AdWords Display Remarketing Setup Best Practice for e-Commerce

The key to setup a performing ROI based display remarketing campaign is to properly segment your audiences and ad groups.

Basic Theory

  1. The deeper a user is in your sales funnel, the more likely he is to buy. A shopping cart abandoner is more likely to buy than someone who simply browsed your homepage.
  2. The more recent the user’s visit, the more likely he is to buy. A user who abandoned his shopping cart yesterday is more likely to buy than someone who abandoned their cart 10 days ago.
  3. The more likely a user is to buy, the more you want to bid on that user.
  4. The 80 / 20 rule applies. Roughly 80% of your remarketing sales will come from your cart abandoners. 16% will come from your product viewers. And the remaining 4% will come from general site browsers.


Here are the initial audiences to create. If you have a high volume site you may want to add additional audiences with more granular time periods.  Remember that the more granular you make something, the more traffic you need to make the stats significant.

  • Cart Abandoners – 1 day
  • Cart Abandoners – 4 day
  • Product Viewers – 7 day
  • Product Viewers – 28 day

Properly Defining your Audiences

It is important that your audiences do not overlap. (It is ok if the time scales overlap, but not cart abandoners and product viewers). There are 2 ways to set this up.

  1. When you define your audience, make sure you exclude necessary audiences. Exclude purchasers from Cart Abandoners; exclude cart abandoners and purchasers from product viewers.
  2. Create base audiences like “Purchased”, “Added to Cart” and “Viewed Product” and then EXCLUDE the audiences at the ad group level. “Added to Cart” minus “Purchase == Cart Abandoner; Viewed product minus Cart Abandoner == Product Viewers.

Campaign Setup

Create one campaign per major market you are targeting, and give them a descriptive name:

  • USA: Display Remarketing
  • Canada: Display Remarketing

Generally, but not always, you will want a separate campaign for every unique currency and language you are targeting.

Core AdGroups

Creating only these two ad groups will generate 90% of your display remarketing conversions . I highly recommend you start with only these two. Only add more groups (described later) if the extra 10% in remarketing sales will justify the extra administrative complexity.

1. Cart Abandoners

This ad group will target cart abandoners: Visitors who added a product to their cart but never purchased. Dynamic Product ads perform particularly well with cart abandonment, as your visitors are shown the exact products that they added to their cart.


  • Cart Abandoners – 1 day
  • Cart Abandoners – 4 day

2. Product Viewers

This ad group will target users who visited a product details page but who never added a product to their cart.


  • Product Viewers – 7 day
  • Product Viewers – 28 day

Optional Ad Groups

Here are additional remarketing ad groups and audiences. In my experience, most conversions come from the two core ad groups identified above (Cart Abandoners and Product Viewers) but you may have a different experience depending on your business.

Just Purchased

This will show ads to people who have just purchased. This is a good place to possibly push micro conversions such as joining a loyalty program, joining a community, etc… Or perhaps up-selling them another related product?


  • Purchase 7 days

Past Customers

This is similar to the “Just Purchased” ad group, but with a longer time window. This will show ads to people that have previously purchased a product 30 or more days ago. This is a good place to advertise new product launches or promotions.


  • Purchase 30 days
  • Purchase 90 days
  • Purchase 360 days

Never Purchased

This is the opposite of the “Past Customers” group. These are people who visited your site in the past year, but have never purchased. This is also a good place to advertise new product launches or promotions.


  • Site Visitors 30 days
  • Site Visitors 90 days
  • Site Visitors 360 days

Exclude Audience

  • Purchase 360 days

New Customers, Brand Unaware

This isn’t really remarketing, but simple display advertising: These are people who have never visited your site. Your remarketing audiences are EXCLUDED so that you are only targeting people who are unaware of your product or brand. You are arguably willing to pay more for each customer as they are new customers, but this will be your worst performing segment. You can waste a lot of money here, so be careful.


  • Combination of keyword, interest, topic, and placement targeting relevant to your product and brand.

Exclude Audience:

  • Site Visitors 360 days


Other Tips

Exclude “low quality” visitors

You will have to create these audience groups within Google Analytics, and then exclude them from all your remarketing campaigns:

  • Exclude people who have bounced
  • Exclude people who have spent less than ten seconds on the site

Frequency Capping

Most resources online will tell you to limit your frequency cap to about 20 times per user per month, but I suspect this is wrong. That means a user will be exposed to your ad once every other day or so, with no guarantee that he actually noticed it.

