Tutorial: How to Setup AdWords Retargeting Step By Step

Recovering lost visitors through AdWords retargeting is one of the most simple ways to start earning back some ROI from your website.

Unfortunately, setting up AdWords retargeting can be a bit difficult as there are SO MANY different configuration options and setting up a Google account isn’t as simple as it should be – yet.

But before we dig in on setting up your own campaign, you should know what what retargeting actually means.

Instead of boring you with my rambling, HubSpot provides a good introduction to retargeting.

In this guide, HubSpot explains a bit of a difference between pixel and list retargeting, and gives a brief rundown of how to enable some Facebook fun.

Read it, then come back here.

Ok, so why would I want to setup AdWords Retargeting?

AdWords in my opinion is the easiest and best way to drive qualified traffic back to your website.

Make no mistake, there are other retargeting platforms out there, but getting up and running in AdWords only makes sense as you’ll most likely be driving traffic through AdWords at some point in the future.

[bctt tweet=”AdWords in my opinion is the easiest and best way to drive qualified traffic back to your website.” via=”no”]

AdWords lets you bid on a CPC basis instead of using a traditional CPM model.

Other retargeting platforms make you bid on a CPM basis…the cost per 1,000 impressions. That cost will fluctuate, every single impression. $100 might buy you 1MM impressions, or it could buy you 10.

CPC bidding lets you stay consistent and build a scalable campaign.

Behind the scenes Google is able to figure out what your click rates are when your ad is shown,  and likewise put you into the rotation at a most optimum level instead of exposing you to CPM.

CPC bidding also means that you can specify and control your costs a bit more easier which lets you get an ROI out of your campaign faster.

When bidding in a CPC model, you’ll quickly learn if your ad is performing well – Google wants to make money of course!

If your ad is not being clicked, your campaign impressions will suffer.

Cool how it all works huh?

How do I setup Adwords Retargeting?

I will break down setting up an AdWords account into 5 simple steps. Pictures included :).

Step 1: Go to Google Adwords

When you get to the Adwords page, you’ll see a link to “start now” or “sign in” if you already have a Google account.

Adwords Signup Page

If you already use Gmail or another Google account, once you click sign-in you’ll be prompted to go through the Adwords account setup. For the sake of this tutorial, I will not cover how to setup a Google account.

Step 2: Go through AdWords Account Setup

While optional, I find this tool is great for getting started. It builds a quick campaign and gets your information out of the way.

As you can see the first prompt asks you simply for your email address, and the website you plan to advertise on.

Setup Adwords Retargeting - Step 1

Once you enter in your website, Google AdWords will crawl your website for the relevant keywords it can crawl.  Click Continue.

Setup Adwords Retargeting - Step 2

This page is where you can build your first campaign. Since we’ll be pausing this campaign (its not retargeting), the following information is more practice/keep on a sticky note.

Your Budget: This is how much money you will allow AdWords to spend each day. Set this to a small number, as we’ll be pausing this campaign anyways a bit later on.

Locations: Since we’ll be pausing this campaign you can set whatever you want in this field. It is fun however, to look at how granular you can get with your campaigns. Perhaps you want only customers from your local zip-code. No problem.

Networks: This is a very important setting! Google breaks advertisements into two different ways: Search Network and Display Network.

Search Network is what you’re most familiar with – when searching on Google you’ll see ads show up next to the search results.

Display Network is a hodgepodge of banner ads on other websites (We’ll be using this for retargeting).

The “user intent” for these is quite different, and in another post I will cover this.

Keywords: Google AdWords has already crawled your website. These are some of the keywords it thinks best represent your site.

[bctt tweet=”ProTip: If you see keywords in the Adwords Recommend Keyword List that don’t make sense or relate to your website, you should update your website’s copy, FAST to pay less” via=”no”]

Bid: Starting out, you can let Google select a bid for you (Automatic CPC bidding.). Or, alternatively, you can specify a max bid you want to use in Google’s online auction.

Text Ad: I’ve put a sample text ad together for you, but essentially when creating an ad you should create a headline that encourages clicks and is relevant to the keyword you’re targeting. The first and second line of the sub-title is limited to 35 characters each.

Click Continue.

Setup Adwords Retargeting - Step 3


The billing information page is pretty straight forward.

Be sure to pay attention to Time Zone setting at the bottom. You will not be able to change this in the future and may cause lots of pain down the road.

Click Continue.

You’ll then get to a review screen where you can start your campaigns.

Congrats! You’ve setup your AdWords account!

Step 3: Pause Your First Campaign

Yup. You read that right!

Since we’re just talking about retargeting in this tutorial, you will want to pause your first campaign that is automatically created through the initial  account setup.

Simply click the “Pause” button on the campaigns tab.

Adwords Campaign Page

Step 4: Find Your AdWords Retargeting Pixel

Now the fun stuff.

