Google AdWords Remarketing Lists For Search Ads (RLSA): The Ultimate Guide

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Google AdWords rolled out a new ad targeting method to advertisers June 25, combining a visitor's website behavior with their subsequent search queries on Google.

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) was in beta since July 2012 and is now open to all advertisers worldwide. It allows advertisers to reach people in the search results page with a text ad based on:

  • Having visited the advertiser's site (received a cookie).
  • Search keywords bid on.

Since, in theory, someone who has been to your site and familiar with you is more likely to convert, this type of targeting can be very effective. Remarketing can take advantage of what you already know has taken place on the website, therefore the ads are more relevant and can deliver higher CTR, conversion rates, and lower cost per conversion.

Advertisers can adjust PPC ads, bids (set bid adjustments), and keywords based on the audience and keywords they are targeting. RLSA uses the same remarketing lists and management as Google Display Network remarketing. RLSA is available only once campaigns are updated to enhanced campaigns.

Keyword search is the primary source of relevancy with RLSA campaigns with targeted audiences helping to further refine who is reached with keyword targeting. Basically, the remarketing list helps to refines a set of keywords.

Any remarketing list can be added to an ad group in a search campaign, bringing an audience dimension to campaigns because we can see how searchers respond based on how they are segmented into the remarketing lists. For example, we can determine where they are in the purchasing cycle or interest in specific products based on pages they visited in past.

To get started using RLSAs, a few things need to be in alignment. You must enable:

  • Remarketing, either through the Google Analytics or Remarking code snippet.
  • Enhanced campaigns.

Google has noted, that this isn't "not search retargeting or search remarketing" because it doesn't provide access to or use information about users' Google search histories, and can't be used in connection with sensitive categories. It utilizes list already available for display to adjust what you see on search, not previous keyword searches.

Setting Up RLSAs

From a campaign, click the "audiences" tab, then select "add a remarketing list". You will be prompted to select an ad group to apply the list to. Once the ad group is selected, the available remarketing lists will appear.

Finally, choose "target and bid" if you only want to use the remarketing list, or "bids only" if you want to use both keyword search and/or remarketing list to reach your prospective customers.

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Customization is key:

  • To make the most of the RLSA campaigns, use bid adjustments for remarketing lists in adgroups. For example, visitors who reached the shopping cart may be a hotter lead for a conversion than one who only reached the homepage, thus supporting a higher CPC bid.
  • Customize ads with relevant offers informed by users past decisions on the website.

Best Practices For Strategy and Structure

  • RLSA only works for the search network, so it's preferable to separate remarketing for search and display. Also, set campaigns to search only network as a best practice.
  • Understand when creating campaigns the primary relevance of the ad serving is due to keywords and searcher intent. We know there are different intents in search and display, so keep this in mind.
  • If a search campaign is performing well, an advertiser may want to pump this up by adding a remarketing list. Create a copy or a new campaign before targeting remarketing lists for search. This allows different ads to be shown to people on the remarketing list, and bids can be adjusted for those keywords.
  • There is no reach and frequency capping for RLSA. If ad fatigue is a possible issue, creating multiple ad creatives will be the way to go.
  • Strategy around match types will change a bit for advertisers using RLSA. Because you can target people who have already been to your site, broad match keywords may have a higher conversion rate because the targeting is already narrowed down with the remarketing list. In addition, advertisers who can't bid profitably on highly competitive keywords, would be able to do so on keywords + remarketing since they are likely to more relevant to the searcher. This may make it more affordable to bid profitably.

How to Use RLSAs

RLSA offers a great potential to get creative and target potential customers like never before. Consider a few ways this can be used:

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) campaign ideas:

  • Use more general keywords in campaigns now that searchers will be more qualified, having been a previous visitor.
  • Use product specific targeting, for example, increase bids for visitors who reached a product page while on then site when they later search for the same product on Google.
  • Combine views of pages or product categories with buying signal modifiers like "review", "buy", "prices", etc.
  • Target repeat visitors with a discount promo for the category or section they are viewing.
  • Target a previous visitor who abandoned your cart and searches on a competitor's term.
  • Negative remarketing: stop serving ads to converters who are on a remarketing list. To block converters, exclude the prior converters list, or bid less for converters, like -50 percent less considering there may be repeat purchases or other users of a computer.
  • Use information besides searchers query, like location, day/time scheduling, and device to be super relevant to searchers and compel conversions.
  • Increase visibility for more recent visits, for example, increase your bid by 20 percent for those who previously viewed the website in the last 7 days. Or, you could show a different ad to site visitors who have placed items in a shopping cart but haven't purchased them.

About the List Size

In the Shared library, under audiences, two list sizes are detailed: Google search and display network.

A remarketing list for Google search ads must have at least 1,000 users on it before it can be used to start serving ads. This not only protects the privacy of those who make up your list, but also helps ensure that your ad will have a big enough audience to make some impact.

In comparison, the display remarketing the list size must be minimum 100.

At first, the number of list sizes between the two can be very different. A few reasons for this was explained by a Google representative:

  • Search and display aren't using the same cookie. Because there are two different types of cookies used to create these lists, technically the search list just started accumulating members and will be lower.
  • The search list doesn't include users who are signed-in to Google. This is an effort to protect user privacy.

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Summary

With this new feature being rolled out very recently and advertisers still growing the search lists and converting to enhanced campaigns, we can expect to see this feature gain momentum very quickly in the second half of 2013. This type of targeting by website behavior coupled with search behavior is a wake up call for AdWords advertisers to think more about multiple touch points with a consumer and the varied ways they can be reached.

Have you tested Remarketing Lists For Search Ads yet? If so, what results did you see?

About the author

Lisa Raehsler is the founder and principal strategist at Big Click Co. , an online advertising company and Google AdWords Certified Partner, specializing in strategy and management of SEM and PPC for search engines, display, retargeting, and social media ad campaigns. More than just passionate about search, Lisa has led strategy on dozens of PPC accounts and puts her experience into practice every day as a thought leader in integrating clients' search campaigns with ecommerce websites, behavioral targeting strategies, and web analytics.

In addition to agency work, she has led successful online marketing programs at Thomson Reuters in search marketing, merchandising, and ecommerce strategies at the enterprise level.

Lisa frequently lends her expertise to the search industry through organizational involvement, speaking, and writing. She has participated extensively in the local interactive community, as well as at national search engine marketing conferences. Lisa's recent speaking engagements include SES, OMS, MIMA, HeroConf, and SMX conferences, as well as numerous private and public training engagements. As a columnist for ClickZ, she writes on the topic of paid search. She holds a BA in Economics from Valparaiso University and is a Google AdWords Certified Partner.