Let’s talk about the cash cow on the block: remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA). The PPC community is buzzing and it’s easy to see why.
What Do Remarketing Lists for Search Ads Allow You To Do?
Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) allow you to to do these two things:
- Raise keyword bids for warmer prospects — those who have not only visited your website in the past, but are now searching for what you have to sell in a search engine.
- Show ads only to those who have visited particular pages and then searched for specific keywords after, so not wasting impressions and clicks on those less likely to convert.
Before there was RLSA, we had two options:
- Target those in search who may not be familiar or have a particular interest in our brand prior. We have no hint of brand preference unless searching directly for brand name.
- Retarget those who had shown familiarity or interest in our brand, but may be colder than searchers if they were just surfing the web rather than having a higher intent to buy.
RLSA fills in the gaps, employing the benefits of both of these options. You’re not only matching keywords being searched, but the intent behind them.
Although RLSA has been around since July 2013, it’s surprising how many PPC professionals are still not utilizing them.
Implementing Remarketing Lists for Search Ads
Let’s Get Started
You add the site-wide remarketing tag to your website just like you would for your Google Display Network campaigns to get your remarketing audiences. Apply this audience to a search campaign with the preferred settings and good to go.
Okay, it may not be that simple. So, let’s walk you through the steps in the new AdWords interface as most sources still reflect steps from the old one.
For those who still need to place the AdWords remarketing tag:
- Log into your AdWords account and click on the wrench icon.
- You’ll land on Audience lists.
- Select data source for collecting either standard data from all site visitors or collecting specific attributes/parameters for more personalized ads.
- When you save and continue, you get the code that gets copied and then pasted onto your website before the closing </head> tag.
- Once added to your website, navigate back to Audience sources to make sure it’s tracking accordingly.
For those who have already placed the AdWords remarketing tag:
- Log into your AdWords account and navigate back to the Audience manager mentioned above. You can then click the plus sign to add a new remarketing list.
- Name your list, select who you want to add to a list such as Visitors of a Page. Type in a trailing section (after the root) of the page URL (or folder of pages) you want to track. Finally, select membership duration and add description to help identify what the list contains.
For those who have already placed the tag as well as created search campaign and ad groups for remarketing lists:
- Download AdWords Editor, so you can make changes quickly and easily.
- Select ad group like to add audience to on right-hand side.
- Go to Keywords and Targeting tab, and then the Audiences sub tab.
- Click +Add Audience in the top right-hand side of the screen.
- In the pop-up box, click Remarketing Lists tab to select the list you created.
- Go to the Ad Groups tab and click the “Flexible reach” tab.
- If you want your ads to only show to users on the remarketing list that searches on Google, make sure the Interests and Remarketing setting is adjusted to Target & Bid.
- If you want your ads to show to all users searching on Google with the option to set bid adjustments for the audiences, set the Interests and Remarketing setting to Bid Only. For this option, go back to Audiences tab and set bid in the Bid Adjustment box.
- Copy/paste audiences in other ad groups, but be sure to check Flexible reach setting.
Here’s are some more considerations…
Bidding on Your Brand or Competitor Keywords
You might look into running a branded campaign with RLSA to target new or returning visitors to the website who search your brand name rather than just using generic terms. These are going to be some pretty warm leads, no?
But be careful that you don’t limit your audience too much and miss out on getting seen by those who still have a good chance of converting. For instance, if someone visited my shoe site followed by a competitors, and then went to search “best shoe product reviews,” I might be excluding these people who are comparing my brand with my competitor’s by running an RLSA campaign with branded keywords (e.g. my brand name) only.
If you did choose to run a branded RLSA campaign, should it be for just new or returning visitors as well. KlientBoost is all about testing before we draw conclusions. You can run a branded RLSA campaign meant for new visitors and exclude returning visitors, and then vice versa, to see which one performs better.
To add a negative audience, go to the Audiences Negative tab, click +Add Negative Audience and select the audience you want to block from seeing ads. You don’t need to adjust Flexible reach settings for negative audiences.
Another option to test is competitor name bidding, because someone is more likely to probably be comparing and close to making a purchase decision if they’ve visited your website and are now searching for a competitor. I don’t know about you, but I would want my ads to remind them of the benefits my brand offers while they’re in the mindset of searching for a competitor.
Okay, we’re going to go out on a limb here and recommend something that might seem counterproductive (and even somewhat contradictory given the previous suggestion)…asking your competitors to use RLSA alongside you.
Let me give an example. There’s three restaurants at the end of the your block: Joe’s Crab Shack, Fine Italian R Us, Jane’s Health Smoothies. Rather than having all three bid on generic keywords/keyword phrases like “food near me,” maybe they band together to get more qualified customers for each by doing the following:
Each re-targets those looking for more specific keywords like “seafood” or “Italian food”. If I’m a health nut and have a choice between Jane’s Health Smoothies and Fine Italian, who do you think I’m going to choose?
Get rid of the expensive CPCs and lower those conversion rates by working with your competitors to make sure they’re focused on their most qualified visitors, so they leave your most qualified visitors alone.
Targeting or Excluding Those Who Have Converted
Don’t forget RLSA’s use for those who have already converted or purchased, especially if you’re in e-commerce or have complementary products/services.
I don’t want my ad for the same sofa you bought earlier showing up to you again in search. Who needs two of the same sofa? Don’t answer that. So, I might want to have a negative list for past converters.
That being said, if I recently bought a sofa from you and then my cat keeps scratching it, I might then be interested in a sofa cover. If I search “sofa cover,” you want your ads to pop up — just in case I don’t know you offer sofa covers as well. You already know that I have bought from you in the past (hopefully, having a positive experience with your brand), so you may have a better chance at cross-selling/upselling to me than someone who didn’t buy the sofa from you prior.
