Make Your Ad Spend Go Further With Google Ads RLSA

Sean Thomas Martin Junior III
Sean Thomas Martin Junior III
Director of Content

Google Ads RLSA may sound like a disease you want to avoid – but don’t let the acronym put you off.

In fact, you can only catch good things (new customers) by using Google Ads Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA).

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads give you the opportunity to customize search campaigns based on past visitor behavior and thereby rapidly boost conversions and ROI.

“If PPC is not generating you the returns you crave RLSA could be an intelligent way to make your ad spend go further – a way to make more out of your campaigns without having to heavily reinvest”

In this post we’ll put the case for why Google Ads RLSA (still a surprisingly underutilized form of marketing) should play an integral part in your upcoming marketing campaigns.

We’ll cover the ins and outs of Google Ads RLSA, with tips on how to get started using them, key strategies and business success stories.

Why Is Remarketing So Effective?

You’re no doubt already a fan of remarketing but here’s a very quick recap… as to why it is such a good strategy.

Online shoppers are savvy: 88% carry out online research before buying and 96-98% leave a site without converting. According to some estimates it could take 9.5 visits to a site before a purchase is made.

Remarketing (retargeting) offers you a way to advertise to visitors who have left your site and entice them back before they buy elsewhere.

blog post image google ads rlsa img 1 The Retargeting Cycle – image source

The idea is by placing ads in front of people who are already familiar with your site and brand you’re effectively preaching to the ‘semi- converted’ so you’re far more likely to win them over.

Does Retargeting Work?

Quick answer: Yes. suggest you could convert up to 70% more precious visitors into paying customers using retargeting.

blog post image google ads rlsa img 2 retargeting campaigns – image source

How Does Retargeting Work?

Retargeting works by putting a tracking code on your website, app or other places people interact with your brand e.g. YouTube. Users then receive an anonymous cookie that monitors them as they browse the web, and this sends data back to you.

You can then use this info to determine the most effective timing and placement of secondary ads (and on).

To learn more about optimizing retargeting in general click here.

Let’s move on to learn more about a particular form of remarketing, Google RLSA…..

What’s Special About Google Ads’ Remarketing Lists For Search Ads (RLSA)?

“RLSAs can lower your Costs Per Acquisition (CPAs) and increase conversion rates by combining the targeted filtration of remarketing with the conversion intent of search ads”

Google reports that advertisers who use RLSA can halve acquisition costs and increase sales by, on average, 10% — costs and conversion rates that are far lower than for traditional search ads.

Not All Forms Of Remarketing Look Alike

Google Ads RLSA is different to traditional display remarketing. Both use cookies to track users and add to lists for you but they’re used in different ways. 

“Google Ads RLSA allows you to target users who are sure are actively searching on Google for your product/service – the golden goose of search intent.”

Standard remarketing delivers ads to users browsing on the Google Display Network.

Google RLSA however don’t automatically show text ads to users just because they’re on a remarketing list.

Users need to be actively searching on Google using keywords you bid on in your Google Ads campaigns.

Google Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) allow you to capture data on your previous visitors and treat them individually. By re-engaging with them and offering them personalized messaging based on their onsite behaviors you can offer them customized promotions that will appeal specifically to them.

So, using RLSA you can keep previous visitors in your advertising loop in real time.

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Buyer’s Agent – image source

What Can You Do With Google Ads RLSA?

You can do more than just target qualified prospects. You can also tailor your messaging based on their past behaviors:

·     You can target past users in Google Ads campaigns searching on mobile, app or desktop

·     You can opt to present ads solely to past visitors to your site since these are qualified prospects who know your brand

·     Using RLSA you can target users for that search (or other keywords) again

 ·     You can target campaigns to previous visitors to your site and segment visitors based on their previous on-site behavior. This allows you to tailor your ad creative to them – for example based on the specific product pages they visited

Can All Advertisers Use Google Ads RLSA?

To qualify for Google Search Network RLSAs you must have website traffic levels of at least 1000 unique visitors (from any source, not just from PPC) within the last 30 days.

You need a minimum of 1000 members on a remarketing list – from within the time frame used for your remarketing lists. At present, the amount of time you can hold information of cookie net users is 540 days.

(Note also that some businesses can’t use remarketing tactics such as RLSA – for example if you sell alcohol– check out the full list here.)

Getting Started With Google Ads And RLSA

If you’re setting up Google remarketing for the first time, you’ll be using the new and improved ‘Google Ads experience’. First of all, you need to apply the Google Ads remarketing tag to your entire website or app. This will enable standard remarketing to work. Check out how to do this in our previous post on RLSA.

