It’s ‘T’ Time with RLSAs – Remarketing Lists for Search Ads

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Remarketing Lists for Search Ads are now more prevalent than ever. Just over a year on from their release, and paid search enthusiasts are fast understanding the complexity of this multidimensional strategy. Long gone are the days when targeting ‘All Site Visitors’ was our sole focus. With an increasing awareness of the why, what and how, marketers are getting closer and closer to closing that gap of opportunity lost through paid search.

Returning visitors have already actively engaged with your site and products, so why are we still losing a large percentage of them to competitors? Nobody wants to pay for a click from a returning visitor to then lose the visitor to your arch rival. But how can we prevent returning visitors from leaving your site and searching elsewhere? How are we able to gain greater dominance on the space? And how is it possible to tap into broader, more generic search areas that we would never have dreamed of bidding on before?

Before we get started, let’s not run before we can walk. It is imperative that you understand the core elements of Remarketing in all its glory before you can even begin brushing the surface of Remarketing Lists for Search Ads. Once you are confident with Remarketing, then you are more than ready to start getting your hands dirty!

To ensure that we are not missing opportunity, we approach Remarketing Lists with a little combo which we like to call the 4 Ts. These are; Testing new keywords, Tailored Ad Copy, Targeted Audience and well, Time. Team this with a little tenacity –and you are on to a winner with your strategy.

Let’s get started!

Testing New Keywords

Previous Poor Performers

Take the opportunity to bid on keywords that may have performed poorly through standard search. Maybe the conversion rate of those keywords was historically too low to sustain your ROI targets? Or was there too much competition on the space forcing you to pay too much to achieve premium positions? These poor performing keywords will be much more cost effective when you add an RLSA layer on top, as visitors have already actively engaged with these sorts of searches. If they click on your ad then they are ultra-engaged and much more likely to convert, if they don’t click on your ad, then it would suggest that the product / offering is not suited to the user’s search query, but don’t worry, you will have saved the cost of a click!

Broader Match Types

So what is all this talk of bidding on broader, more generic keywords? Have no fear, with RLSAs layered on top it can be and is possible to tap into these new areas. With control over your audiences, you can bid on keywords that were much too risky to bid on before. But why? Well, you will only be showing these searches to people who have visited your site, and so your audience breadth is much smaller than the entire Google audience. With this in mind, the search volumes of these broader, more generic keywords is smaller.

Tailored Ad Copy

This is the pivotal point at which you can narrow the gap of upstream and downstream from your site. You are able to avert visitors from clicking a competitor’s ad, as well as reducing the chance of them navigating to another site having not purchased a product on yours.

The type of audience you are targeting should largely influence how you appeal to returning customers through your creative. You should be speaking to new and returning visitors in very different ways. You know a returning visitor has previously liked the appeal of your standard search ads, so what can you do to add another sparkle to entice them back, and more importantly – buy?

RLSA Screenshot - Blog
This creative approach almost sells itself, but if you or your client really can’t be flexible with discounting a product / service, then how about trying a more subtle offering which will still help to clinch them; the guarantee of 1st Class delivery is one which we have seen work wonders. Consequently the user may / will be paying for the delivery – but knowing they will receive an efficient, quick and hassle free delivery is a great way to sell your product without affecting your selling price. Show your returning visitors that they are a valued customer; have you ever thought about an exclusive promo code? Or how about ‘Free Delivery’ to make your ad stand out from your competitors. From experience, many clients are afraid they are giving away too much for free and putting too much of a dent in their AOV. But with AOVs and conversion rates much higher for returning users compared to new visitors, it’s likely that there is more than enough room in the ROI to offer a small incentive.

Remember if you have split out your audiences into separate ad groups, then this will give you even greater control over your creativity. How about trying to upsell another product to a previously converted visitor? For example ‘2 For 1 on your next order’…

The last thing to remember about creative is Enhanced Sitelinks. These can be another savvy way to draw your visitors back, especially if you have a whole host of UPS – you will have visitors eating out of your hands!

Tight Audiences

Your audience lists are like the hub of the home. And those one step ahead of RLSAs will know the granularity at which you can go to achieve optimum performance for returning visitors. But for those of you just starting out, then let’s take a look at some audience basics to get you started…

They are:

  • Converted visitors
  • Non-Converted visitors
  • Basket abandoners
  • Delivery page abandoners
  • Payment abandoners
  • Category page visitors

If you have done this already and want to start taking your RLSA targeting to the next level, then you need start evaluating cookie periods. This is where your Google Analytics knowledge will be put to the test. Have a look at your Time Lag and Search Funnel reports to begin understanding the percentage of visitors that purchase the product on day 1, day 15, day 30, and so on. Once you have a firm grip over your site user behavior, it is worth testing different cookie periods for different audiences. For example, maybe you should be using a much shorter cookie period for delivery page abandoners then you would for converted visitors.

Remember the length of an Analytics Remarketing Cookie differs to that of an Adwords Cookie. It is not the be-all and end-all, just make sure you take this into consideration when testing your cookie periods and analysing performance in GA.


It is without doubt that an RLSA strategy will be time consuming. The time is takes will depend on the extent at which you build this out. You may be deciding to adopt a very basic RLSA layer on top of existing campaigns, or maybe you prefer to take a more advanced approach in duplicating campaigns – one for new and the other for returning visitors.

Perfecting all of the above will not happen overnight, nor will it take years to get right. It all boils down to; strategic planning, a thorough understanding of remarketing principles and time.

With the audience segmentation in place, the nature of the strategy will allow you to try, fail, and try again without putting a dent in your (or your client’s) wallet. So, it’s time to get RLSAing!

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