A guide to Customer Match in AdWords

Roughly a 4 minute read by James

Customer Match is one of the newest and most exciting features to have been released by Google for AdWords in a while, and one that PPC nerds around the globe have been eagerly waiting for, having been spoilt by Facebook and their Custom Audience feature for sometime now.

Follow our guide to get up and running with this exciting new feature!

The Data

Firstly, you need to ensure that your data is in the correct format to enable the system to process the information correctly. The more valid emails you provide, the bigger potential pot of emails you will match against for use in your campaigns. A gentle reminder that all emails must be gathered by the advertiser, so no buying huge lists of 3rd party data to run through the tool.

  1. Google needs at least 1000 matched email addresses to use this feature but in our experience we recommend using at least 3000 email addresses as Google tend to match only 50% of your list.
  2. Dump all your data into a spreadsheet.
  3. Remove any other information from your spreadsheet so you're left with just the email addresses.
  4. Clean up your feed to be lowercase and free of any rogue spaces. =LOWER(TRIM(A1)) is a helpful Excel snippet to use on your list.
  5. Overwrite your original column so you have one column of lowercase, space-free data.
  6. Export your list as a .csv

At this point I highly recommend you apply the SHA256 algorithm to the data, which ensures greater security with the data. You can get a clever developer person to build you a tool (thanks Matt!) or there are online tools available. Though be careful, as you are dealing with some sensitive data here to make sure you trust the source you convert the emails with.


Now you have your .csv file, it’s time to upload into AdWords. Navigate to the shared library.

Then go to “Audiences”

Choose “Customer emails” from the remarketing drop down list.

Fill in the data fields on the next page.

Most of the above is self explanatory, for the email opt out link, you can use an email unsubscribe link, or we have used a contact page URL in the past with no problems.

Membership duration maximum is 180 days, so make sure you keep these lists updated as they expire.

A useful description will also help you keep organised when planning and building campaigns if you plan on using multiple customer email lists.

Once you accept the terms and click upload, you should see the below message, and, if you completed all the steps previous correctly, you should have a 100% accept rate. This does not mean that all the emails can be used in the campaigns, but that the data was formatted correctly.

What Next?

Now you have your Customer Match lists uploaded, you are free to use them in campaigns after a few hours processing time.

The key to customer match is to know the types of people in your customer match lists. Think about segmenting your lists before you upload them into categories.

For example, one list could be people who bought watches, another could be people who bought jewellery. Having this level of detail in your lists enables you to created more relevant ads and increase the return on your ad spend.

These lists are used in a similar way to a normal remarketing list, on Search, Display, YouTube and Gmail. As with remarketing, there are many ways to make use this data and possible strategies could take up another couple of blog posts, and I have things to do!

But here are a few possible ways to use the data to get you started.

  1. Connect with your offline customers. If you collect emails from customers in stores or in a restaurant for example, show display ads to them promoting new products and offers - or just encourage a repeat visit.
  2. Get engaged customer to commit. Any users that have signed up to newsletters, or downloaded a free resource from your site are excellent targets for Customer Match led campaigns if they haven’t already purchased from you.
  3. Encourage repeat purchases. If you sell a product or service that has a lifespan that fits within the 180 day membership limit, make sure you re-engage with the customers and remind them where they can buy again from from. Don’t rely on customer loyalty to drive repeat visits and purchases.
  4. Sell accessories and related products. Just had a big sale and sold a lot of one type of product? Make the most of the data and sell some related products to those customers.