Google AdWords RLSA: 3 Ways to Take Full Advantage

Google AdWords Remarketing List New Audience

In 2013 Google launched a program called Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). This is a program that in many ways takes a best practice from traditional display ads of targeting ads to customers who previously visited your site, and makes it available for search. By tagging your site with Google’s remarketing pixel, you begin to collect invaluable customer data that you can target against.

RLSAs become a very powerful tool for search marketers, especially as personalization continues as a trend across the digital landscape. Here are three things you can do to fully take advantage of RLSAs.

1. New Keyword Targeting

Are there keywords that typically don’t perform well for you when targeted to the general market, but would be great keywords if you could only target previous customers? RLSAs allow you to do exactly that.

For example, it may not typically be profitable to buy a term like “Paris Vacation,” but if you knew a that current customer had been to your travel site three times in the past month, or had purchased a vacation from you in the past, you might want to know that they are now in the market for that vacation.

2. Bidding or Even Displaying an Ad

If you know a current customer is coming back and searching on a branded term most likely to service their account, you can choose to not display an ad or reduce your bid for that customer and allow them to use your organic search ad.

The opposite could also be true where you know that a customer makes repeat purchases, or is more likely to convert if they previously had made a purchase of any kind. Under that circumstance you can raise your bid to be more prominent for these customers.

3. Targeted Ad Copy

Want to welcome back a previous customer, or cross-sell a specific product given a recent purchase? This ability is available via RLSAs.

Having more than one ad copy in rotation was always best practice as a test, but testing that ad copy with data-driven insights can change the game.

3 Quick Reminders When Setting Up RLSAs

  • You need a cookie pool of 1,000 users before you can run RSLAs.
  • RLSAs currently require the Google SmartPixel to take full advantage of RLSA features. The conversion pixel does allow for some functionality.
  • There are two options to take advantage of RLSAs. What you choose is based on your business objectives. However, I’m a fan of breaking out multiple RLSA campaigns:
    • Breaking out or creating multiple RLSA campaigns (for the same set of keywords) allows for unique messaging (e.g., changing the branded ad copy for a user that’s purchased from the site before) but also presents additional campaign management/logistic challenges.
    • Alternatively, simply using modifiers to optimize RLSA audience bidding within an existing campaign provides a lot of management efficiencies but the levers and optimization are not as robust.


These RLSA tactics have worked well for my agency over the past few months. Its importance will continue to grow as more data is collected and specific insights are understood and used to optimize AdWords campaigns.

With all that said, the unique ability to engage with customers based on their previous experience or propensity to buy will continue to evolve and become an increasingly important tactic for all marketers.

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