PPC & Media

7 Strategies For Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)

Google AdWords has recently released out of beta their newest product feature, Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). RLSA allows advertisers to combine their current Remarketing lists with search ads to bring intent, context, and audience together.

Google Buzzword Bingo
Bingo! I win


What exactly does that mean?

Until now we’ve had to play a guessing game based on search behavior to not only identify our audience, but also determine when and where they intend to take action. Sometimes we nail it on the head, but more times than not we might only get one or two of those criteria right. RLSA eliminates one variable by isolating those who have already visited our site and allowing us to tailor our bids/message/reach according to our needs.

It goes without saying that the more effort you put into segmenting your Remarketing audience, the more tactics you can develop. In an earlier post, I outlined a few techniques to give your Remarketing Campaign some love and create more useful audience lists. Now let’s see how we can repurpose those lists for our search campaigns. Here are 7 useful techniques you can implement today to give your account a serious boost in efficiency.

1. Grow your reach by running broader keywords with RLSA campaigns.

Create a separate campaign that targets a particular audience from your Remarketing list, say visitors who have viewed men’s shoes on your site (presumably they are men). You have already identified your audience as men who are aware of your brand and interested in shoes, so you have a little more liberty to bid on broad keywords such as +shoes. This can be a great tool for expanding your keyword lists by seeing a broader range of searches your audience makes.

2. Eliminate wasted spend in Branded Campaigns

There’s always some debate over bidding on branded keywords, whether you’re wasting valuable dollars on your current clients who would ultimately find their way to your site no matter what. It’s true, when bidding on branded terms you will inevitably see a little redundancy in your campaign, but the hope is that the majority of traffic is incremental growth. With RLSA, we can minimize this unintentional cost and create some incredibly efficient Branded campaigns.

Create a segment for your converted users, whether that means a lead has already been submitted, a transaction made, or they have logged in to a client portal. Add this list as an excluded audience to your Branded campaign, and watch your CPA fall. Remarketing Exclusion Lists


Or even better…

3. Bid like hell for your converted users

Just because they’ve converted already doesn’t mean you need to stop the conversation. In fact, this audience is your most valuable, and most likely to return to make another purchase, upsell to a higher plan, or advance to the next stage in the conversion funnel.

When your next sale approaches, consider adding a custom segment for your converted users who converted more than 30 days ago. They are more likely to purchase again and are in-turn more valuable than a new visitor. Set a bid adjustment for these users to maximize your visibility.


Pro Tip #1 – If you set a bid adjustment, your campaign goes from targeting only your audience to targeting all users with an adjusted bid for only your audience. Pay close attention with how you structure and set bids when implementing RLSAs.

4. Use RLSA to adjust messaging

Though the process is a bit clunky still, you can use Remarketing lists to serve unique ads to your returning visitors. Unfortunately, to do so means duplicating your campaign and adding a remarketing audience to the duplicated version. Then create a separate ad which will only serve to that audience.

This treads a very fine line between RLSA product team and the AdWords Policy team, which states that you cannot target users with messaging that suggests you know they have performed any action. So if you create a segment for running shoes, your ad could say “Running Shoes” but not “Interested in Running Shoes?”

A very fine line… It will be interesting to see how Google polices these ads. I have not yet been audacious enough to test the limits as of yet.


Pro Tip #2 – When creating a duplicate campaign, you will now have a duplicate set of keywords in your account, attempting to reach a separate audience. While your RLSA campaign knows to only bid on site visitors, the standard campaign does not, and you will be competing for the same placement with both campaigns. Google recommends increasing your bid for your RLSA campaign to beat out the Ad Rank of your standard campaign. I do not.

First, it sounds like a plot to get advertisers to unnecessarily increase bids just to take advantage of a new feature. Second, being that you cannot guarantee all keywords will have the same Quality Score, it seems like a logistical nightmare to keep track of. Instead of trying to outrank your own ads, learn from our earlier example and use your same segment as an exclusion in your original campaign. You will now effectively have a New Visitors campaign (original) and a Returning Visitors campaign (new).

