RLSA (Remarketing Lists For Search Ads) works similarly to traditional retargeting. RLSA shows ads to previous website visitors that are now searching on Google or Google’s Search Partners for your targeted keywords.

In direct response accounts, building brand awareness is a side benefit of advertising. Direct response accounts want revenue and lead numbers. Brand awareness is the extent that potential customers recognize your brand. While there are ways to measure brand awareness, it is not as black and white as answering the questions “Is ROAS above 400%?” or “Is cost-per-lead below $30?”

When we are grocery shopping, a light bulb goes off in our heads when we recognize a brand that we are familiar with the name or logo. When presented with ten different options of tortellini, we are going to consider price and brand before making our final decision. Brand can be a signal of trust. RLSA takes advantage of the light bulb effect that is a side effect of brand familiarity. This is one of the factors that contribute to why many RLSA campaigns have higher click-thru-rates than their traditional search counterparts.

Below are the steps I take when starting out a new RLSA campaign for both the setup and initial optimizations. I personally like to see examples of how things would work. The example that I use throughout is an account that wanted to increase lead volume for several products. RLSA was determined as an expansion tactics.


1) Segment by product at the campaign level and create tailored audience lists

I think of RLSA as an extension to any traditional search campaign. If you have separate search campaigns for different products, there should probably be a separate RLSA campaign for each. If you have unlimited budgets and key performance indicators are identical across all the products, this might not apply to your account. However, if the account has budgets and different KPIs by product, it is useful to segment out products into multiple RLSA campaigns.

Creating separate remarketing lists also ties back to each individual product. If the products and potential customers vary drastically from each other, I tend to create tailored audience lists of visitors, who have only visited particular pages that pertain to the specific product or offer.

Let’s look at an example. The AdWords account was made up of three different products. Each product had it’s own RLSA campaign. In this situation, there was probably not going to be any cross selling across the different products. Each product existed independent of the other offerings on the site. In this situation, I would target only website visitors of that particular product page.

Product 1 – Search

Product 1 – RLSA

Product 2 – Search

Product 2 – RLSA


2) Begin with broad match modified keywords

This part is pretty straightforward. I start with broad match modified versions of my top performing keywords as the start for my RLSA campaign build. Because the audience is already prequalified as previous website visitors, this gives you the opportunity to bid higher on keywords that are typically too vague or have competition driving up cost-per-clicks. You may even find that regular broad match will work as well.

I looked back of the last 90 days and determined the top converting keywords as a starting point for my campaign build.


3) Bid up!

As previously stated, the people on this remarketing list are considered more qualified than a new user that visits. They already have some brand familiarity and trust. For RLSA, you can bid a little bit more aggressively than you might in other circumstances.

If my current bid is $1.45 and I bid up 20% for my RLSA campaigns, the math to calculate the new bid is pretty easy!

($1.45 x 20%) + $1.45 = $1.74

How To Optimize

1) Tailor ads to past visitors and test ads separate from the traditional search campaigns

This visitors should be treated differently than first time website visitors, because they are going to behave differently. They have already been to the site and maybe shopped around. Because of the behavior and thought differences between new users and return users, testing different ad copy to find what appeals to the return visitor makes sense.

2) Add exact match as search queries

Because I start with all broad match modified keywords, it is very important to do consistent search query reports to add exact match keywords. Though this number varies by account conversion volume, I typically add a search query as an exact match keyword after 3 conversions within 30-90 days. Adding exact match keywords in separate ad groups will allow you to tailor ad copy to the keyword for better quality scores.


A Quick Look at Results

Outlined above are the standard practices that I use to get the best results. In the examples that I have been walking through one of our strategies to increase conversion volume was to create RLSA campaigns for our different products.

Below are the results of how they compare to their traditional search counterparts:


Click-thru-rate is higher in the RLSA campaigns for each of the individual products and resulted in cheaper conversions in each. However, Product 2 and Product 4 saw very minor decreases in cost-per-conversion. Additionally, with the implementation of RLSA campaigns, conversion volume increased by 27%, which has assisted in our growth initiatives for this account.

Final Thoughts

While every account will need its own adjustments based on conversion volume, list size, and product, I believe that these building blocks are a good place to get started with RLSA and have the best chance at success. Do you have any additional tips for new RLSA campaigns?