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How to Leverage First-Party Data with AdWords Customer Email Lists



Present day marketing is not about selling products or services, it's about creating value--value for your customers. Your customers, or you yourself as a customer, do not buy products or services. They buy solutions to a particular problem or situation. This is why a brand's ability to understand its customers and their problems, and to offer them delightful experiences, is crucial. 


But you need a data-driven approach to understand your customers better. One such data set is first-party data. 


First-party data is important to any business. According to research by Econsultancy, first-party data is a marketer's first choice for customer insight. It is identified as the best choice for data-driven success. And why not? Your customers are the audience with direct interest in your offerings. They know your brand already.


 Are you making the most of this audience?


If not, you can now leverage your first-party data with AdWords to gain more meaningful insights about your potential and existing customers. At the same time, you can formulate winning strategies and set up specific campaigns for these audience, which can work to improve your overall advertising performance and Return On Investment. 


Google's Customer Email List allows you to reach out to your highest-value customers on Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail more efficiently.


How does it work?


It's a three-step process:


  1. You start by creating a list of the email addresses your customers have shared with you
  2. Next, you set up a Search Network Only campaign and target this list under the Audiences section
  3. Now, when your customers are signed into their Google accounts, they may see your ads as they search Google

Once you upload your email list to AdWords, Google checks it for compliance and starts matching it with existing email address in its database. Once the matching process is complete, your email list is deleted for privacy reasons and your audience list is created. That list is the audience you can target on Google Search. AdWords will also try to create a Similar Audience from your list, which allows you to target on Gmail and YouTube.


How do you set up a customer email list with AdWords?

Sign into AdWords and go to Shared Library, and then to Audiences.




Give your list a name, select "Upload customer email addresses," and choose your file that includes all email IDs (hashed SHA256 or not) in CSV format and upload it:




Enter an email opt-out link, enter the membership duration, and check the box to confirm that "This data was collected and is being shared with Google in compliance with Google's policies." 


Finally, hit the Upload and Save List button. Once the list is uploaded, it will take some time for the compliance check. When done, you will see the list you just created under Audiences.


To use your email lists as a targeting method in a Search Network campaign, go to All Campaigns > Campaign Name > Ad Group Name > Audiences > +Remarketing > Customer Email Lists and select available email lists. Make sure to select "target and bid" if you want to confine your ads’ exposure to your email audience only.





You are done! Now work with your ad copy, bids, and other components to start leveraging your first-party data effectively.


How do you optimize campaigns for better performance?

  • Create separate campaigns for remarketing, targeted to your customer email lists. This will allow you to allocate and manage separate budgets for them. However, this is not a requirement, as you can also add your email list to an existing campaign or ad group. In this case, you would set the targeting method to "Bid Only," and set a bid adjustment for your customer email list.

  • Bid a bit higher on remarketing campaigns targeting email lists. These audiences are already aware of your brand, product, or services, hence they are considerably more valuable and potentially easier to convert. 

  • Have a custom advertising pitch/message for such audiences. Since they know your brand already, you don't need to educate them. You can be more creative with ad copies, so do not miss this chance!

  • Keep updating your email lists at regular intervals to make sure your data is fine-tuned and up-to-date.

  • Make separate lists of emails based on how you have acquired these customers. For instance, have a separate list for newsletter subscribers, past customers, ebook readers, workshop attendants, affiliates, etc. You can create separate campaigns for these groups with different advertising messages in place. 


Frequently Asked Questions about AdWords Customer Email Lists


What is First-Party Data?

  • Information that you collect directly from your customers. Usually such information is collected through websites, apps, physical stores, or other similar situations. The source of collection may vary, but the thing in common is that your customers directly shared this  information with you. 


I don't to know how to apply a SHA256 algorithm to email addresses, can I still use AdWords Customer Email Lists for my campaigns?

  • You can still upload your list in CSV format. Hashing is optional at the moment. Simply add your emails in an Excel file, one ID per line and save in .CSV format. You are good to go this way.


What is an email opt-out link?

  • When you collect emails from your customers, you add them to a mailing list either manually or through an automatic integration. Check with your developer for a link to the subscription update form on your website. This link should be the opt-out link that allows subscribers to update their details and preferences about their subscriptions.


We do not use any mailing list service, what should we put as an opt-out link?

  • If you do not use mailing list services, create a page on your website that tells people how to unsubscribe from your email list or update their subscription preferences. Use the link to this page as your email opt-out Link.


Do we need to update our Privacy Policy?

  • Yes, you must make sure that you comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including any self-regulatory or industry codes that may apply.
  • Your privacy policy must disclose that you may share customer information with third parties to perform services on your behalf.


How do I create the Similar Audience Lists?

  • You cannot create this Similar Audience list on your own, but you email lists are approved and live, a similar audience list will be created automatically, if eligible. You can use it to target ads on Gmail and YouTube.


Have questions or would simply like to share your mind? There can't be a better way than to start a conversation. Feel free to post your comments below. 




about Ratan Jha

A digital marketing strategist and consultant with 9+ years of experience. I help businesses make their marketing strategies more rewarding. Co-Founder - Splashsys Webtech. Winner of DigiGurus - a competition among Indian Google Partners.

Harikesh R
January 2016

Good Info Ratan. Got to know new thing

Ratan-Jha Top Contributor
January 2016

Thanks @Harikesh R. Happy you liked it Smiley Happy


Ratan Jha

Vaibhav B
January 2016

Realy very good information, I am very much intrested to crete my first #customer #email #list for my #Aswords #Account.Thanks...

Ratan-Jha Top Contributor
January 2016

All the best @Vaibhav B!

Rajendra C
January 2016

 great article ratan sir...

Matt M
January 2016

Do you have any advanced tips?

Ratan-Jha Top Contributor
January 2016

Hi @Matt M


Creating separate lists based on the source and purpose of emails can be foundation for advanced strategies. It helps having specific campaigns for specific audience lists. 


Ratan Jha

Richa A
January 2016

Where and how will the ads be seen? 

Also, where can the customer see the unsubscribe option?

Ratan-Jha Top Contributor
January 2016

Hi @Richa A,


To your questions -


  • Based on the list of emails you submit, AdWords builds an audience for you. Now when such of your audiences are signed into Google Search, YouTube, or Gmail, you can show them your ads.
  • Your audiences do not see a direct unsubscribe button with your ads in general, but if they click for more information link (e.g. why this ads? ) that shows with ads, they may see option to manage their ad preference or may see options to update their subsciption inforamtion. 

Hope it heps. 


Ratan Jha

Avi Lambert
January 2016

Very good information for integrating Omni-channel information into Adwords. One caution, though, @Ratan-Jha is the need to update first-data policies to reflect the nature of this remarketing optimization feature. I know I will have to do that before starting this tactic with my client's customers.