Here’s an example of the global site tag:

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Courtesy of Google Support – image source

Setting up a global tag will automatically create an ‘all site’ visitors list for you. You also have the option to add an event snippet that works with the global tag to measure meaningful activity on your website (e.g. viewing a service or starting a checkout). That snippet is required for dynamic retargeting to work.

To get started, sign into Google Ads.

Click the tool icon in the upper right side and click Audience Manager (under section ‘Shared Library). Click ‘Audience Lists’.

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You then have the option to add and create custom audience lists, layering them onto your current search campaigns. To add a website visitor list, click the + button and select ‘Website visitors.’

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Give your list a name then set rules for the list from the drop-down menu ‘Visited Page.’

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Set rules for your visited pages from the drop-down menu.

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Add the conditions for web pages where you’d like to collect visitor cookies – values can be numbers, dates etc. based on the template you’ve set up.

Set the size of your list.

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Set membership duration i.e. how long you want visitors to remain on your list.

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Enter optional description.

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Then click ‘Create Audience’ at the bottom of page et ‘voila’ you’ve created your first list.

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You can create as many lists as you want (so long as you have tagged this list previously). Once you’ve created your lists you use them in new campaigns and add them to ad groups.

Scale Your RLSA Campaigns

Once you have your lists set up, you’re ready to start bidding competitively on those you consider most valuable.

The quickest route to implementing scaled RLSA is using the Google Ads Editor, and this is the recommended option if you’re new to RLSA. The type of lists you create depend on your individual requirements. Download the AdWords Editor and follow the instructions to access the remarketing lists you have created.

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Google support – image source

A Few RLSA Strategies Just For You

With standard search campaigns, bids, keywords and ads are identical for every search and searcher. RLSA on the other hand, permit you to bid higher, show on broader keywords and deliver different ads to previous site visitors.

Pro Tip: Test out RLSAs for free using a ‘bid only’ + 0% Strategy

A great risk-free way to checkout RLSAs is to set your options to ‘bid only’ at +0%. This gives you the opportunity to gather data on repeat visitors to your site.

Now, this doesn’t allow you to add audience lists to bid on and doesn’t change how you target or serve your existing search ads. It simply enables you to separate new and returning users – so you can examine your past visitors’ behaviors.

Within 5 to 10 days of implementing this strategy you’ll be able to see in-depth reports on your returning visitors’ conversion behaviors.

You can analyze your data using the Google Ads interface or in Google Analytics depending on which you’re more comfortable with.

Armed with this data you can adjust your bids for people who have visited your site previously – and who are searching using your keywords again.

Recommended Bid Strategies For Google Ads RLSA

0%- is the default setting for RLSA campaigns. However, you will need to adjust this to ensure optimal performance. In general, to optimize your Bids Multiplier you should:

Set A High Multiplier for Past Visitors With A Low CPA

Maybe consider bidding +100% for cart abandoners. By bidding aggressively, you’ll ensure that you rank far more highly in the search results for search ads, to capture these valuable prospects.

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The Drum (source)

Set A Low Multiplier For Past Visitors With A High CPA

For example, you can up the bid for visitors to your homepage but bid even higher for people who searched for a specific product page.

Google reports that doing this could see your sales increase by 22% and conversions by 163%.

To help you use the ‘bid only’ as a starting point you can use Google’s bid simulator. This will help you see what happens as you increase or decrease bids, and help you set budgets accordingly.

Segment Out Unwanted Traffic

You can decrease bids on certain lists to segment out unwanted traffic by bidding low and devaluing audiences you don’t want to retarget.

For example, if customer loyalty is not important to you – and you don’t need to convert users again – you can take them out of the equation.

Consider Using “Target And Bid” As A Strategy

‘Target and bid’ allows you to create a list for all past visitors and adjust bids and keywords for them. You can serve different ads to segmented lists or show them different landing pages based on their repeat visits.

For example, you could set a campaign for cart abandoners that offers them a special deal e.g. free shipping, or you could direct them to a specific web page.

blog post image google ads rlsa img 15 – image source

‘Target and bid’ lets you cast your net more widely since you can use broader search terms whilst being more qualified. Using this strategy, you can think outside of brand search terms and use high-funnel or seasonal terms – for example ‘present’ or ‘gift’ – terms that would have been too expensive to bid on previously.

When you’re targeting them to people who have already bought gifts from you, however, they become profitable.

