The definitive guide to RLSA for e-commerce

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookEmail this to someone

What is RLSA?

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (or RLSAs) allow advertisers to adapt their search campaigns based on if a user has previously visited their website and the pages that the user viewed. You can use RLSAs to tailor your bids and ads to these said visitors when they are searching on Google.

As with traditional retargeting, RLSAs use cookies to track users and add them to lists. However what makes these lists stand out is how they are more specific. Retargeting will show a user an ad on a partner display site just because they appear the partner display network; however RLSAs require that the user is actively searching for a keyword you are bidding on in your search campaigns.

Why should e-retailers use RLSA?

Because RLSAs target more qualified users that are already familiar with your website, you can use your ad spend much more efficiently. This is particularly useful for small businesses with a small ad spend budget, which will last a lot longer and potentially be more profitable with such a qualified audience.

However a more obvious reason is that remarketing lists for search ads are really powerful. According to WordStream, RLSA campaigns have 2X higher CTRs, 50% lower CPCs and convert at twice the rate of regular search campaigns! Convinced yet?

Basic RLSA strategies

One of the first tasks when setting up RLSAs is to start creating audience lists. There are no limit to how many lists you create or which criteria you use to define them, however some of the most basic strategies include:

Targeting cart abandoners

Targeting users that have abandoned a cart is an obvious strategy because although they only make up a small amount of clicks, they make up a much higher rate of conversions. Some may naturally come back and convert however the nature of the buying cycle says that they are also very likely to do another search on Google.

This is where it is worth investing a little bit more to get them back and avoid the user from choosing one of your competitors. Increase the bid adjustment to lift the average position for the audience and ultimately improve performance.

Targeting broad keywords

In a previous article we mentioned the risks of using broad keywords in your AdWords campaigns; however this becomes a possibility with RLSAs as you will be taking less risks bidding on generic keywords if your audience is qualified.

As the user has already shown interest in your products, bidding on keywords such as ‘cheap xxx’ or ‘buy xxx’ is suddenly relevant.

Bidding based on the recency of website visits

Consider increasing bids based on how recently a user visited your website. The more recent the visit, the higher the bid.

Bidding for second purchases

For e-retailers that sell a range of products as well as accessories, consider leveraging RLSAs to upsell add-ons. Many products require a second purchase once a customer has determined the needs of a product.

Let’s take the example of a user that buys a laptop. It is very possible that 2-4 weeks later they will start looking for a laptop case or bag. In cases like this, increase bids during this time frame when a commitment to a purchase is most likely to be made.

Excluding based on the LTV of clients

You may consider excluding users based on their lifetime value (LTV). When someone has completed the desired conversion you may decide not to remarket them again.

In e-commerce terms this could be someone that has already bought a product from you. It would be a waste of time retargeting the user with a product they have already bought; therefore use remarketing lists to exclude users that have seen the order confirmation page for example.

Excluding the non-interested

It is necessary to completely exclude users that have no interest in your products. These may be those that view career or technical support pages for example. It is without a doubt that you would be wasting your budget on such an audience.

Using RLSA for efficient conquesting

As well as basic strategies, RLSAs also allow e-retailers to better explore the possibility of conquesting.

Conquesting – or simply put ‘bidding on your competitor’s keywords’ – is an aggressive marketing strategy that is often avoided because of the costs involved. However, this does not necessarily need to be the case if e-retailers use RLSAs to make the process more efficient.

Using conquesting budgets efficiently

RLSAs allow you to use even the smallest budgets efficiently so they are the perfect partner for conquesting. Rather than spending your budget on every user that is searching for a competitor’s product, it is possible to only bid on qualified visitors that are familiar with your product.

Research lists also allow you to use keywords that otherwise you could not afford or would not be relevant to bid on. However when using RLSAs you can make the most of these vague competitor search terms attracting only the most qualified visitors.

Bring users back into the buying cycle

Conquesting often involves using big brand names which subsequently means a longer buying cycle for the user. In cases like this, Internet users are likely to have a longer research period using broad keywords to start with, which we can only hope will bring them to your website.

When they then go to compare with your competitors, you can bring the user back into the buying cycle with the knowledge of what they are looking for. This information is key in targeting the user more aggressively when they next use a competitor’s search term in Google.

