16 Sep, 2020

Google Remarketing Ads: What, Why, How

Situation: You Google ‘best home loans’ and read an article on new products. Later, you see home loan ads on YouTube, Facebook and other online media.

It’s called ‘remarketing’ and it’s a powerful weapon in a businesses’ online warchest.

We investigate the ‘what’, the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of Google remarketing ads.


Remarketing, sometimes known as ‘retargeting’, works by ‘following’ someone who has visited a website that has been set up with relevant retargeting code. Following their visit, they then see ads on other websites and (ideally) be drawn back if they haven’t completed a designated action. These actions might be buying something or signing up for a newsletter via email.

In other words, people find a website online and if they leave without completing an action, they’re retargeted with ads to get them back.

It’s a common, legal and proven practice online.

Think of it like this: You have a sign above your head detailing your shopping habits and products you’re interested in. You walk into a supermarket and are immediately displayed items that match the sign.

Examples of remarketing:

Search Results Remarketing: This is when Google displays remarketing ads mostly at the top of the search results page but can be found on different parts of the search page as well.

Display Remarketing: Remarketing ads appear as banners, interactive images, expandable images or pop-ups on other websites, email and mobile apps.

Video Remarketing: These ads appear on Youtube as short skippable or non-skippable video clips in between or during videos, as pop-ups on the bottom of the video or both. during videos or as pop-ups as the bottom of the screen.

Social Media Remarketing: Understandably, social media plays a big role in remarketing by displaying ads related to previously viewed content.


Did you know that customers who return to a website via retargeting ads are 70% more likely to complete an action?

This is because online traffic typically doesn’t convert into a ‘sale’ (or do what you want them to do) on the first visit to a website. Reasons for this include:

  • They want to compare options

  • They want to do more research

  • They are busy and/or impatient

  • They didn’t see a solution / weren’t convinced

Remarketing gives people a reminder that you do have the answers they’re looking for.

Remarketing also applies top-of-mind awareness to visitors. This means that when someone visits your website for a brief moment, they are reminded about it later on. For example, they have a quick look at your homepage on their phone during lunch then get distracted by something else. They won’t forget about you as your retargeting ads will pop up on their Facebook feed, YouTube videos, Instagram (or similar) later that evening or on the days that follow.

Amazingly, only about 2% of initial visitors to a website ‘convert’ and complete desired actions. Remarketing goes after the other 98%.

Won’t people feel ‘bombarded with ads’?

As with all forms of marketing, the ‘aggressiveness’ of remarketing campaigns can be dialed up or down. Furthermore, remarketing ads are generally of interest to the viewer. They help avoid unrelated ads being shown - a child won’t be advertised international airfares for example.


How does it work?

Remarketing works with ‘cookies’. There are many websites that ask permission to use cookies upon opening. Cookies are small snippets of code that identify your computer and track, personalise, and save information about your web browsing session. This data is used to filter ads to suit your searches and demographic.

Cookies tell advertisers like Google that ‘this user likes a specific product so advertise similar examples’. When remarketing, cookies also tell advertisers; ‘this user previously visited a website without completing an action so remind them to come back’.

How do you apply remarketing?

You’ll need a Google Ads Account to get started.

Firstly, in your Google Ads account, create a website remarketing list. In the “Audience manager” section, add a website visitors list. Enter a descriptive remarketing list name and choose a set of rules (conditions) from the “Visited pages” drop-down menu. 

Add the ‘conditions’ for web pages on your site where you'd like to collect visitor cookies. For example, you may want your cookies to collect data on people who search ‘low home loan rates’ or the date and time they visit your website.

You can control the number of people to remarket to and the length of time they will stay on the remarketing list. For example, you may only want to advertise to 50 people per week who visit your site for less than 1 minute. This is where the above mentioned ‘aggressiveness’ of remarketing can be dialed up or down.

After creating a website remarketing list, create a new campaign and in the “Goals”, select the desired results. Next, choose “Display Network” in the campaign type and set parameters such as location, bidding strategy and budget. In the “Audiences” menu, search for the remarketing list you have created and apply said remarketing list on your campaign in a “targeting” setting. Click on “save” and you’re done.

Remarketing Tips:

  • Schedule your ads per target audience: Make sure the types of people your ads are targeting are actually online and in the mood for finance at the right times. For example, advertising home loans at 9:00 am on a Monday to first year uni students wouldn’t be ideal.

  • Upsell to current customers: Existing customers know and trust your brand. You can retarget them to upgrade their products or refinance for example.

  • Select the correct platform: You may need to do a few small tests to find out where your ads work best and for who. Sizes and formats are also important. For example, colours, images and fonts matched per age group. Advertising investment property finance on a Fortnite forum won’t fly well.

Take Away:

Remarketing has huge potential to increase revenue - that’s the reason you see it in motion so often. Do some research and small-scale testing to see what works best for your business. Google Analytics is a good first port of call. As with most marketing campaigns, remarketing can be configured and tailored to suit your business, your clients and your goals.

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