Google suggest that following this strategy could see you achieving a conversion rate that’s 300% higher compared to brand terms – and see a 30% increase in ROI.

Google Ads RLSA For Shopping Campaigns

Google Ads RLSA can also be applied to shopping campaigns for increased impressions, CPRs and conversions.

Recent research shows retailers are getting impressive results by adopting this approach so keep this in mind if you’re a CMO or CFO:

RLSA could play a fundamental role in your Shopping campaigns going forward by maximizing your ROAS and ROI.”

To set up RLSA in Shopping, simply open Shopping Campaigns and follow Google’s instructions.

Know Your Options For Remarketing Lists

You have the option to reach users across all their devices so you can set ads to target the same user at different times of day on different devices.

You can use Location targeting – whereby advertisers will be able to target based on user location.

As users browse on apps and websites ads will appear that include local stores – with Google Maps, directions and photos.

You can use remarketing lists at a campaign level, making it easier and faster to use RLSA. Campaign level audiences will also make it easier to measure and change bid adjustments.

Adding this is easy – go to the Audiences tab of a Google Ads campaign and click on the red ‘+targeting’ button. Google Support has more information if you’re interested in a more detailed explanation.

Demographics for Search Ads are a feature that can enable you to target specific customer segments by adjusting bids for age and gender, with a reporting feature to let you know how this is impacting your campaign. You can also exclude specific demographics to narrow down the audience further.

Use Google Ads RLSA With Similar Audiences For Search

Similar Audiences for Search are based off your existing remarketing lists, but they target new users who exhibit similar search behaviors to those on your lists.

In theory this makes them far more qualified than the average searcher because you are targeting people who share interests with your current customers and prospects.

For example, if you’re an insurance company and you’re trying to promote life insurance you can create a list of people who visited the life insurance page, then create a similar audience based on their search patterns and interests.

You can also base a new list on users who converted on your site and create a new list of up to 10,000 people to promote to.

Once you have an existing remarketing list set up (min. 1000) Google Ads analyzes the search activity of users to build an understanding of their behavior. Based on the patterns and behaviors it finds new users with similar behaviors to show your ads to.

Google reports impressive numbers for advertisers using Similar Audiences. Having already seen big success with Google RLSA, Fiat Chrysler enabled Similar Audiences and drove 22% more conversions and reduced CPAs by 14%.

Chrysler did this by targeting not past visitors but those who’d searched for similar keywords e.g. RAM trucks and then narrowed down those segments of its audience, increasing bids appropriately.

Maximize Your Similar Audiences For Search Campaigns

To maximize your chances of success with Similar Audiences for Search you should make sure you have several healthy remarketing lists to play with e.g. people who’ve visited specific pages, etc.

Adjust bids regularly once you have an idea on how things are going.

If you’re getting good conversions increase bids to raise rankings.

Simple enough, right? Just remember you want to show your ads to your best audience – try focusing on users who’ve spent the most time on your site.

Try using Similar Audiences for seasonal campaigns to reach out and engage with customers who made similar purchases in the previous holiday season.

Google Ads RLSA Case Studies – Watching The Magic Work

Now that we’ve covered how you can use Google RLSA campaigns to boost your ad spend’s performance, let’s take a look at some powerful examples.

Branded tire trader Tirendo saw a 161% percent lift in conversion rates, and reduced CPOs by 43% after implementing Google RLSA.

The start-up company targeted users who had previously expressed an interest in their brand, and who were again searching for tires on Google.

By increasing their bids to these valuable prospects they also managed to significantly increase turnover.

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Google services case study – image source

On the other hand, Turkey’s largest e-commerce fashion retailer re-engaged with high-value users by tailoring the right ads to the right audiences.

By identifying users via their membership status and actions within their app they then served them ads reflecting their interests.

In comparison with static remarketing campaigns this dynamic approach led to a massive 140% increase in CTRs, an increase of 20% in conversion rates, and a 28% decrease in CPCs.

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Think with Google – image source


Takeaways: Take Your Ad Spend Farther With Google Ads RLSA

Like ‘raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens’ Google Ads RLSA are a few of my favorite things.

Google remarketing lists offer you an effective and cost-effective way to reconnect with past customers to your site while they’re actively searching – either for your products, visiting other websites, or using other ads.

By incorporating them into your digital marketing campaigns you can make your search ads work harder for you, lowering your CPAs.

By tailoring your bids, messages and keywords you can get a better position in search and drive more clicks and conversions – from your most valuable audiences.