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Users often (about 95% of the time) do not convert on initial contact with a website, instead, they do their proper research and return several times before they convert. As advertisers, we have the opportunity to continue to message such users to encourage more returns and, hopefully, faster purchasing decisions. We can do this via both Display retargeting but also in Search Ads.

Search retargeting can be done through implementing remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA). RLSA is a Google AdWords feature that lets an advertiser either customise search ads campaigns for users who have previously visited a site, and tailor ads to these visitors when they’re searching on Google or bid more or less for such users and even exclude such users entirely (and there are reasons why you would do that).


Remarketing Lists for Search Ads are useful for:

  • Delivering special deal messages to previous (non-converting) visitors and catering these deals and messages even to the last product they looked at.
  • Excluding prior visitors (or prior converters) from seeing Brand ads, if your priority for paid search is to prospect for new visitors.
  • Delivering custom messaging to users depending on how recently they visited and if they never visited.
  • Provide loyalty-related deals in ads to users who have bought within a certain time frame.

RLSA is so exciting because an advertiser can set bids, create ads, or select keywords that align the previous user’s behaviour. Remarketing lists for search ads use remarketing lists to enable these behaviour-based customizations.

Check out this great Youtube Webinar from Google AdWords that covers, in detail, how to launch an RLSA campaign.


RLSA leverages the fact that you, as an advertiser, know one crucial detail: this user has expressed interest in a product on our website. Below are several tips for improving an RLSA campaign:

  •  Increase RLSA ROI by bidding higher for new keywords. Focusing on keywords that either new or not yet in the top position will provide an advertiser with greater campaign performance because conversions can be driven by ads targeted to past site visitors. RLSA allows advertisers to adjust bids for those customers that have been to your website before, and bid aggressively for these visitors. When ads are targeted to past site visitors, choosing a broader keyword match type can help an advertiser improve overall campaign performance since it drives volume with less risk (RLSA volume is heavily dependent on how many visitors your site gets in the first place, of course).
  • Remember audiences can be sliced and diced, included and excluded. You can combine your Google Analytics data on new vs returning visitors against your AdWords account data. This will help you decide if you want to include or exclude prior visitors or if it’s useful to bid up on an audience in a certain campaign that has seen a certain part of your site or left your site at a certain stage in the shopping cart procedure. You can subdivide audiences by location, how recently they visited, how recently they bought, how much they spent, the AOV of the product the last bought, and more.
  • Tailor your ad text to your past site visitors. Keeping content fresh and enticing will lead past site visitors to return and enter the conversion process. These ads should highlight new products, recent deals, and offers to people who visited your site before, or an advertiser can even tailor ads based on recent product lines visitors have viewed.
  • Combining RLSA with Countdowns Using the countdown feature in your ads along with exclusively targeting past visitors can boost CTR and conversion rates massively. Most offers are time-limited so you can highlight this with the Countdown feature described here.
  • Use data. As always, it is important to capture and analyse data gained from any ad campaign. This is especially important when it comes to RLSA campaigns as there are generally higher conversion rates. You need to be a position to raise or lower bids based on the audience performance so data is a vital component.



RLSA is a powerful embellishment to the AdWords platform and gives you much more ability to focus on the needs and intent of the user much more – it opens the door to custom landing pages, customer offers, custom bids and, generally, more control.

If you want to know how we might implement an RLSA strategy for your business, let us know! Follow us on LinkedIn or Tweet at us!

7 April 2016