5. Advance leads through a conversion funnel or abandoned shopping cart

You’ve got a Free Shipping promo for your Remarketing campaign, right? Why not apply that same technique to your search ads too? Just because someone looked at your product doesn’t mean they’re not still searching. Don’t just adjust your ad with a targeted message, send them to a landing page that pushes them to close the sale rather than continue to shop around.

6. Pair RLSA targets with PLAs

Because marketers love a good acronym…

If you have goods to sell and you don’t have Product Listing Ads campaign yet, you’re missing the boat. PLAs have been one of the most successful additions to an eCommerce account in the past year, but as such, the space is becoming increasingly crowded with each day. This is forcing advertisers to be more aggressive, and more cautious in their spending on PLAs.

If you have (and you should) custom criteria in your product feed to segment your PLAs, you can match these with your remarketing lists to create efficient bid adjustments.  At a minimum you can apply a universal bid adjustment for all return visitors.

7. Create bid adjustments to align with your sales cycle

If you have a good understanding of your sales cycle you can leverage RLSAs to create time sensitive upsell opportunities. After purchasing a new phone, people typically return to buy add-ons and accessories 14-28 days later, when they’ve had a chance to break in the device and determine their real needs. This is the perfect upsell opportunity.

Perhaps you have a longer conversion funnel where users may take several visits and price shop for multiple weeks. Though it seems counter-intuitive, you can create effective ads by reducing bids in your first week after a visit, and ramping up in weeks 2-3 when consideration has already taken place and a decision is ready to be made.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads is a huge opportunity to add a new dimension of targeting which has thus far been missing in search. How will you take advantage of this new AdWords feature?

Craig Galyon

Craig Galyon - Digital Media Team Manager

Craig Galyon (pronounced "Craig") is the Digital Media Team Manager at SwellPath, with a background in PPC, Display, Rich Media, and Social advertising. When he's not managing killer media strategies for his clients, you'll find Craig brewing beer and playing competitive kickball. Rarely together.

6 Responses to “7 Strategies For Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)”

  1. Aaron Mai

    Great strategies for RLSA…For me, I usually change the Ad message because broadening keyword lists and changing bids seemed to be costly but anyway it’s worth to try getting clients convert.

    • Craig Galyon

      Great point Aaron, it is definitely a risk that you will increase costs by broadening reach. I think it’s great as a starting point if you’re looking to expand, to only reach your most targeted audience first. Then if it works, expand to the general population.

  2. michelle

    Thanks, Craig–I’ve been trying to come up with ideas that are not based on bid increases for clients that have grants and hence bid limits. These offer some nice ways to make RLSA work without that!

  3. John

    Can you elaborate on your Pro Tip #1? I may be reading it wrong, but it seems to contradict itself. You state if you use a bid adjustment, it will go from “targeting only your audience to targeting all users with an adjusted bid for only your audience”

    OK, so I understand that normally you’re only going to be targeting your audience. But you lost me when you said it will target all users…for only your audience.

    I’m not seeing a difference? I’m assuming if I setup a target (audience) that everyone within that audience will have the ability to be served

    But if I use a bid multiplier/modifier, it will “target all users with an adjusted bid for only your audience”

    Is that not the same thing? Or are you talkng about different audiences within a single campaign?

  4. Monique

    Hi Craig, thanks for your tips. One question. Is it possible to combine PLA and RLSA (as stated in your 6th strategie)? We have had no luck so far in getting it up and running.
    Thanks for your reply.
    Regards Monique | BlooSEM

  5. Jessica

    Hi Craig, as Monique mentioned above and I’ve confirmed with our Google Adwords account manager point 6. Pair RLSA targets with PLAs is not actually a current feature. I’m sure that Google are probably planning to release that at some point as it would be totally awesome.



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