Combining with Demographic Bidding
You don’t have to limit RLSA campaigns to just looking at those who have been to a certain page on your website. Perhaps, you want to dwindle down these segments further by specific demographics like age and gender. Remember, the more tailored your ads are for the particular audience, the better.
Now you’ve found a way to incorporate demographic bidding, remarketing and keyword targeting all in one. For someone who’s on a limited budget, the more qualified clicks you can get, the better.
So, now you have some helpful points to consider when implementing, but is RLSA really successful? Let’s cover that next.
Examples of Remarketing Lists for Search Ads Success
Here are 7 examples of how KlientBoost used RLSA successfully for our clients to increase click-through rates, cut down cost per click, and increase conversion rates.
Example #1: Customer Experience SaaS Platform
KlientBoost ran an RLSA campaign for a SaaS platform that helps businesses deliver better experiences to customers or clients by leveraging the Net Promoter Score framework for one month.
In the image you see below, the top campaign was a generic NPS campaign and below it is an NPS campaign with broad keywords and RLSA layered on.
Example #2: Online Printing Company
KlientBoost ran an RLSA campaign for an online print company that offers next day delivery of promotional, marketing and branding products in addition to providing easy-to-use design templates and mailing services.
When comparing RLSA campaign effectiveness to effectiveness of campaigns across the entire account, virtually all stats are improved under the audiences when looking at a 30-day span.
Example #3: Ready-Made Food Provider
KlientBoost ran a RLSA campaign for a food provider who prepares fresh, wholesome, organic, ready-to-eat meals for babies, toddlers and kids to then deliver straight to your door.
Example #4: Virtual Receptionist Service
KlientBoost ran an RLSA campaign for an award-winning provider of friendly, peppy and efficient virtual receptionists. The below image represents the results of that target and bid RLSA campaign.
Example #5: Insurance Company
Below is a screenshot that shows top insurance company campaigns running from January 15th through April 13th, 2018. The RLSA target and bid only campaign had broad keywords and was running for only 2 weeks.
Even in that short period of time, we were able to see better engagement with 22% CTR (making it the second-highest CTR after a branded campaign).
Example #6: Landscaping Contractor Service
The below image shows some RLSA audiences that have been working really well for a KlientBoost client. This particular example was for audiences who had visited particular pages within 90 days and was taken across a span of 30 days. It had a target CPA less than $30, which is relatively good for this landscaping contractor service.
It would seem that beyond just numbers, there’s insight to be gained from running RLSA campaigns.
Example #7: Fashion & Accessories Provider
KlientBoost ran an RLSA campaign for one of the largest specialists in vintage, rare, limited-edition and discontinued luxury bags. It was a standalone RLSA shopping campaign, so that we could bid more aggressively on generic terms for previous visitors.
This 2-week campaign resulted in the following:
- 294% higher ROAS than other Shopping campaigns
- 36% better CTR than other Shopping campaigns
- 31% better conversion rate
I call that a win.
Problems with Remarketing Lists for Search Ads
So why are there not more people using RLSA?! Full disclosure, let’s touch on the problems that people have voiced below.
But It Takes 1,000 Members for a Retargeting List…
Okay, to be fair, you do need at least 1,000 members on a remarketing list–and if you’re a newbie, perhaps you have trouble gaining that number of visitors who meet the criteria you have set such as specific page visited or time duration.
You might start with a different page (e.g. homepage over purchase page) or broader duration for your remarketing list. Set your membership duration length to that of how long Google Analytics tells you it takes for 1,000 unique visitors (not sessions), and that should help fill up the remarketing list quicker.
Getting started somewhere is better than not getting started at all.
But I Was Told To Be More Targeted With Keywords…
Another fear people may have is that they’re told they should not bid on generic or broad terms, because it leads to wasted PPC clicks. That being said, with RLSA, you’ve already qualified the audience, so it’s okay to leave those keywords more generic rather than running the risk of limiting your audience too much.
But the Search Volume Is Going to Be So Low…
Because you’re only targeting those who have visited your website, search and impression volume will be low. But we combat that with the fact you’re getting more quality, high converting traffic and lowering your CPA. Who cares if I show my ads to 10K more people if none of those extra 10K actually convert?
Additionally, you can use social ads to make the audience bigger for cheap if you have extremely high CPCs and there’s lots of competition. Stick with me here, but what if you were to ax all unbranded search ads to shift the cost to social campaigns that are targeting a target audience you already determined criteria for through Insights, and just move forward with RLSA from there? The social campaigns are then feeding into the RLSA campaigns.
If interest and demographic targeting are weaker signals for ROI than remarketing-targeted ads, what’s to say you can’t do the same with search? Okay, it may only work for certain verticals, but it’s definitely worth mentioning.
Wrap up on Remarketing Lists for Search Ads
By now, you should be seeing the power of using remarketing lists for search ads to get more qualified leads to convert. Our friends at BigCommerce mention how RLSA campaigns targeting prior website visitors (higher intent) on keywords that are normally prohibitively expensive has brought good results. One RLSA campaign had a 30.7% lower cost per conversion than similar keywords being bid on in non-RLSA. That’s pretty cool, if you ask me.
Even though we covered it for AdWords, you can also set them up for Bing Ad Center. First, set up the Universal Event Tracking tag. After added to your website, go to Shared Library > Audience page and click Add Remarketing. The steps are very similar to those for Google, so I wanted to avoid being redundant in this post. But if you have further questions regarding set up for Bing, feel free to leave comments below.
Otherwise, I am very interested to hear from those who are currently using RLSA and what success they have seen with it. I would love to highlight in any upcoming RLSA posts, so please comment below if you have any results or case studies of RLSA that you would like to share.