Remember the Hubspot article I recommended at the beginning of this post? They talked about the difference between Pixel and List Based retargeting.

In this tutorial, we are going to setup a pixel based retargeting campaign.

On the left hand of the AdWords screen towards the bottom, navigate to the link that says “Shared Library.”

Once you get to the Shared Library Page, you’ll be presented with quite a few options. Select the “View” link underneath the “Audiences” section.

Adwords Shared Library

This page is where you can setup retargeting audiences.

Grab your tag by selecting “Tag Details” underneath the box up at the top labeled Retargeting tag:

Retargeting Tag Setup

Select the “Setup” tab at the top, and then “View AdWords tag for websites” link.

Retargeting Setup Tag

Viola! This is your remarketing Tag!

Step 5: Put Your Remarketing Tag On Your Website

The remarketing tag must go on every single page of your website in order to be effective and work properly. If you’re using Google Tag Manager on your website, Google has made it extremely simple to simply add your tag ID, and hit “publish.”

If your website is using WordPress  you can download plugins to enable this functionality for you like Google Adwords Remarketing, with no coding required whatsoever.

I prefer however, to insert code directly into header of the website where available.

Run Your First AdWords Retargeting Campaign

Now that you have your pixel on your website, you need to actually start running an AdWords retargeting campaign. Luckily, this part of is pretty simple.

Step 1: Create a New Campaign

Once inside AdWords, select the + Campaign button and select “Display Network Only.”

Create Adwords Campaign - Step 1

We are going to use only display (banner ads) in our retargeting campaigns, therefore the other options are not applicable.

Now we’re at the campaign creation process. Thankfully this is easy though a bit long.

Campaign Name: Give your campaign a name, such as “retgt-web.”  You will be tracking performance of this campaign throughout Adwords.

Type: Ensure that Display Network Only is selected. You can leave “Marketing Objective” selected.

The marketing objective you’re trying to achieve is “Buy on your website” which includes remarketing. Select that checkbox inside the Drive Action column and hit continue.

Locations: Leave defaulted to US/Canada unless you are a local brick and mortar store.

[bctt tweet=”Pro Tip: If you only want customers from a specific metro or geo, scale back your AdWords campaigns to just those geos to maximize your ad spend and generate HUGE returns” via=”no”]

Bid Strategy: Here’s where Google Adwords lets you select your bidding style. I recommend “Manual CPC + Enable Enhanced CPC” when just starting out to keep things simple.

Budget: Set something you’re comfortable with. Personally, I like setting this as high as my budget will allow. After-all, our targeting in the next step is going to be visitors who have already visited our website, lets ensure we stay top of mind.

If you want to dive into some more settings on this screen you can, but you can also leave them alone.

An example might be if you wanted your ads to only show up during business hours if you were promoting customers to call you, or if you wanted your ads to only show up to a specific users 3 times a day.

Here is what my settings look like:

Creating Adwords Campaign Step 2

Step 2: Create Your AdGroup & Set Audience

An adgroup is away to organize your advertisements within AdWords. It’s not as applicable as keyword based targeting, but you still need to fill it out.

Enter a name such as “display” and select “Interests & Remarketing” underneath the”choose how to target your ads.”

Here is where we’ll select our retargeting audience!

Underneath Category select “Remarketing Lists”

Select the two little arrows next to “All visitors”

Retargeting Adwords Selection

Under enhanced CPC bid – set something low such as $1. Since we don’t have conversion rate tracking setup this feature will not be used.

Since this is a new campaign, I would suggest unchecking the “let AdWords automatically find new customers” – this will just eat up some of your budget early on.

Step 3: Create an Ad

If you want to run a text ad on the display network, you can enter in your advertisement information here.

I recommend using a display image when starting out.

If you select the “Image Ad” adWords includes a built in editor to help build HTML5 display ads which work across different ad units.

Hit continue, and JUST like that, you are up and running!

Congrats you deserve a reward!

Setting Up Adwords Retargeting Recap

Well, if you’ve made it this far, you no doubt have earned your retargeting badge 🙂

Setting up AdWords retargeting can be a bit complex, but once its running, your website will start to earn back traffic you’ve paid for already.

Consultants and agencies will charge over $500 to setup AdWords, so by doing it yourself you can put that money into running a high performing AdWord retargeting campaign!

[bctt tweet=”Consultants and agencies will charge over $500 to setup AdWords, so by doing it yourself, you can put that money into running a high performing AdWord Retargeting campaign!” via=”no”]

This is just touching the surface of retargeting.  We haven’t covered enabling integration with Google analytics to truly track ROI, nor have we dove into what a successful campaign looks like, or even played with the other settings.

If you’re not comfortable learning paid search and tactics on the go (while spending your hard earned money) I recommend you work with a certified AdWords marketing consultant.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out directly to me. After all, I make marketing work!