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All Visitors Are Equal but Some Are More Equal Than Others: AdWords Referrer URL Remarketing Lists

Running multiple marketing campaigns? Is a visitor from your YouTube In Stream ad as likely to convert as a Google brand searcher? Split out your AdWords remarketing lists to optimise performance using the referrer URL.

What Is It?

Hidden within the AdWords Shared Library is the option to create remarketing lists based on the last website a visitor was on before they reached your site. These “referrer URL” lists allow you to split out your remarketing strategy to consider the traffic source that drove that final click onto your website. These can then be utilised across AdWords search, GDN display, YouTube and even shared with DCM for programmatic display campaigns.

Why Should I Use It?

You may be segmenting your existing remarketing list based on the pages of your site users have visited (checkout steps, product categories, contact information, etc.) and the recency of their last visit (1 day, 30 days, 365 days, etc.). However, this doesn't take into consideration the path the user took to reach your site in the first place. Is a new user on a mobile phone from a YouTube pre-roll ad as likely to convert as a user returning via your email marketing campaigns?

Implementing these lists will turn this…

One Visitor Remarketing List

…into this!

Multiple Referrer Remarketing Lists

If you’ve seen a decrease in conversion rate through your remarketing campaigns, is it driven by external factors such as seasonality or due to a new marketing channel (e.g. a burst of visitors from a Groupon offer)? Segmenting users by referrer URL may not only offer you the insights you need to diagnose campaign performance but also provide the tools with which to optimise for this. You will be able to add/exclude users to your remarketing strategies and adjust bids and bid multipliers per referring traffic source, allowing you to adjust for differing conversion rates and any expected traffic increases through a certain channel.

How Do I Set It Up?

Referrer remarketing lists are set up within AdWords in much the same way as your usual remarketing lists, but with one extra step. When creating a new list in the Audiences section of your Shared Library, click the + Rule link to select the Referrer URL option instead and enter your criteria.

Referrer URL Option In Audiences

Referrer URL Input Example

Select your membership duration (1 to 540 days, 1 to 180 for RLSAs) and start using your lists as soon as they meet the minimum user requirements (100 for display, 1000 for RLSAs).

What Do I Need To Consider?

Remember to set up lists to capture search traffic too (e.g. URL contains "google", "bing" or "yahoo") to act as a control group when comparing key metrics such as clickthrough rate and conversion rate.

This only works for online traffic sources (duh!). In an ideal world, we would also have a list of visits triggered by offline sources such as outdoor advertising or TV. Instead these visitors could come to your site directly or look like search engine visitors.

Only direct referrals are included. For example, if a visitor performs a Google brand search after seeing a Facebook or YouTube ad, they aren't included in the corresponding list as they came via Google.co.uk instead.

Visitors may fall into more than one list. If they visited your site the first time via a Google search and then return another time via a YouTube remarketing ad, they will be included in both remarketing lists. You can exclude lists from one another (e.g. Google but not YouTube) but run the risk of missing out on users who fall into both and limiting the size of your remarketing pool.

You need to know ahead of time to set lists up for key campaigns. For example, if an affiliate offer is launching at the start of next month, create your list beforehand to ensure all visitors are allocated to the list from the start.