6 Cool New Advertising Options In Google AdWords

By , Associate Director of Paid Search at Hanapin Marketing


It seems like it’s been a crazy few weeks at the Googleplex with the amount of new features that have been added into AdWords. We’re going to take a quick look into 6 of the different features available that you might not have heard of and want to get set up in your account.


RLSA – Remarketing Lists for Search Ads


What is it?

RLSA stands for Remarketing Lists for Search Ads. It has been available in beta form for a while now and was just recently pushed live across all accounts. RLSA allows you to add your existing remarketing lists into Search-only campaign. For example John clicks on your ad then lands on your site and gets a remarketing cookie. Using an RLSA linked campaign you can choose to bid for when John and other previous site visitors are searching for any specified keywords on AdWords.


This gives you a couple of extra options for targeting:


  1. You can use an RLSA list to bid on very broad keywords knowing that you are only showing to those users who have already been on your site. Let’s say you own a bookshop and John visited your ‘Moby Dick’ page – you could choose to show an ad for that particular book to John when he later typed in a much broader ‘books’ search to Google and know that your ad is still probably relevant and likely to convert.
  2. Alternatively, you could also create an RLSA campaign with just really strong, previously converting keywords in it and bid them up to a higher position (this is my preferred strategy). This means for any of your power keywords you can try and dominate top positions in the rankings that you know will drive conversions. You can afford to do so because you know you are only bidding on heavily qualified traffic that converts really well.


How do you implement it?

If you already have remarketing tags on your site, go into your shared library and then audiences. You should see that you now have a column labelled ‘List size (Google Search)’ – this is the amount of users you can use RLSA for.


A list of Remarketing tags showing the size of Search lists


Once I know I have users in my remarketing lists, I set up a new Search Network Only campaign named ‘Campaign X – RLSA’ to which I add my desired keywords and then hit the Audiences tab. From here you can ‘Add remarketing’ to your search campaign just like you do on the display network.


How to add Remarketing Audiences to Search Campaigns


What are the results like so far?

During the beta stages we saw a fairly mixed bag of results from RLSA, but had about 30% of accounts where it was a significant boost to Conversions and CPA.


Affinity Groups


What is it?

Affinity groups are new ways to bid on Interest Categories in the Display Network, which originated out of Google’s attempts to create video-friendly groups of people. Affinity groups are a little broader than ICMs, which tend to be narrowed down quite a lot. A high end hotel, for example might use the Affinity group ‘Luxury Travelers’ to target the types of people Google thinks live the Jet Set lifestyle.


How do you implement it?

Exactly the same way as you would do with ICM. Go into your list of Interest Categories when changing Display Network settings and you should now see the following:


Affinity Categories In AdWords


From here it’s as simple as opening up your category list and finding things that relate to your audience.


What are the results like so far?

So far my Affinity Group campaigns have performed slightly better than my ICM and Topic campaigns, but worse than Contextual and Managed Placements, according to Google Analytics stats.


Similar Audiences


What is it?

Similar Audiences are an attempt on Google’s part to help you reach a similar group of people to those that you have in your remarketing lists. Google looks down the information it has about those people and says ‘hey, these other people are pretty similar, you would do well to advertise to them’.


How do you implement it?

Similar Audiences can be added from your Remarketing lists section in a Display Campaign’s Display Settings. Make sure you tick the ‘Show Similar Audiences’ button to make them visible and you should see those lists appear.


Similar Audiences in AdWords Display settings


What are the results like so far?

The best success has come from using ‘Similar to Visitors who Converted’ in my accounts – which makes a lot of sense given that those are probably the types people we want to bring back to our site.


Review Extensions


What is it?

Review Extensions are a new beta that Google recently announced on the official AdWords blog. They allow you to add a snapshot summary of any good reviews you’ve had from outside sources. Take a look at the official example Google had on their blog:


An example of AdWords review extensions


How do you implement it?

Review extensions are still in beta so you’ll need to contact your Google rep to get these sorted. You need to have a review less than 67 characters, and you need to provide a link to the review on the source page. Here’s the whole shtick from Google. The most success with these is likely to come for really legitimate reviews from big publications – if no one has heard of the reviewer then you probably won’t add much value, but if I see you’ve been reviewed as excellent by the NY Times or Forbes etc. it’s much more likely to convince me to click on your ad.


Lightbox Ads For e-Commerce Catalogs


What is it?

Lightbox ads have been around for a while now – they are ads you can expand out to show more text or video content by hovering over them. However, the exciting new development comes for ecommerce account managers in the shape of lightbox catalogs. If you have a .pdf version of your summer catalog available, you can get in touch with your Google rep to set these up. Just like in the example below, you can tag up the different items in your catalog to link directly with products in your Google Merchant Center feed.


An example of lightbox catalog extensions for ecommerce


How do you implement it?

As above, you need to have a pdf of your catalog, to get in touch with your Google rep, and to have a Google Merchant Center account fully set up and in working order.


What happens when you click a lightbox ad link


Dynamic Product Ads


What is it?