I normally set the frequency capping to 20 times per user PER DAY. If you think of how many web pages you visit in a day, 20 ads will be gone fairly quickly and you will probably miss most of them. Add in that for cart abandonment ads you really want to hit the abandoners hard within the first 24 hours, I think the 20 impressions per day is the safer bet.

But the true answer will vary based on your business, product, and customers.

A word about View Through Conversions

View Through Conversions are conversions where a display ad appeared on the screen, was NOT clicked, but the user ended up purchasing on your site sometime later. In general I recommend that everyone IGNORE View Through Conversions, in particular in remarketing campaigns.

What usually happens, is that an ad is displayed on screen, the visitor may not even see it, but clicks instead on a cart-abandonment e-mail and makes the purchase. AdWords will credit that conversion to the view through.

The one exception is for “brand unaware” customers. These are customers that have never visited your website before. If such a customer sees you ad, and purchases, then the odds are better that it was a result of your ad.

In an ideal world, there would be a simple way to test the value of your view-through-conversions, as they are different for every segment, and every business.

Other Resources

Shopify: Fix your Google Analytics Product Performance Reports

The Problem: By default Shopify includes product variant details in the product’s name when it sends e-commerce data to Google Analytics, . If you sell clothing ,or shoes, or other products with color and size variants, then your Product Performance Report becomes too granular.


How Shopify data shows up by default in Google Analytics. Notice that the various “Trillium Parka” variants are ungrouped because the size and color information is in the product name. This makes it difficult to see aggregate data for all variants of this product.

This is a bug, because there already exists a “Product Variant” field in Analytics, and it is already being properly populated.

The Solution:
Google Analytics Custom Data Import

The solution to this problem is to overwrite the Shopify data using the Custom Data Import tool.

Step 1: Export your Product Data

First we need to export all our product data – you can use a similar technique to generating your own custom Google Shopping Product Feeds to build a CSV export file.

a. Create a new Collection Template

Call the new collection template csv-ga-product-feed and paste the following code:

{% layout none %}{% paginate collection.products by 1000 %}ga:productSku,ga:productName,ga:productVariant{% for product in collection.products %}{% for variant in product.variants %}
{{ variant.sku }},{{ product.title | replace: ',','' }},{{variant.title | replace: ',',''}}{% endfor %}{% endfor %}{% endpaginate %}

(also available on GitHub here)

b. Create a new Collection based on your csv-ga-product-feed Template

Select the products you want to include in this feed (probably all your products). These will be the products whose values will be overwritten in Google Analytics. Call your collection “Google Analytics Product Data Import” or something similar and save it.

c. Download your Product Feed

  • View your new collection in your store (eg:
  • View source in your browser and save as HTML
  • Rename the file with a CSV extension (eg: google-analytics-product-data-import.csv)

Step 2: Setup and Import the data into Google Analytics

IMPORTANT WARNING! I highly recommend you duplicate or backup your Google Analytics view and do a trial run before working with your live data. Once you upload this new data and overwrite there is no UNDO!

a. Setup the Data Feed

  • Go to Google Analytics > Admin > Account > Property > Data Import
  • Click the red “+ NEW DATA SET” button
  • Select “Product Data”
  • Give your Data Import a name: “Product Name Override”
  • Select the Google Analytics Views you want this import to affect
  • Setup your Data Set Schema: Product SKU is the mandatory key, but select Product and Product Variant as the additional fields.
  • Overwrite Hit Data: Choose Yes (but read my warning above)
  • Click Save and Done

b. Upload your data feed

  • Click on “manage uploads” beside your new Data Feed definition
  • Click the blue UPLOAD button
  • Choose your CSV file and click UPLOAD again
  • And now wait for the upload an update to be complete

Step 3: Verify your new data

The data upload will only affect data from this date forward. So your old data will unfortunately not be fixed. But your future data will be nice and clean.

You will need to wait at least a day before you start seeing the new data coming in. If you add new product SKUs to your store, you will also need to regenerate and reupload a new file in order for the new product data to be fixed.