Get more competitive with special offers

Continuing on from the previous point, if you already know exactly what the user wants to buy, you can give yourself a competitive edge by creating an ad with a promotional offer such as a reduction or free delivery. This will help to divert the user from their initial competitor search and come back to your site.

Using RLSA to target new customers

There several possible approaches if your main aim is to increase your new customer rate.

▪Duplicate ad groups if NC rate is low but ROAS is high

▪Lower bids on purchasers in the last 180 days

▪Lower bids on users that logged in

How do you set up RLSA for campaigns?

You need to follow several steps to successfully set up RLSA campaigns:

1. Place the AdWords remarketing tag on your site: click on Shared Library and Audiences.

adwords-shared-library2. From here follow the instructions to obtain a remarketing code. This tag will need to be added to all of the pages on your site. This can be made easier using the Google Tag Manager if necessary.

remarketing-code-adwords3. The fun starts here: create your different remarketing lists. Click on ‘+ remarketing list’ and enter the different settings for your chosen list.


new-remarketing-list-adwords4. From here on, choose a specific ad group, click on Audiences and then Remarketing. Here you will be able to click on the remarketing list to add to the ad group.

Advanced strategies: using remarketing lists across multiple accounts

If you run multiple AdWords accounts for several websites, using MCC (My Client Center accounts) can be an effective method to save a significant amount of time. In relation to RLSAs, it is possible to share the same lists across several accounts using a common tag.

This inter-site/inter-account strategy does however come under several conditions. Firstly it is necessary to create a manager account, which is actually completely different from a ‘standard’ AdWords account. The manager account is centralised account with several individual AdWords accounts linked to it.

In terms of specific restrictions, it is important to know that:

▪You cannot share remarketing lists with other advertisers.

▪You cannot use remarketing lists created using third-party data.

▪Visitors must understand that any customized ads they can see are a result from a website they have previously visited.

It is always important to completely understand Google’s RLSA AdWords policy before using remarketing lists across several accounts.

Using RLSA in Google Shopping

As well as using remarketing lists across several accounts, it is also possible to use this feature on other platforms such as Google Shopping.

As we recently discussed in our whitepaper, Google Shopping is on the rise and shows no signs of slowing down. As Google opens up more and more keywords, this platform just keeps on getting stronger, to the extent that according to Adobe’s digital advertising report, advertisers are spending up to 6% less on AdWords.

Currently available through open beta only, advertisers can now use RLSAs for Google Shopping. This is great news for e-retailers: not only will they be able to better target their audiences but they will also be able to better manage their budget on this increasingly expensive channel.

google-shoppingLearn more about how you can get started with our short guide to Google Shopping

AdWords announces customer match targeting

Unlike Google Shopping, RLSAs have been available in AdWords for several years now, however the platform has recently announced an additional feature called ‘customer match targeting’.

Targeting specific audiences on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter the Google Display Network has become the norm in online marketing, so it was only a matter of time before the search engine giant announced this feature on AdWords.

The long-awaited Customer Match targeting will allow e-retailers to create and target custom user audiences by simply uploading a list of e-mail addresses, which is then matched to signed-in users on Google. With this information, e-retailers will be able to adapt their ads to users at different stages of the buying cycle not only on Search, but also via Gmail and YouTube.

The future of RLSA

There is no doubt that opening RLSAs to Google Shopping and customer match in AdWords are advances in online marketing. However, with more and more advertisers turning to these platforms, we could say that basic RLSAs are no longer sufficient for success in Search Marketing.

Here at Twenga, we believe that hyper audience segmentation is key to optimising bids to their fullest potential. Optimising audiences based on basic remarketing techniques, combined with CRM data and calculated segments, we are able to move from keyword-based segmentation to segments based on consumer behaviour.

Using advanced algorithms, Twenga’s solutions use customer profiles to accurately estimate a user’s intention to buy a product. Moreover they are automated, meaning that negative keywords are automatically managed, low-performing products are excluded and bids are monitored in real time according to changes in buying behaviour and product availability: all with the view to optimise performance and respect defined KPIs.

Learn more about how Twenga’s Smart FEED solution can help resolve the complexity of Google Shopping in its recently published whitepaper: Google Shopping on the rise – mastering advertising campaigns in 2016.


Cutting-edge Search Marketing and Product Ads solutions

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookEmail this to someone
Twenga Solutions

We provide advanced traffic acquisition solutions for over 4,000 customers in 15 countries.

Join the smart acquisition revolution!

Contact us
Contact us