You’ve almost certainly encountered these things following you about on the web – scrolling ads that show you the latest products you’ve been looking at on Amazon or any other shopping sites. Dynamic Product Ads are also recently out of beta, allowing you to go ahead and set them up yourself (once you’ve made a few tweaks to your remarketing codes).


How do you implement it?

There are a couple of precursors here again:


  • Have a Google Merchant Center feed that is up to date.
  • Set up dynamic remarketing tags on your site


If you go to create a new campaign from which to run your dynamic remarketing, you should see the following new option show up:


Creating a new AdWords Remarketing campaign


From here, Google will direct you to set up dynamic remarketing tags should you not already have them in place – essentially this means tweaking the remarketing code you have on each page to reflect the specifics of your Merchant Center Account – product id, type of page (cart, product page, shopping page etc.). You get 4 new remarketing lists created for you as part of this process:


The 4 new custom remarketing segments that Google add


Once you have dynamic remarketing codes, you can also make some slightly more complex remarketing lists too using some new rules – such as the prodid (product id) of the item a user was looking at on your site:


Making custom remarketing lists using merchant center feeds


Finally, once you have your dynamic remarketing all nicely set up, you can go about creating your dynamic ads. Find these under New Ads > Display Ad Builder > Dynamic. From here you can set up ads from templates that will pull in products from your feed.


How to set up dynamic ads in AdWords


Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas to look into for expanding your accounts. If you’ve tried any of the above and have any feedback we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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37 thoughts on “6 Cool New Advertising Options In Google AdWords

  1. Tomas


    we started with Dynamic Remarketing Ads in June 2012 (beta) and it worked well for us. Of course the design of the banners is not as fancy as other remarketing providers offer, but the performance is very good. Moreover, you have much more control over the settings and remarketing lists compared to other software companies.

    With RLSA campaigns we started in october 2012 and we actually use them to show different adtexts to new customers (promotion message and coupons). Basically with RLSA campaigns you see higher CTRs and therefore lower CPCs and better Avg. Pos. It even makes sense to use RLSA with brand campaigns as you can achieve even lower CPOs than with regular campaigns.


    1. Sam OwenSam Owen

      Thanks for sharing your feedback Tomas! I’m just glad we can finally see and control both Dynamic and RLSA for ourselves rather than through a rep.

      Good point about RLSA ad messaging – something I’ll add in to my current campaigns.

    2. Santousha Kalk

      How did you add the ID’s into the remarketing code? Manually or do you have a script for that?

      1. Tomas

        Well, on all product pages we are dynamically passing on the prodid, which should match the ID or GROUP ITEM ID in your merchant center feed. Moreover, we are passing on the category, subcategory and the price of the product. You can also create your own parameters and pass them on in the remarketing pixel.

    3. Lucas von Fürstenberg

      When comparing CPCs and CPOs you have to keep in mind that the better numbers with the RLSA may come at the cost of the regular campaign, as you take away the best performing customers, e.g. the ones who were on your site before and leave the new (worse performing ones) to the regular campaign.
      When you consider this the overall effect may be close to zero plus you have to put more work into two campaigns than just one.

      1. Tomas

        Yes Lucas, you are right, optimizing the bids and keywords for these different groups of customers is the complicated part. But still, there are some RLSAs that make sense in terms of optimizing your overall CPO.

        Of course with enhanced campaigns you can add an audience (set to bid only option), use the bid modifier and you dont have as much workload with RLSAs (but you loose some options like ad messaging…).

        1. Ben

          Hi Tomas,
          Would you mind clarifying your point above regarding “bid only”? Isn’t the point of RLSA to use target and bid?

          1. Sam OwenSam Owen

            I think what Lucas means is that if you don’t want to go to the trouble of adding RLSA as a new campaign, you can just add the audience to your existing campaign and then use a bid modifier. This would mean that you aren’t affecting your existing traffic, but you are able to bid up when users have seen you at the same time, effectively creating a ‘Campaign X – Normal & RLSA’ campaign.

      2. Sam OwenSam Owen

        Hi Lucas – there is definitely a balance.

        RLSA will be cannibalizing some of your existing traffic. However, from what I’ve seen it also adds value. Let’s take this example:

        Ad position 4 – someone clicks my ad, goes away for 2 days, searches again and sees another ad of mine in position 4 – chances of converting are higher as they know my brand, but chances of seeing my ad are still the same. With RLSA when they come back, I have my bid pushing that ad up into the top 2 spots, increasing visibility and making sure more of those users come back to my site rather than a competitor.

        As you said though, make sure you keep checking on your old campaign to adjust bids.

        1. Lucas von Fürstenberg

          I absolutely agree you should test RLSAs and we did/do.

          It depends a lot on your ad position without RLSA. If you average postion is relatively low it might make lot of sense to pay a premium for returning visitors. If you are in a position 1-3 range anyways you are probably just cannibalizing your existing traffic.

          Another scenario where I thought it would work well was on generic terms. Customers who have been to our site before should know what to get there, so when they click they should convert a lot better than the ones who might still be in an earlier phase of their purchase process. This doesn’t work as well as I thought either though.

