Google Customer Match: 11 strategies for generating more conversions

In 2015 Google announced that it would allow advertisers to target by email address, using a new feature called ‘Google Customer Match’.

Customer Match is very similar to Facebook’s custom audiences, as it allows you to target PPC ads on the GDN, Gmail and YouTube using people’s email address.

According to data by Wordstream, Google Customer Match has the highest match rate between users and their associated email address.

You can expect Google to match around 50% of your email list to users, who you can then display ads to.

Data from Wordstream has also shown that Customer Match campaigns have the highest conversion rates of any audience.

Conversion rates of almost 15% were seen for Customer Match audiences, compared to around 5.5% for the new visitor audiences.

That’s nearly 3x the conversion rate!

It’s important to note, however, that advertisers can only upload customer information that they’ve obtained in the “first-party context”. 

This includes emails collected through website forms, apps, physical stores, and in-person events; essentially, instances where the user has demonstrated interest in the advertisers’ business.

12 tips for winning with Google Customer Match

Now that you know a little about Google Customer Match, let’s look at how you can leverage this feature effectively within your own Adwords campaigns.


1. Bring your offline customers online

One of the problems faced by retailers with brick-and-mortar stores is that they can’t retarget in the same way that online businesses can.

Google Customer Match can help them to overcome this by uploading customer email lists that they’ve gathered at the checkout process, or through other means such as competitors or surveys.

2. Create CMSA (Customer Match for Search Ads)

A lot of advertisers have heard of RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) – add to the mix what I’ve called ‘CMSA’ (Customer Match for Search Ads).

This allows you to increase or decrease the position of your search ads, depending on whether users are on your email list, and which email list they’re on.

This has the added advantage over Google Remarketing, as you can change bids using your first-party data that Remarketing lists are unable pick up.

For example, we can target advertisers who spend at least 10k per month on PPC marketing, and ask this as a qualifying question on our white paper downloads.

We can then create a list of these users, and then increase our bids when such users search for terms relating to PPC that are on this customer audience list, for example.

They can be applied within the audiences tab to your Google Search Network campaigns.

3. Upsell to existing customers

Existing customers have the highest CTR and conversion rates, according to data by Wordstream.

When they analysed data from their RLSA campaigns, which allows you to target past buyers and other segments, they saw that their conversion rate was over 400% higher for past customers as it is for new visitors.

What we can learn from this research is that using Google Customer Match audiences to upload lists of past buyers to run a campaign alongside your email campaigns will produce results that are significantly better than those for new customers. 

4. Test out ‘Similar To Customer’ Match audiences

‘Similar To Customer’ audiences allow you to create an audience of users that are very similar to the ones on the list that you upload to Google. 

According to Google, this feature: 

expands your reach to valuable new potential customers, automatically finding people who have shared interests with people on your existing email lists.

So, if you upload a list of existing customers to Google, it will create a “lookalike audience” for you to use. Wouldn’t you want to target people who look just like your best-paying customers?

Data from Google shows that advertisers who use this feature in conjunction with Remarketing typically* see: 

  • 60% more Impressions
  • 48% more Clicks
  • 41% more Conversions

‘Similar To’ audiences can be created through the ‘Interests & remarketing’ options within the Google Display Network targeting options, as shown below.

5. Target users across devices

One problem with using remarketing is that when users switch device, you end up losing them, because cookies that are used to track their activity cannot move between devices. 

This can be a significant issue, as 90% of users use multiple devices sequentially to accomplish a task online, according to Google. 

However, Google Customer Match campaigns allow you to retarget those people who have provided their email on your website seamlessly across different devices, as this does not rely on the use of cookies. 

So if you find that you generate a lot of cross-device conversions, this feature may prove to be very beneficial for you. 

6. Test applying Google Customer Match to your shopping campaigns

As of June 2016, advertisers are now able to use Google Customer Match to target their shopping ads more effectively. 

With advertisers seeing increases in CTR and conversion rates of 400% when using RLSA, which has similar features to Google Customer Match, this promises to provide strong increases in performance for advertisers (although, at the time of writing, there are no published case studies as of yet).

7. Exclude existing customers from seeing your ads

There are some cases where you may not want your existing customers to see your adverts, for example, if you have a one-time sale product, or an exclusive offer for new joiners. 

In this case, you can also use Google Customer Match lists to exclude existing customers. 

This method offers a key advantage over simply excluding a Remarketing audience of converted users, as it can exclude users across different devices; however note that this method will not match with as many users as would using a Remarketing audience. We therefore suggest that you use both methods alongside each other. 

8. Create exclusive offers for existing customers

Creating exclusive offers for your existing customers can be an effective way to drive conversions and reduce costs. 

When Roland Mouret implemented this strategy, they saw:

  • Cost-per-click 56% lower than average for UK brand campaigns 
  • An 87% improvement in cost-per-action compared to the previous month’s performance 

To do this, you should create a Customer Match campaign that contains a list of your existing customers, and then create two sets of ads: one that contains an offer targeted at new visitors, and a second with an offer targeted at existing customers. 

