing

Dynamic remarketing is particularly useful. It drills down to the exact products a visitor has viewed on your website or added to their cart and serves them dynamic ads showing that particular product. To run this type of marketing campaign via Google, social media, or email, you need to submit a product feed to the platform you want to serve the ads on.

Example of dyanmic retargeting ads by Lexi's

Lexi’s uses dynamic remarketing ads to serve a relevant product catalog to past website visitors—with a discount for an added incentive.

3. Display remarketing

Display remarketing is a simple way to reach shoppers who have visited your site. It tracks customers who have shown an interest in your brand and products and serves them visual ads of your brand when they visit another website. Display ads can be shown on websites that are part of the Google display network.

Example of a display remarketing ad by Harry's

Harry’s uses display remarketing to encourage previous website visitors to sign up for a trial.

4. Search remarketing

Search remarketing is a quick way to grab the attention of past website visitors in search engines. It automatically customizes your search ads based on the past browsing behavior of website visitors. For example, if someone has visited a specific product page without purchasing, search remarketing will serve them PPC results that mention the product page.

How to run a remarketing campaign in Google Ads

You can run multiple types of retargeting campaigns at the same time. Consider what you want to achieve and the goals of each campaign before you get started, and then use the steps below to walk through the process.

Create a remarketing list

1. In Google Ads, navigate to your Shared Library and click “Audience manager.”

    2. If you haven’t already added the pixel tag to your website, you’ll be notified to do so by navigating to “Your data sources” in the menu on the left and then selecting Set up tag under the Google Analytics tag section. Here, you can choose your remarketing settings. You’ll then need to add it to the relevant pages of your site. Customize your settings and save.

      3. Next, click on Segments in the menu on the left side. Then click the blue plus sign. This will open a menu where you can choose what kind of list you’d like to create. Options include website visitors, mobile app users, YouTube users, customer emails, or a custom combination.

      4. If you’re setting up a remarketing campaign to target website visitors, name your list and fill out the information in the form provided.

      You can target visitors of web pages—for example, shoppers who have visited a product page but didn’t add the product to their shopping cart or users who visited your newsletter signup page but didn’t fill out the form.

      You can also target users who have visited pages with a specific tag. Use this to target shoppers who have been part of previous remarketing campaigns and are part of several remarketing lists or who have different remarketing tags.

      You can also drill down into when they visited your website—use this to target shoppers who browsed your site during notable events like Valentine’s Day or Christmas.

      5. Once you’ve chosen the type of list you want to create, add the URL for the page that the remarketing campaign will apply to (i.e., your checkout page, a particular product page, or a landing page).

      Set up your Google Ads remarketing campaign

      If thinking about setting up a Google remarketing campaign feels overwhelming, here’s how you can do it in four simple steps.

      Step 1: Create a new campaign 

      Start your Google remarketing campaign the same way you would any other campaign—click “+ Campaign” in your Google Ads account.

      Step 2: Choose your campaign type

      You’ll be prompted to choose the goal for your campaign—you can create your campaign without selecting one if you choose.

      Next, select the campaign type. The easiest option here is to choose Display, but you can also select Search, Shopping ads, or other types depending on your campaign.

      You’ll also name your campaign and select the URL to send people to from your ad.

      Step 3: Choose your remarketing list

      You’ll be directed to a page where you’ll create your ad group and ad. Click remarketing lists and then select the list you want to target. You can also use this opportunity to serve Gmail ads to shoppers who have given your business their email address.

      Choose remarketing lists from the drop-down menu and the list you want to target.

      Step 4: Create your ad and publish it 

      Once you’ve selected your remarketing list, you can continue to create the visuals and copy for your ad campaign, as well as budget and timeframe. Do this as you would for any other type of ad campaign and hit Publish when you’re ready for it to go live.

      If you want to run a search remarketing campaign, follow these steps: 

      • Set up a Google Search campaign: Choose the Search option when creating your ad campaign. 
      • Choose your keywords: Decide which keywords you want to target with the campaign (for example, if you want to target shoppers who have browsed your leather handbags, you can use “leather handbags” as a keyword in the campaign). 
      • Choose your remarketing list: Select the list of shoppers you want to remarket to (i.e., shoppers who have visited any page containing the word “leather handbag”).
      • Create your ad: Write the copy for your ad and publish it when you’re ready for it to go live. 

      Use Google Analytics to monitor the success of your campaign

      Chances are you’re already using Google Analytics to track visitors and sessions on your store. But it’s a crucial tool in monitoring and measuring the success of your remarketing campaigns.

      Here are some key ways you can use Google Analytics to track your campaigns:

      • Check for increased page views: At its most basic level, Google Analytics will show you whether there has been an increase in visitors to specific pages on your site. If you’re running an ad on a specific product page, you’ll be able to see if the number of visitors has increased since running your campaign and where they’re coming from.
      • Create events: If your goal is to get shoppers to take certain actions when they land on your site, you can set up events in Google Analytics to identify whether there is an increase in the number of actions taken once your remarketing campaign is running.
      • Test remarketing ads: You can create multiple ad campaigns and serve them to identical remarketing audiences to see which ones are most successful. You can use Google Analytics to create separate audiences that share the same attributes and send them different versions of your remarketing campaign. This guide shows you how to create different audiences in Google Analytics. 

      Stay on top of your campaigns by regularly checking their success, tweaking elements that aren’t performing so well, and testing each campaign until it’s getting the results you want

      Boost your conversion rates with a remarketing campaign

      Remarketing is a great way to re-engage distracted website users. They’re hot leads because they’ve already shown interest in your brand, but maybe they just need you to jog their memory. Instead of losing potential customers into the ether as soon as they leave your site, you can bring them back with a well-thought-out remarketing strategy and ad campaigns that are highly targeted and relevant to their interests and previous browsing behavior.

      Remarketing FAQ

      What is meant by remarketing?

      Remarketing is a digital marketing strategy used to send personalized ads to shoppers who have already visited a website or product page without taking action. It uses visitor cookies to track what pages shoppers have visited and retargets them with relevant ads.

      What is a remarketing campaign?

      Remarketing campaigns let you retarget users who have previously visited your website with relevant ads. Remarketing uses visitor cookies to track what pages someone has visited and uses this information to customize display and search ads accordingly.

      What are the types of remarketing?

      • Standard remarketing
      • Dynamic remarketing
      • Display remarketing
      • Search remarketing

      What is retargeting vs. remarketing?

      Retargeting is the act of using paid ads to target users who have already visited your website. While it has a similar goal, remarketing is a strategy used to serve highly targeted email campaigns based on the pages a user has visited on your website.

      What is a cookie?

      Cookies are files that contain pieces of data about a website visitor that can be used to identify information like location and browsing behavior. Web servers can track cookies to understand the customer journey.


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