The Beginner’s Introduction to Advanced Remarketing

Sam Martin-Ross
Sam Martin-Ross

All too often, agencies upsell clients with remarketing. However, the truth is that they tend to have little idea of what they’re doing, making it very easy to waste 50%, 80% and even more of spend. Getting the basics right is easy, and might even see a positive ROI, but using advanced remarketing techniques for the best performance is a different story…

Have a check in your Google/Facebook/other remarketing campaign for this audience:

  • “All Users 30 Days”

If you’re only using this audience, you can definitely be doing better.

This is the default audience, and the most basic of targeting options, where you’re missing out on some huge potential.

Basics of Remarketing

Remarketing lets you show ads to people who have already been on your site.

Therefore, they are already aware of your business, have shown at least some interest and are inherently more likely to convert than people just finding out about you.

For example, that 30-day audience would be targeting every user on your site over the last 30 days:

And with the Google Display Network, you can design and show them ads like these, hosted on a variety of sites across the Internet:

In fact, with Google’s network of over 2 million sites that reaches over 90% of all people on the Internet, it’s arguably the #1 way to reach a specific audience (like people who have visited your site).

Touching on Advanced Remarketing

Once you’ve got the simple stuff done right, remarketing might already be turning a positive ROI for you. However, there is a lot of scope to go further.

We’re going to touch on the following fundamentals of a successful targeting strategy:

  1. Audience definitions (visited page X),
  2. Membership duration (up to X days ago)
  3. Negative audiences (but didn’t complete event X)

Between analysing the number of days it takes your visitors to convert and understanding the steps to conversion on your site, things can get overwhelming very quickly.

1. Audience definitions

So, let’s start with audience definitions, using 3 levels of engagement for a travel website selling hotel rooms:

  • Visited homepage
  • Visited a specific hotel
  • Visited checkout

Which would each be defined something like this:

(screenshot from the flashy new AdWords interface, might I add)

Visualised below, we now have 3 audiences, with obvious differences in engagement and likelihood to purchase in the future (indicated by a darker colour):

However, wouldn’t someone who visited the Cart yesterday be much more likely to convert than someone who visited 3 weeks ago? Answer: yes, which brings us to:

2. Membership duration

This means how long a user remains in your audience after meeting the audience conditions defined above. On the interface, this looks like:

So, we’ll segment again by time-since-visit (only twice, to keep things semi-simple):

Side note: your durations would depend on the number of days it usually takes your visitors to convert.

Here, the audience in the bottom left is people who have visited the Cart less than 7 days ago – this is our most valuable audience. As we move up or to the right, we get less and less likely to convert, and less valuable to us.

So, we would create 6 ad groups with the above audiences and 6 different starting bids. Maybe something like this:

Side note 2: your starting bid would depend on the average per-session-value of returning visitors to your site.

Not too hard, right? But don’t stop here like we have seen many do! Let’s now touch on fundamental #3:

3. Negative audiences

For a travel site selling hotel rooms, it’s likely we don’t want to be targeting people who have already purchased a hotel room in the last 30 days (even if we do, this would be a separate campaign, with different ad copy, bids etc.). So, we can show that as a negative audience in our table like so:

This would be a negative audience for all ad groups. Simple. However, there are ad group specific negative audiences which we also need to worry about.

Let’s look at the Hotel (30 days) audience first, highlighted below:

Someone who reached a Hotel page would have likely visited the Homepage before this too, meaning that user is now in 2 audiences (or probably 3 or more), and not receiving the right bid. To combat this, we need to exclude the Homepage (30 days) audience from this ad group.

What’s more, someone who visited the site less than 30 days ago is also part of the audience who visited less than 7 days ago (for obvious reasons), so we need to exclude the Hotel (7 days) audiences from this ad group too (effectively making this audience “7-30 Days”).

Visually, this means excluding the audience above and to the left of each audience:

To recap, this ad group would have the following positive audience:

  • Hotel (30 days)

The following negative audiences:

  • Homepage (30 days)
  • Hotel (7 days)
  • Purchased (30 days)

And a bid of $1 (which will be refined later based on conversion rates).

Side note 3: ideally, the ad copy will be targeted specifically at people who browsed a hotel more than 7 days ago, and might have forgotten about you, or might now need some extra incentive (e.g. “Still looking for a hotel? Book now for a free airport transfer!”).

Side note 4: did you know you can also show ads of the exact hotel they were looking at? (think dynamic ads on Google or Facebook).


While this level of segmentation might seem obvious now, we have seen countless accounts with only an “all users” audience, usually defended by saying “we just want to see if remarketing works for us” – although they’re not giving it a chance.

Analyse your website visitors, structure your account around the highest potential to convert then continually optimise your bids & ad copy for conversions – and you’ll be well on the way to reducing your waste and reaching remarketing’s full potential.


We hope you found this guide helpful! If you need further advice on how to get the most from your remarketing, get in contact with our team at Digital Uncut today.