Shopify Cancelled Orders and Google Analytics

By default, when you cancel an order in Shopify, that transaction remains as positive revenue in your Google Analytics.

To “cancel” the transaction in Google Analytics you have to send a negated version of the transaction. To do this in Shopify you have to create a Webhook on Order Cancelled that hits a script (located on the same root domain as your store) that will call server side Google Analytics e-commerce code to negate the transaction.

Webhook Endpoint Dependencies


Place the following code into a file that will act as your Order Cancelled Webhook endpoint (ie:

Make sure you:

  • Update the script to use your GA Account Id and Root Domain.
  • Change the path of autoload.php to point at your php-ga library

Begin Code

use UnitedPrototype\GoogleAnalytics;
require_once '../includes/autoload.php'; // Update to point at your php-ga install

$GA_AccountId = 'UA-********-1'; // Update with your GA account
$GA_domain = ''; // Update with your root domain
$webhookContent = '';
// Read the webhook content
$webhook = fopen('php://input' , 'rb');
while (!feof($webhook)) {
  $webhookContent .= fread($webhook, 4096);

if (!empty($webhookContent)) {
  // Convert the webhook content into an array
  $shopifyOrder = json_decode($webhookContent, true);

  $tracker = new GoogleAnalytics\Tracker($GA_AccountId, $GA_domain);

  $visitor = new GoogleAnalytics\Visitor();

  $session = new GoogleAnalytics\Session();

  $page = new GoogleAnalytics\Page($_SERVER['REQUEST_URI']);
  $page->setTitle('Order Cancelled');

  $tracker->trackPageview($page, $session, $visitor);

  $transaction = new GoogleAnalytics\Transaction();

  foreach ( $shopifyOrder['line_items'] as $product ) {
    $item = new GoogleAnalytics\Item();

  $tracker->trackTransaction($transaction, $session, $visitor);

Setup the Webhook in Shopify

In your Admin dashboard go to:

  • Settings > Notifications > Webhooks (at the bottom)
  • Create a Webhook
  • Event: Order Cancellation // Format: JSON // URL: The full url of your php file


  • Google Analytics: Got to the Real Time > Content report
  • Shopify: Click “Send test notification” link beside your webhook.
  • Google Analytics: You should see a page request popup with your script name
  • Google Analytics: Wait a few hours and then (for transactions to register) and then go to Conversions > Ecommerce > Product Performance and you should see a sledge-hammer and wire-cutter products (the Shopify sample data) along with negative quantities and value.

Further Reading & Resources

Do you Really Need a Quantity Box?

Product Quantity Dropdown ListThe other day I was browsing an e-commerce clothing store and the Quantity box suddenly seemed odd to me:  “Who would buy MORE THAN ONE of this shoe – in the EXACT SAME STYLE AND SIZE??”

I wondered how many people EVER buy more than 1 IDENTICAL piece of clothing? (We’re talking same SIZE, STYLE, COLOR, etc…).  I asked my good friends over at Gongshow Gear (makers of awesome hockey inspired clothing) if I could have a peak at their Analytics data, and here are the results:

  • On average, only 1 out of 50 people will buy more than 1 of the same item
  • For non-clothing items that come in a single size & color multiple qty purchases increase (to between 12% and 40% — but still a minority of your customers)

Do we need the Quantity field?

For products where 98% of customers buy a single item I would recommend removing the Quantity field.  If someone really wants to buy 2 of something they can just add the product to the shopping cart twice or change the quantity directly in the shopping cart.

Note: The Quantity field is useful for items where you EXPECT the customer to purchase more than 1 – make sure you dig into your analytics before making your final decision.

Most usability studies show that reducing the number of form elements usually improves usability and so conversion rates should improve by removing the quantity field.  Zappos seems to agree as they have removed the Quantity field from all their product pages.

Does it really matter?

Probably not.  The quantity field usually defaults to 1 item so you never have to touch it anyway.  I have a hard time believing that the quantity field will make a measurable difference to conversion rates for most sites.    If there is a difference, it is probably very very small.  Then again I assume that Zappos measures everything they do on their site and THEY removed the Quantity box.

If anyone decides to run an A/B test to get stats on this, I would love to hear your results.