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Advanced Retargeting with Similar Audiences

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Retargeting has obviously been a top priority for myself when building out SEM/marketing campaigns for our clients and it just got a bit sweeter. Google Adwords introduced a Display Targeting Method called Similar Audiences, which in short means display ads are shown to people who have similar browsing habits as your previous visitors. The idea is to combine your retargeting lists with an auto generated list of “similar” browsers and display ads that are highly targeted. Essentially, this is Google’s version of Look-A-Like technology that is implemented into their Adwords program.

The lists are generated based on the retargeting audiences you built in your Interest & Retargeting Audiences. You’ll notice that the list size of the “Similar To” overall number is larger. This is because the similar audience have not previously been to your site.

Typically when you run a Retargeting Campaign, your % of New Visits will be relatively low. In this example, I share some live stats on some new visits. As you can see, the top campaign had the lower percentage of new visits, however that still represents people who are new visitors.

What is it?

The technology behind Google Adwords is designed to observe the browsing behaviour of visitors to your sites and compare them to how others browse the web. This list is then narrowed down based on the lists in your audiences that you have created through Rule Based Retargeting.

All of a sudden, you have a large list made up of previous visitors, and potential new customers.


Tracking at the Campaign level in Google Analytics is already set up. Here you can review specifically Ad Group performances and Ad Content to see which Displays are delivering the most visits, impressions, conversions etc.

[After Choosing Campaigns]

The data collected in here is Campaign Performance, which is also available in Google Adwords. In Adwords, you can also review Audience performance to compare metrics from your Retargeting List and Similar Audience.

Does it Work?

That is for you to find out ;). As you can see in the lists I presented in this post, the Ad group is targeting women’s clothing. This is one segment of a website that can be tested against another, e.g. clothing for men. This is one of many strategies you can implement into your retargeting campaign. Some things that go well in a retargeting/similar audiences campaign include:

– Shopping Cart Abandoned Visitors
– Customer Segments (Configured in Display Settings): Age, Gender, Location
– Custom Combinations: Used for Highly Targeted Ads
– Interests/Categories: Will help narrow down your similar audiences with visitors who share the same interests.


Retargeting using Similar Audiences is a great way to broaden your reach. However, like all display campaigns, if not done right, it can result in a huge waste of time and a boat load of irritated web surfers. When implementing a Display Retargeting Campaign, utilize the tools available within Adwords to effectively draw up a strategic campaign that will drive results.

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