          1. Tomas

            I have to agree with Lucas here. Generating Sales/Traffic with generic keywords (or keywords we couldnt afford before) was the main pitch of Google with RLSAs and we were very disappointed with the performance.

          2. Chris Zaharias

            I’d be very interested to know if anyone’s tried

            1) including in RLSA 100% of their website converted customers over the past year;

            2) bidding that RLSA segment down to 0% for the AdWords search buy;

            3) seeing how much less AdWords spend is;

            4) seeing if overall site conversions (not *just* AdWords-driven, mind you) are in any way affected

            If the eBay Labs SEM study proved one thing, it’s that the more well-known a brand is, the less valuable SEM is. Because RLSA’s are, by definition, composed of people aware of the AdWords advertiser’s brand, it follows that only paying for non-RLSA searchers should make AdWords less costly & more efficient, while having little/no effect on overall site conversions.

          3. Sam OwenSam Owen

            My experience is exactly that – the broader keywords on RLSA work less well than regular traffic, but targeted keywords work much better.

  2. Ryan Grant

    Great post. I wasn’t aware of all of these. Thanks, Sam.
    We’ve just deployed Dynamic Remarketing for our Magento clients. Looking forward to results, but the ads are pretty ugly.

    1. Sam OwenSam Owen

      That’s the biggest downside so far – I think with a bit of tweaking you can make the ads look 100% better than default but they won’t look as good as professional photoshop jobs.

    2. topobenquet .

      Hey Ryan, I am trying to copy the dynamic remarketing code but I am not sure what should go inside the custom parameters ‘REPLACE_WITH_VALUE’

      ecomm_prodid: ‘REPLACE_WITH_VALUE’,

      ecomm_pagetype: ‘REPLACE_WITH_VALUE’,

      ecomm_totalvalue: ‘REPLACE_WITH_VALUE’

      Any idea on this?

  3. Rose B

    Good article. Nice insight on the ins of Adwords. But has anyone found if there’s a threshold to te reach of Adwords as it relates to your very small target customer??

    1. Sam OwenSam Owen

      If you’re talking about the Affinity Groups / Similar Audiences it will tell you the potential reach in the settings.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Ben

    Hi Sam,
    Just to clarify: With RLSA, I should be creating a new campaign? I thought I just create new ad groups (or is that just for the bid adjustment scenario)? Could you explain further?

    1. Sam OwenSam Owen

      Hi Ben, you can do either, however I prefer to have separate campaigns just for clarity/ease of setting separate budgets etc.

  5. Ben

    Great, would this be for all scenarios? Increased bidding, writing unique ads, and bidding on broader keywords? Would you have different campaigns for each scenario, or one campaign incorporating all 3 (if you were to do all 3)? Hope that makes sense 🙂

    1. Sam OwenSam Owen

      At the moment I just create one RLSA campaign to encompass everything, however I’ve changed my mind and I will be building them out like this:

      One campaign – RLSA (Broad Reach) – which will include my broad, semi-related keywords.
      One campaign – RLSA (Top Converters) – which will include my top converting keywords at higher bids.

      As for ad copy, you can keep it the same – I’d be more tempted to change it for the broad reach as a way to entice people back than the top converters where you know you should have good success.

  6. Thomas Hertkorn

    Hi Sam, do you exclude all Users that already converted in your AdWords Campaigns? I think thats one of the biggest advantages of RLSA.

    1. Lucas von Fürstenberg

      I’d say that depends very much on the product. If you are selling a car online you will probably only sell one every couple of years to the same person. For fashion or books excluding everyone who converted is a bad idea in my mind.

  7. Ben

    Hi Sam,

    One more follow up: In a recent PPC Hero post by Thomas Hertkorn, he said the following: “One way why Remarketing Lists for Search are useful is because they
    enable advertisers to exclude audiences. For example, an advertiser can
    now exclude all users who already converted in their online shop. Google
    recognized that this might be misinterpreted by users and has
    restricted the RLSA campaigns significantly. As a result, it is
    forbidden by Google to communicate to a user that you know what they are
    looking for. For example, you are not allowed to say in your ad
    “Looking for a Samsung Tablet?”.”

    So when you say you may write different ads to entice the users when bidding on broader keywords, can you still do that based on the above comment?

    1. Sam OwenSam Owen

      I think the trick is in the phrasing – even if you don’t directly tell people ‘You previously looked at our Galaxy Tab’ – you can still say ‘Galaxy Tab Exclusive 10% Off Code: Shop10’ to entice them back.

  8. Thomas Hertkorn

    BTW small workaround – if you have a existing non RLSA campaign with ads like “Are you looking for Shoes?” and you copy this campaign for RLSA than it should be fine and your ads should get approved …

  9. Jordi Gil Manzanares

    So good. Thank you very much.
    It’s much easier to follow your posts than the official adwords’ blog. 😉

  10. Pathik Panchal

    Hey Sam Owen,

    All these options are rally cool, i am going to implement all these points for sure.

    Thanks for sharing buddy…

  11. Jignesh Gohel

    I have tried this feature for one my client in beta testing and it was really amazing. Lets see how it works for different industry niche !

    Thank you for writing detailed article on this feature


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