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How to use remarketing lists for search ads

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA’s) is a Google Ads feature that allows you to tailor your PPC search campaigns depending on whether a user has previously visited your site. You can also base your targeting options on the specific pages a user visits.

Depending on which list a user is in – they can be targeted with specific ads or won’t be targeted at all. For example, somebody who has previously placed items in their shopping basket could see a different ad to those that haven’t.

You can also optimise bids on existing keywords for users on your remarketing lists – for example, you can increase a bid for those who have previously visited your product page in last 30 days but did not convert. We will come back to this in more detail below.

How is RLSA different from display remarketing?

The name suggests that RLSA’s might be the same concept as display remarketing, just with search ads instead – but this isn’t the case. The only thing the two have in common is that they both use cookies to track users’ actions on your site to add them to audience lists.

The way you use lists for RLSA’s is very different from traditional display remarketing.  Even if users are on your remarketing list, they will need to be actively searching on Google using your targeted keywords to trigger your text ads.

What are the benefits of using RLSAs?

You might have read our previous blog post on improving your PPC remarketing ads and being able to tailor your search campaigns. You can tailor them by targeting a highly relevant and valuable audience who have already engaged with your site in some way. When done in the right way, you’ll be able to improve your PPC performance in several ways, including:

  • Better use of your ad spend
  • Improved conversion rates
  • More leads
  • Better ROI (return on investment) 

Using positive bid adjustments on specific groups can help lead the right people closer towards making a sale. We’ve listed some ways you can recognise those who are interacting with your site and are closer to converting:

  • They’ve looked through your products
  • Checked information such as pricing
  • Read about your service

Your keywords and text ads can only be triggered when a user is searching on Google and is on your remarketing list. How you choose to specify your list is optional and will depend on your goals. For example, you can make a list of users who visited a particular page, i.e. a product page, or you could target those who visited your site in general. 

There are different routes you can take to achieving results when it comes to your search ads. Below, we’ve outlined some winning strategies and benefits of using RSLA’s.  

Using RLSA to upsell to previously converted visitors

You might want to split your audience in terms of those who have already completed a conversion and those who haven’t. Your separate lists will be designed to achieve different goals. For example, new users can help to grow your business and increase your brand awareness. Past customers can provide a great opportunity to upsell.

Upselling works by setting up a new campaign designed to reach customers who are likely to complete another action following their previous engagement (a purchase, signing up to a mailing list, etc.).

As an example; a mobile phone retailer probably won’t focus much on advertising accessorises such as earphones or cases as they will drive less traffic and revenue than their primary product. With RLSA’s, you can upsell to users who have previously purchased a phone from you and are therefore likely to want an add-on product to complement their item. We recommend putting your ad groups into a separate campaign to have maximum control over your ad spend. 

Exclude past customers from your PPC campaigns 

While upselling can benefit many businesses – for some; this strategy won’t be as useful as there is less opportunity to target previously converted customers. For example, a software supplier might benefit more from excluding users who have already downloaded their software within a specific time frame – as they wouldn’t need a repeat download unless it has expired or can be upgraded. Similar to big-ticket, infrequent purchases like a car or luxury holiday.

If this applies to your company – then you’ll need to create a list of users who have visited your final conversion page (i.e. a thank you or confirmation page) to ensure you’re not retargeting ads at the wrong users as the opportunity has already gone and will just lead to wasted budget.

Make bid adjustments depending on your RLSA audience list

  • Increasing your bids when users are more valuable to you – You can use audience targeting to tailor your bids to a relevant search engine user. For example, you can increase your bid for users who have visited your product or service page but not completed their purchase – which could improve your conversion rate.
  • Decreasing bids for less relevant users – As opposed to excluding an audience, you might want to reduce your bids instead. This strategy will be beneficial if there is still a chance that a customer will convert again, but maybe the likelihood is diminished so those users are now potentially less valuable. If this applies to your business – then you’d apply your audience list using the bid-only targeting option, and then change the bid adjustment to a negative percentage. 

Customise your ad copy

Tailoring your ad copy depending on a user’s interaction with your site is another great feature of RLSA’s. This works by firstly duplicating your search campaigns and then targeting users for a specific reason – for example targeting those who have already completed a purchase from you. You can update your ad copy in that particular campaign to appeal to those customers; for example, an ad for a past customer could reveal a special offer or discount for their next purchase. Rather than just targeting a customer twice – you’re essentially rewarding them for their custom. 

You must remember to exclude your list from your original campaign to prevent your audiences from overlapping. Also – don’t forget to tailor your landing page copy as well as your ad text, making sure it delivers what you’ve promised in the ad. We suggest trying this on a smaller and lower conversion campaign at first.

What next? 

RLSA targeting can generate great results and help to improve your overall PPC performance – especially if you have a limited budget which requires maximum ROI.

The top tips we hope you can take away from this are:

  • Increase bids for customers that already engage with your site.
  • Customise your ad copy depending on your audience for higher click-through and conversion rates.
  • Consider repeat custom – upsell your service or products to stand out against competition. 
  • Exclude previous customers from your primary campaign and create separate lists with new customers and past customers. 

If you have any questions about your remarketing campaign or RLSA’s – feel free to contact us.