Here’s an example Roland Mouret using this approach. (As you can see, they offer existing customers 40% off when they use the promotion code.) 

(Apologies for the poor image quality)

9. Push users further down the sales funnel

At an SMX conference, Adstage displayed an effective way to push users down the sales funnel, converting top-of-funnel users into paying customers. 

You can do this by uploading several email lists, with customers segmented by their position within the buying cycle, and then create specific adverts to move them through your funnel. 

For example, you might create an audience of people who have downloaded your whitepaper, and display adverts to them promoting your case study, encouraging this audience to move further down the funnel. 

10. Use Customer Match for account-based marketing 

The ability to target people specifically based on their email address allows you to make your account-based marketing much more targeted.

Instead of paying and spraying your ads all over the internet, you can target the specific people within the specific company that you want to reach.

Going back to the example I used earlier, you are able to target people based on account size, market size, and other factors which you wouldn’t be able to target using Remarketing data alone.

For example, we can target advertisers who spend at least 10k per month on PPC marketing, and we ask this as a qualifying question on our white paper downloads.

We could create a customer list of these users, and then increase our bids when these customers search for terms relating to PPC. 

11. Reactivate Users

The average adult gets 121 emails per day, making it much harder for businesses to stand out in an inbox, and resulting in a decline in customer engagement. 

A great way to re-engage these users is to run a Google Display Network campaign alongside your email marketing efforts to raise brand awareness and drive engagement. 

You could compile a list of users with an existing subscription, and then when their subscription comes round for renewal (or when the average purchase frequency time has passed), target these customers with renewal offer ads with higher bid adjustments. 

If potential customers are back on the market, it’s important to appear in the SERP (search engine results page) when they are researching options. 

How to set up Google Customer Match Campaigns

There are two main steps to setting up your first Google Customer Match campaign: 

  1. Uploading an email list into Adwords 
  2. Targeting your display campaigns to your email list 

1) Uploading your email list into Adwords

This section of the guide will teach you everything that you need to know about creating a Google Customer match list, which you will then be able to select in your targeting options within your GDN, Gmail and YouTube campaigns.

STEP 1. Go to your Adwords account. On the left-hand side menu, click ‘Shared library’, and then select ‘Audiences’ (as shown below). 

STEP 2. Click on the red ‘Remarketing List’ button, and from the drop-down menu, select ‘Customer emails’.

STEP 3. Now give your customer email list a name, so you’re able to see which emails it refers to.  

STEP 4. Now, upload your email addresses at a .csv file. To create such a file, simply open a blank Excel spreadsheet, make a list of customer emails in column A (with no column header), and save the spreadsheet as a .csv file. You can then upload this file into Adwords by clicking on the ‘Choose file’ button. 

STEP 5. Finally, you’re able to set ‘Membership duration’ – the length of time that you want your customer emails to remain on your Customer Match list. Usually, it makes sense to set ‘no expiration’.

** If you want to encrypt your email lists so that Google can’t see it, I would suggest reading this article which explains how to do so step-by-step. 

2) Targeting your display campaigns to your email list 

This guide assumes that you already have a campaign set up on the Google Display Network. This section will then walk you through how to target adverts at people on your email list. 

STEP 1. Go to the ‘Display Network’ tab and then click ‘+ TARGETING’ as shown below.

STEP 2. From the ‘Add targeting’ drop-down menu, select ‘Interests & remarketing”. 

STEP 3. From the ‘Select category’ drop-down menu, click on ‘Customer email lists’. 

STEP 4. Find the customer email list you want to select, and click the ‘>>’ button on its row to add it to the right-hand side of the screen. 

STEP 5. You now have two choices of how you want to target your ads: 

  • Target and bid. This displays ads only to the people associated with these lists or categories, and provides the option to bid on them.
  • Bid only. This will add the customer lists for you to set bids on them, but your ads will also be shown to audiences who match your other selected Targeting Methods. 

In most cases you’ll probably want to select the first option (‘Target and bid’), unless you want to target people in overlapping audiences (‘Bid only’).


You now have all the knowledge to create and execute an incredibly effective Google Customer Match campaign. 

Why not take some time today to add a Google Customer match audience to your existing search or shopping campaign?   

If you’re in the B2B sales area, try out running an account-based marketing campaign based on the size of the account.

If you know that you have significant cross-device conversions, then test running Customer Match alongside your remarking efforts to track users across devices! 

If you have any questions about this guide, please feel free to ask them in the comments section below, and I will do my best to get back to you. 

wesley parker
About wesley parker

Wesley is Founder and CEO at Clicteq. He currently manages a £6 Mil Adwords portfolio across a range of different sectors. He regulally features in leading search publications such as Econsultancy, Campaign Magazine and Search Engine Land. You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Linkedin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *